by Ari Baum - December 28, 2004
FCC Game 1: Cornell Draws Short End In Penalty Parade
Big Red proves they can swim with the big fish

At least it was warm outside when Lynah Faithful walked out of the Germain Arena following Cornell's 4-2 loss to Boston College. Though it was a difficult loss to swallow, there was plenty for Cornell fans to take solace in.

The Boston College hockey team will go to bed tonight feeling pretty good about themselves -- a tall task considering how highly they thought of themselves heading into the game. Let them feel good about themselves. After all, they scored two five-on-three goals, a powerplay goal, and an empty net goal. Of course they only managed two or three scoring chances five-on-five. What an amazing team.

Despite the fact that they think they are so amazing, their level of talent is something inconceivable to any ECACHL team. The gargantuan Brian Boyle, a former first round pick of the Los Angeles Kings, has spent time this season on the fourth line. That says something. In short, Boston College is among the elite teams in the NCAA, but they think they are God's gift to hockey.

The Eagles opened up the scoring early in the game, thanks to a five-on-three man advantage. Their powerplay boasts an extraordinary amount of talent, headed by former Ottawa first round pick Patrick Eaves manning the point to perfection. With their high talent level and proven powerplay genius Jerry York at the helm, it was no surprise that Boston College converted rather easily on both 5-on-3 opportunities. On both goals, their execution was flawless and the goals scored were certainly no reflection on Cornell's three-man penalty killing unit. Their second goal was the fault of the penalty killers, however. They had three opportunities to clear the zone and failed each time. That, coupled with the fact that it was in the second period where changing on the fly is difficult, led to tired penalty killers and further aided perfect execution of Boston College's powerplay.

As has been pointed out in this space several times, Cornell is a team that needs flow in order to play its best hockey. Against Boston College, the on- and off-ice officials seemingly did everything in their power to prevent the game from getting any flow. A ton of penalties were called and there were two major delays due to unprecedented scoreboard idiocy. When the game did get some flow, Cornell mostly dominated. The Big Red seemed poised to take over the game in the second period when they enjoyed a territorial advantage for the first half of the frame. All their momentum came to a halt when Cornell was called for a penalty, and Boston College scored on the ensuing powerplay. Again in the third period, Cornell was the far better team off the rush and cycling deep in the Boston College end, but once again, their momentum was stifled by two quick Cornell penalties just prior to the midway point of the period. Boston College would score on the ensuing two-man advantage. That was really the story of the game.

Questions about whether this year's Cornell hockey team is a legitimate high echelon club can now be put to bed as the Big Red played their best game of the season and clearly established themselves as an equal to the highly touted Boston College. That being said, Cornell lost. They had plenty of opportunities to win the game, most notably the three-plus minutes of powerplay time on fresh ice to start the third period. Individual decision-making away from the puck is what has elevated Cornell in recent years, but decision-making with the puck has been an issue and it certainly was an issue Tuesday night. In particular, the backliners on both powerplay units are not playing with enough conviction and gusto to make the unit as potent as it could and should be. The coaching staff continues to shuffle backline combinations on both units in search of the right mix. The hockey sense of Sasha Pokuluk will come with age, but he clearly is not ready to quarterback a powerplay unit. Charlie Cook inexplicably seems to have taken steps back this season and that has been a big factor. He used to know what to do with the puck, but now he is questioning himself for some reason. The poise and hockey sense of all the players with the puck must improve for the Big Red to cross over into national contender status this season. Cornell's execution in the offensive zone was the best it has been this season, but they still failed to convert on far too many occasions. In a more typical, less penalty-filled game, Cornell would have won 2-1.

3 Stars of the Game for Cornell

1. Topher Scott
Clearly Cornell's best player, Scott made a positive impact every time he was on the ice. He always seemed to have the puck and was able to sustain his possession with sheer grittiness. Scott was very confident with the puck and made several good plays around the net, displaying his high level of creativity.

2. Mike Knoepfli
Just another solid performance from the consistent Knoepfli; he scored Cornell's second goal and may have found himself a spot on the first powerplay unit. One of just a couple Cornell forwards that plays all situations, Knoepfli had a very busy night in the penalty-filled affair and handled his duties very well.

3. Jon Gleed
Gleed put in another excellent performance in which he was solid in all three zones. His ice time and responsibility has increased in every game this season. One of Gleed's strengths is keeping the puck in the offensive zone and it was on display on Tuesday night.