Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coming From Behind

The finish of Saturday night's Princeton-Cornell men's hockey game continues to be talked about around campus. The finish was one for the memory books as Princeton scored with 36 seconds and 18 seconds left on the clock to overcome a 1-0 deficit and leave Ithaca with a 2-1 win and two more points in the ECAC standings.

There were many factors that made it so unbelievable. First, the game was played at Cornell. There is no more daunting a crowd to face then the one at Cornell. The atmosphere in the building is electric in support of its home team, and it is no wonder that Cornell is so good at home. Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens made a great save 10 seconds before the tying goal, which got the capacity crowd off its feet and bowing in awe to the save he had made. The building was as loud as it had been for the whole game, but 10 seconds, a faceoff win, and two passes later, the air began to deflate from the crowd's balloon. Eighteen seconds and an odd-man rush later the balloon was empty.

Second, Princeton had not been able to put a puck past Scrivens in the previous 153 minutes of game time dating back to last season, although the people in attendance at Baker Rink on Feb. 23, 2008 sitting at the press box end of ice would disagree. Either way, it had been a long time since Princeton had scored on Scrivens and it looked like another shutout was coming before the late goals.

Third, hockey is just a sport where the team that scores first and enters the third period with a lead usually wins. In the last two years worth of Princeton games, the team that scores first is 48-12 and teams leading entering the third period are 45-7. So comebacks in the third period, let alone ones in the last minute, just are not everyday occurrences.

It is easy to say that the win is one of the best comebacks in Princeton hockey history. While TigerBlog hasn't been around for all of them, it agrees.

What defines a comeback for the ages is the deficit overcome and the time period needed to do it. Saturday's comeback was epic because it happened so late in the game, not because of the deficit. Cornell scored its goal midway through the second period. Had Princeton evened the score late in the second and won it in the third, it wouldn't be the story it is now.

Monumental comebacks have both elements, the big deficit and the short time duration. For example, just a few weeks ago, Yale trailed Colgate 4-0 with five minute gone in the third period before scoring five goals in a span of 14:36 including overtime to win 5-4.

Princeton has had a few attempted comebacks like that in the last two years that fell just short. Last year at Union, Princeton trailed 4-0 before scoring three extra attacker goals in the final seven minutes in a 4-3 loss. Then this season, after falling behind 4-0 to Mercyhurst, Princeton scored four goals to tie the Lakers with 2:01 left in the third only to have Mercyhurst rebound and scored two more goals 22 seconds apart and win 6-4. How Princeton felt that night, is probably similar to how Cornell felt on Saturday.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Having attended all 3 "comebacks" (Union and Mercyhurst never quite made it), the Cornell game tops them all. Not just because of its successful outcome, but because, in this instance, the obstacles to victory seemed so imbedded and immovable: the Cornell national ranking, the Scriven's goalie stats, the seemingly endless shutout minute streak vs. Princeton and, of course, the fact that the game was, for all practical purposes, and particularly in light of the foregoing, all but over. Moreover, the hostile environs of Lynah Arena enhance the sweetness of any victory in that venue. As the game wound down, the fans were getting up and stretching, taunting Princeton, and basically engaged in what turned out to be a premature victory celebration session. As Tiger fans, I'd admit a real sense of deflation and that perhaps we began folding our tent when the first "goal" was not allowed....heck, that's as close as we came over 2 games - surely there wouldn't be another opportunity like that in the remaining 40+ seconds. Well, perhaps great games come from hopeless causes and huge emotional swings, for certainly there was none greater than that from the time of the disallowed goal until the second Tiger (winning) goal with 18.2 seconds left. For us, watching the contrasts in the reactions of both the Tiger and Cornell fans those last few seconds was one of the truly remarkable moments in sports.