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No. 9/9 Cornell Falls in NCAA Tournament Opener

No. 9/9 Cornell Falls in NCAA Tournament Opener

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The Cornell men's ice hockey team's season came to a close Saturday with a 5-0 loss to UMass Lowell in a NCAA Championships Northeast Region semifinal at SNHU Arena.
 
The Big Red finished the season 21-9-5, marking its first 20-win season since 2010 and its first trip to NCAAs since 2012. It was a season marked by scratching out victories and overcoming adversity in a variety of ways, but the hole Cornell found itself in Saturday ultimately proved too much to negotiate. It was essentially a three-goal game until a pair of power-play goals in the final 5:11 of the game.
 
UMass Lowell (27-10-3), the champion of both the Hockey East regular season and its postseason tournament, proved up to its billing — but only after a controversial game-changing moment just 54 seconds into the contest. Cornell appeared to have struck first, but a video review wiped the goal off the board.
 
The play started with a faceoff to the left of River Hawks goalie Tyler Wall. Senior forward Jake Weidner won the draw back to sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan, who had a shot blocked from the outside of the circle. Weidner was first to the loose puck in the slot, and he whipped a shot toward goal that was knifed down out of mid-air by senior forward Eric Freschi on top of the crease. Freschi whipped a shot that Wall saved with his left pad, but Vanderlaan cashed in the rebound and Cornell appeared to be on its way.
 
Except the height of Freschi's stick when he first played the puck was called into question. With the ruling of a good goal on the ice, the officiating crew deemed the video evidence conclusive that the puck was above the crossbar when Freschi first made contact. The goal was waved off.
 
UMass Lowell took the lead at the 6:34 mark. Ryan Collins created a turnover on the forecheck and fed Ryan Dmowski for a slam-dunk goal from the slot.
 
In a game with few scoring chances generated while the outcome was still in question, the next goal would prove to be huge. Shots on goal were even in the first period, then Cornell threatened with freshman forwards Jeff Malott and Noah Bauld beating defenders and driving hard to the net, only to have Wall make the saves.
 
Those stops allowed the River Hawks to double the lead at 6:09 of the second after they had sustained pressure in the Big Red zone and drew a delayed penalty. Maintaining possession, UMass Lowell's Michael Kapla eventually teed up Ryan Lohin for a shot from the left circle that beat a sprawling Cornell goalie Mitch Gillam, who had been spilled by contact with his own defense near the top of the crease.
 
The Big Red appeared to finally catch a break when a would-be short-handed goal from UMass Lowell was waved off after video review revealed the River Hawks had too many men on the ice to generate the pressure leading to the turnover and goal.
 
But Cornell couldn't make good on the reprieve, and the River Hawks scored a third goal that would count a little less than two minutes later. An unsuccessful Big Red power play left four forwards on the ice, and a neutral-zone turnover after UMass Lowell returned to full strength exposed the scenario. John Edwardh set up C.J. Smith for the goal on a three-on-two.
 
Wall made 19 saves for the shutout, marking the first time this season Cornell has been held scoreless. Redirections from the slot, loose pucks and jam plays from in tight, shots from the circle — none went the way of the Big Red on the big stage. It's a rare first-round NCAA exit for Cornell; just the third in 10 appearances in national tournament since it went to a format with regionals in 1992.