Last week was not the rivalry weekend Cornell men’s hockey team would have liked. Getting outscored 7-0 across two third periods to give away two wins could have killed the momentum for any team going forward.
So when Cornell (14-6-2, 9-4-2 ECAC) went back on the road to the Capital Region to take on No. 4/5 Union (19-7-2, 12-3-1) — owners of only two ECAC losses entering the weekend — and RPI (6-23-1, 4-13), the Red had the chance to show the nation that last weekend was a fluke, and the team from Ithaca was built with resilience.
With that opportunity on the platter, Cornell flipped the script from last weekend, defeating a top-ranked opponent in Union, 5-3, on Friday, and squeaking out a 4-3 win over RPI after freshman Yanni Kaldis scored his first career goal with 22.6 remaining in regulation for Cornell’s only lead of the game.
It was Cornell first road sweep over both Union and RPI in over eight years.
“Last week was frustrating. We had leads in both games but didn’t come away with any points,” said senior forward Jake Weidner after the win against the Dutchmen. “So we were really looking forward to getting back on the ice against Union here.”
Cornell struck first against Union exactly halfway into the first period, when junior forward Alex Rauter, in on a breakaway, deked to his backhand to open the pads of Union’s Jake Kupsky — playing in place of the usual starter Alex Sakellaropoulos — and sent it five-hole to open the scoring.
Union’s Mike Vecchione — the nation’s leading goal scorer and points getter — would steal the Dutchmen one back before first intermission with a shorthanded effort. But goals from sophomore forward Anthony Angello and junior forward Dwyer Tschantz — his first of the year — gave Cornell the lead heading into the break.
The Dutchmen went on to score the game’s next two, seemingly sending Cornell back into the same lead-losing narrative it had fallen victim to against both Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend. After Union tied it up, it was clear whoever scored the next goal would be telling for the Cornell squad: resilience if it came from a Cornell player, deja vu if it came from Union.
And it was the captain who bailed him team out, sending a sharply-angled power play goal past Kupsky for the eventual-game winner. Angello would add another in the game’s final five minutes, and Cornell got that bounce back win it needed over a top-five ranked team.
“What happened last weekend — similar things happened to us in the [Union] game where I struggling to find out where we took some calls,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Our guys didn’t respond very well [last weekend], I didn’t respond very well. I thought our team handled it very well tonight.”
As opposed to Friday, where Cornell never trailed through 60 minutes, the Red only managed to lead for 22.6 seconds against RPI, but that was all that was necessary to secure the win.
Kaldis’ first career goal finished off a two-goal third period, where the Red outshot the Engineers a whopping 14-3 in the 20-minute frame. Cornell’s 45 shots on the night was an uncharacteristically high total for a team that tends to enjoy mild games in that department.
“I was waiting for it,” Kalids said of number one. “Thankfully it’s over now and I can hopefully chip in a few more.”
RPI scored just 25 seconds into the contest, but Patrick McCarron knotted things up just about four minutes later with a shot from the point. The teams continued to trade goals, and Kaldis took a penalty late in order to keep a breakaway from cleanly getting to senior goalie Mitch Gillam.
It looked as if the freshman had just handed RPI a clear opportunity to walk away with the upset win, but senior defenseman Holden Anderson drew a five minute major less than one minute into the Kaldis minor after receiving a dangerous hit into the board delivered by RPI’s Riley Bourbonnais.
Throughout the game, any time one team scored, the other came back with an answer. Shortly after Kaldis exited the box for his minor, he got number one, and provided the only goal of the night that had no answer.
As recently as last weekend, Cornell was one of the top-ranked teams in the country when it came to its penalty unit. But since then, the Red has given up nine goals in four games while shorthanded, slipping to a No. 25-ranked penalty kill.
But the Red’s power play should not go unnoticed either. Cornell was granted 13 power plays across the two-game weekend, scoring on five of them, including three times against RPI.
With so many opportunities on the power play, Kaldis — a staple on the top power play unit for his puck-moving abilities — said it was just that which woke up Cornell’s power play unit this weekend.
“We thought we would move around a little more,” Kaldis said. “We started moving around and things opened up for us.”
Now, Cornell will face short rest yet again when it takes on its travel partner Colgate (6-16-5, 4-9-2) on Tuesday — this time at home.
Colgate is also coming off a weekend against both RPI and Union, dropping both games 5-2 and 3-1, respectively. The Raiders have only secured two wins — over Clarkson and Dartmouth — in their last 10 attempts.
The Red last met the Raiders in a chewing-gum affair — as Colgate throws Big Red chewing gum at Cornell upon player entry — and Cornell defeated its Hamilton opponents, 3-2, behind two goals from McCarron.
“We’ll get back at it on Tuesday against Colgate and hopefully our fans are ready to roll and [we] come back in town and do a better job than last week in terms of finishing off teams,” Schafer said.