ITHACA, N.Y. – It was only fitting to see a senior make the play that led to victory for the Cornell men's hockey team on its Senior Night. Second-year captain Mitch Vanderlaanscored on a redirection of classmate Alec McCrea's point shot late in the second period, and the Big Red rode out a 3-1 victory over Union on Saturday night at Lynah Rink.
Coupled with Clarkson's simultaneous 5-3 victory over Quinnipiac, the victory moved Cornell (16-8-3, 12-5-3 ECAC Hockey) back into sole possession of first place in the league standings with just two games remaining. The Big Red is now one point ahead of the Bobcats and Harvard, and two points ahead of Clarkson.
Cornell came out strong, perhaps fueled at least in some part by a stunning overtime loss the night prior, with Michael Regush striking just 2 minutes, 19 seconds into the game. It was the freshman's eighth goal of the season and his fifth on the man advantage.
It also seemed like perfect groundwork to see the Big Red flush its first three-game winless skid since the beginning of the 2016-17 season – except that it wouldn't be quite that simple. Union (15-11-6, 8-10-2) pulled even on Cole Maier's unassisted shorthanded goal later in the first, then the Dutchmen started to take over territorially in the second.
Matthew Galajda answered the bell for Cornell, making 14 of his 30 saves in the middle frame. One of his key saves came at the 9:10 mark on a Ryan Walker backhander. After Vanderlaan's goal, Galajda kept Cornell in the lead about a minute later after a bouncing puck led to a Walker breakaway that Galajda turned aside with his right pad. The Big Red regrouped and effectively fortified the lead in the third.
"Once we got the second goal, I thought our guys did a really good job being above them (defensively)," said Mike Schafer '86, the Jay R. Bloom '77 Head Coach of Men's Hockey at Cornell. "It was probably a pretty boring third period for Cornell fans … but we just locked it down."
The Big Red's biggest mistake in the third was a turnover at the offensive blue line, but Galajda delivered again with a shoulder save on Sebastian Vidmar's shot from in tight on a three-on-two with just 1:47 to play.
Less than a minute later, Morgan Barron's team-leading 13th goal slid into the empty net to effectively clinch the game.
Now just one point away from clinching a bye in the first round of the ECAC Hockey Championships, Cornell wraps up the regular season on the road next weekend, visiting St. Lawrence at 7 p.m. Friday and Clarkson at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Big Red's Lineup:
How The Goals Were Scored:
Cornell's 1st Goal
1st period, 2:19 • Regush 8 (Malott, Locke) (pp) • Cornell 1, Union 0
• On a Cornell power play, Locke worked the puck from the top of the left circle down to a wide open Malott stationed on top of the crease. The puck bounced between his feet toward the middle, then Malott backhanded a pass across to the far post where Regush came on to roof a shot and open the scoring.
Union's 1st Goal
1st period, 14:10 • Maier 7 (sh) • Cornell 1, Union 1
• With the Big Red on the power play, it worked the puck free from a scrum to Hanson's left and up to a defenseman on the top of the right circle. He attempted a lateral pass that was cut down by Maier, who started to speed away with Ryan Sidorski on a two-on-two. Maier then snapped a shot from the left circle that beat Galajda to the glove side.
Cornell's 2nd Goal
2nd period, 14:32 • Vanderlaan 8 (McCrea, Kaldis) (pp) • Cornell 2, Union 1
• Kaldis' pass sent Malott into the Union zone on the right wing, then he cut back at the bottom of the circle and avoided a potentially heavy hit to feed the puck back to the point. With all five Dutchmen skaters collapsed below the hash marks, McCrea and Kaldis exchanged passes before McCrea snapped a shot toward the front of the net for Vanderlaan to redirect downward and bounce into the net past Hanson's blocker.
Cornell's 3rd Goal
3rd period, 19:02.5 • Barron 13 (Betts) (en) • Cornell 3, Union 1
• With its goaltender pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Union gained the Cornell zone and rung the puck around the boards from the left side. As it rounded behind the net, Betts took a whack at it to send it toward the right point, where Barron chipped it past a defender. He skated away through the neutral zone and drove the net, fending away a retreating defender to allow the puck to slide in.