Kaldis' Late Power-Play Goal Propels Cornell Past RPI

Kaldis' Late Power-Play Goal Propels Cornell Past RPI

TROY, N.Y. — It's the Houston Field House of horrors no more for the Cornell men's hockey team.
 
Freshman defenseman Yanni Kaldis scored his first collegiate goal with 22.6 seconds left in the third period to cap a riveting Big Red rally for a 4-3 victory on Saturday night at Rensselaer.
 
The win not only completely a weekend sweep for Cornell (14-6-2, 9-4-2 ECAC Hockey), which was ranked 16th in the USCHO.com poll heading into Friday's win over #4/5 Union, it gave the Big Red its first victory at RPI since Feb. 12, 2011.
 
Kaldis' goal was Cornell's third on the power play in a game that featured countless momentum swings. The Big Red entered the third period down by a goal, but pulled even on senior forward Matt Buckles' goal with 7:20 to play. RPI was whistled for a major penalty for hitting from behind with 2:43 remaining, setting up the Big Red's eighth power play of the night.
 
Sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan started edging toward goal from a sharp angle to the left of RPI goalie Chase Perry. His pass deflected off a stick and into the air, and Buckles took a swing at it that ended up advancing the puck out the far side. That's where Kaldis was positioned, swatting in the winner.
 
"I was going there for a rebound or — I think it was (Vanderlaan) who had it on the side — if he was going to look for me on the back door," Kaldis said. "It was a tough play. It just bounced there and I took a whack at it."
 
With most of the fans pouring out the exits, RPI called its timeout immediately after the goal and put a charge into Cornell during tense waning seconds. Evan Tironese ripped a shot with 10 seconds left that clanked off the post to the right of Cornell goalie Mitch Gillam (21 saves). The Big Red held on to end a string of six straight non-wins against RPI (6-23-1, 4-13).
 
The end was stark contrast from the beginning.
 
The Engineers entered the game on their first consecutive victories of the season, and the Big Red looked a step slow after its Friday game concluded well after 11 p.m. Viktor Liljegren scored twice for RPI, including the game's opening goal on a wraparound just 25 seconds in.
 
But Cornell responded, repeatedly, thanks to its second three-goal effort on the power play of the season. Senior defenseman Patrick McCarron leveled the game at 1, then senior forward Jake Weidner's goal with 51 seconds left in the first period tied the game at 2.
 
Liljegren's second goal gave RPI a lead midway through the second period despite Cornell's persistent peppering of the Engineers' goal. RPI started the third period looking comfortable nursing the lead.
 
"We had a slow start to the third period," said Mike Schafer, the Jay R. Bloom '77 Head Coach of Men's Hockey at Cornell. "We just started to try to do too much coming through the neutral zone, and if they get a lead they're a frustrating team to play against.
 
"But then we started advancing pucks and getting on top of them," Schafer added. "We got some turnovers and got our feet going."
 
That not only created scoring opportunities — like Vanderlaan's rip that went off the post — but it created a bevy of power plays down the stretch. Five of the Big Red's season-high nine chances on the man advantages were in the final 20 minutes. It became a matter of fine-tuning the approach.
 
"We talk about it all the time: Take what's given," Schafer said of power plays. "They started pushing up on us in the second period and in the third, up on our blue line. … So we made some adjustments with the guys on the ice and had them move pucks quick."
 
The unit with McCarron on the point scored the first two power-play goals, but it the other power-play unit with Kaldis at the point provided the last-minute heroics.
 
"We thought we would move around a little more," Kaldis said. "(The coaches) thought we were a little too stagnant in the first couple of tries, so we started moving around and things opened up for us."
 
The win is Cornell's sixth of the season when it surrenders the game's first goal. The Big Red is now an impressive 11-11-4 when its opponents score first since the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign.
 
Rauter's assist on the winner extends his points streak to five games. Weidner had two points for a second straight game, and Buckles now has nine points over 11 games since returning from injury following the semester break.
 
Cornell returns home for five of its final seven regular-season games, starting with a quick turnaround for a 7 p.m. Tuesday contest against regional rival Colgate. The game against the Raiders — which will serve as the third annual Courage Classic — will be broadcast on the Ivy League Digital Network and simulcast on ESPN3.