On Saturday afternoon, Rutgers squared off against Cornell with a trip to the national championship game on the line. Unfortunately for the Knights, uncharacteristic poor play on clears and multiple turnovers were too much to overcome as the Big Red pulled away in the 3rd quarter and would go on to win comfortably, 17-10.
Rutgers finishes the season 15-4, the most program wins ever in a single season, and the team’s first in what is hopefully many more Final Fours to come under Coach Brecht. Cornell improves to 14-4 and advances to the championship game for the first time since 2009, on Memorial Day versus Maryland.
1st Half Action
Mitch Bartolo got the scoring going at the 10:18 mark of the 1st quarter to put the Knights up 1-0. The nation’s leading scorer, John Piatelli, would knot things up for the Tigers halfway through the quarter. Less than a minute later, C.J. Kirst, younger brother of Colin, put the Tigers up 2-1 and they would not trail again.
Brian Cameron would score a little over two minutes into the 2nd quarter to pull the Knights within a goal, trailing 3-2. Six goals would be scored in the 2nd quarter, with Princeton netting five of them, and the teams would head to the locker rooms with the Tigers firmly in command, 8-3. The skies would open and the game would be delayed for three hours and thirty-seven minutes before play would resume.
Turnovers were the Knights’s downfall. After only one in the first quarter, they had seven in the 2nd quarter. Rutgers also uncharacteristically had two botched clears in front of their own net that led to easy put-backs for Cornell. That type of two-goal swing can be awfully difficult to recover from when you are playing one of the better defenses in the nation under Cornell and attempting a comeback.
The Big Red also dominated in ground balls, leading 22-12 at the half. Cornell led 8-5 in face-offs, after starting 6 of 7 and forcing coach Brecht to pull Johnathan Dugenio, who won 8 of 21 for the match and had another poor showing. Subs Michael Ott and Sam Stephan provided competitiveness at the X for the remainder of the match, with OTT winning all three of his and Stephan winning 3 of 7.
Goalie Colin Kirst was not dialed in like he was during the prior two tournament games, saving 9 of 17 shots on goal and not picking up the ball the way he did against Penn.
2nd Half Action
After a nearly four-hour rain delay, the teams got back at it. Similar to the 1st quarter, Rutgers got the scoring going in the 3rd on a tally by Ryan Gallagher off an assist by Ross Scott that pulled the Knights within four and gave Scarlet fans a glimmer of hope. The Big Red would dash those hopes by going on a 6-0 scoring run to pull away 14-4 before Eric Civetti would end the drought for the Knights with their 5th goal at the 2:03 mark.
In the 4th quarter, the teams would trade three goals apiece for a 17-7 Cornell advantage at four and a half minutes left in the match. The Knights would tally the final three goals, including Scott’s 50th, tying the all-time single season Rutgers record set by Tom Sweeney in 1978. Final score: Cornell 17 Rutgers 10.
“I’m going to remember this year as the best year of my life. We’ve accomplished a lot. In moments like this, you can forget what you’ve accomplished over the whole season. I think we’ve set a new bar for the program that our team can get back to this weekend again. I’m thankful to be a part of it.”
Captain Ryan Gallagher
Final Thoughts (and some questions for the offseason)
- What a season. I had high expectations entering the season and if you told me back in February the Knights would be playing on Championship Weekend and would be knocked out convincingly and not advance to the championship game, I would have gladly signed up for this outcome.
- Shane Knobloch appeared hobbled most of the game. Would it have made a difference? No, not today. but in the teams’s huge comebacks this season, Knobloch has been a key catalyst. He will once again be a key contributor in 2023.
- Is Rutgers now officially a program that reloads in the off-season and starts to follow in the footsteps of the Marylands and Ivys of Division 1? With David Sprock returning next season to join Ross Scott and Shane Knobloch and rising young stars Jake Aimone, Dante Kulas, and Nick Teresky, scoring should not be an issue next season.
There is reason to believe Coach Brecht will continue to add quality depth from the portal and have this team competing for another tournament berth in 2023. He was able to replace the production of Adam Charalambides, Connor Kirst, and Kieran Mullins by adding transfers Ronan Jacoby, Mitch Bartolo, and Brian Cameron via the portal.
Yes, the roster will be significantly different but the goal of a Big Ten championship is the same. It will be an interesting offseason to watch and I look forward to providing a roster update this summer.