FORT MYERS, Fla. — Cornell ended years of frustration against Maine with a 2-1 shootout victory in the championship game of the Florida College Hockey Classic before 4,500 fans at Germain Arena on Sunday night.
As in the final score, the Big Red (9-4-2) outscored the Black Bears (10-7-1) by 2-1 in the shootout, with Rodger Craig’s goal being the difference.
“It was a great college hockey game; there were chances by both teams,” Maine Coach Red Gendron said.
“Both goalies made great saves. It was terrific. For fans in Florida, if you’re a hockey fan, this is a big-time game to come and see.”
If Gendron had his way, the game wouldn’t have been decided by a shootout.
“We had to decide it that way but that’s a lousy way to decide a tournament,” he said. “But you don’t want kids to get hurt. It’s not the NCAA tournament. It’s great for the fans but I think both teams would prefer to decide it on the ice.”
Devin Shore, who gave Maine a 1-0 lead in regulation, also scored in the shootout.
Patrick McCarron had the Big Red’s other shootout goal.
This marked Cornell’s fourth tournament title. Maine has won the event six times.
Shore’s goal with 1:01 left in the second period gave Maine a 1-0 lead but Cornell’s Christian Hilbrich got the equalizer early in the third period.
Sunday’s championship game turned into a wonderful goaltenders’ duel between Maine’s Martin Ouellette and Cornell’s Andy Iles.
For almost 39 minutes, the two seniors played flawlessly, stopping shots from close range as well as the perimeter.
And after they gave up goals, they continued to shine through regulation and overtime. In the shootout, Iles stopped eight straight breakaways after giving up the opening goal. Ouellette stopped seven after giving up his first.
The performances shouldn’t have surprised anyone. After Sunday’s effort, Ouellette had allowed three or fewer goals in six of his last seven games.
Meanwhile, Iles hasn’t allowed more than three goals in all 13 of his starts this season.
In overtime, Brian Morgan raced in and just missed wide while Iles covered up. Cornell came right back with shots but Ouellette withstood the pressure.
In the third period, Maine’s Blaine Byron and Cornell’s Cole Bardreau had shots from close range that sailed wide and high. There also was a loose puck that just missed going in for Maine.
Maine finally broke the scoreless tie with 1:01 left in the second. Swinging it around, Shore put his shot into an open net after passes from Steven Swavely and Connor Leen.
Maine returns to action Saturday at Quinnipiac before going to Fenway Park for an outdoor game against Boston University on Jan. 11.