NEW YORK — When Michigan and Cornell met in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, the Big Red fell behind early, giving the Wolverines hope of advancing before having the win snatched from their grasp via an overtime goal.
In the first period of that contest, the Wolverines controlled most of the opening period, scoring a goal in the game’s first two minutes and having one waved off shortly after.
Saturday night, however, a 5-1 Cornell victory in The Frozen Apple at Madison Square Garden, was a different story, but the same result.
“It might be a better Cornell team (compared to the NCAA Tournament game),” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “But it was a worse Michigan team.”
The Big Red came out of the gate buzzing, and Michigan took four first-period penalties, while Cornell was only penalized once.
The Wolverines had finally garnered some momentum at the 13:09 mark when Cornell’s Joakim Ryan was sent to the box, but 30 seconds into the Michigan power play, senior captain A.J. Treais was whistled for a high stick, negating the rest of the man-advantage.
After Ryan left the box, a huge hit to freshman forward Justin Selman in the Cornell zone spurred a rush that ended in a five-hole goal from the left circle through Michigan freshman netminder Steve Racine.
In the waning moments of the period, the Wolverines seemed to generate momentum again, but freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba took a tough boarding penalty when a Big Red skater turned his back to him right as he delivered the hit.
Michigan (3-5-1-1 CCHA, 5-7-1 overall) started the second period far crisper than it had looked in the first. But as is so often the case in hockey, it’s not which team gets the most opportunities, but who finishes on them.
That was Cornell (1-3-2 East Coast Athletic Conference, 4-3-2) once again at the 12:42 mark of the second period, when a pass from behind the net set up Teemu Tiitinen to put the Big Red up 2-0. Treais and sophomore forward Phil Di Giuseppe were both in the area of Tiitinen, but neither could disrupt the shot that snuck past Racine.
Three minutes later, Cornell extended its lead to 3-0 when a rebound from a point shot squirted to a crashing Greg Miller who found the back door. Despite outshooting the Big Red 11-5 in the middle frame, the Wolverines walked back to the lockeroom trailing by three goals.
The Big Red put the final nail in the coffin with just over 12 minutes to play in the game, ensuring there would be no late-game drama like last year when the two schools met in Green Bay, Wisc. Eric Axell netted his first goal of the year off a wrister from the slot.
The Wolverines did end up on the board two minutes later when junior defenseman Mac Bennett launched a shot from the blue line that finally beat Cornell goaltender Andy Iles. But the Big Red didn’t allow Michigan to get any closer.
Berenson described the environment at Madison Square Garden as having an NHL-like feel after the game, but Saturday his team didn’t have the enthusiasm to mirror the crowd.
“I’m just sorry we didn’t represent Michigan better,” Berenson said.