With the game tied 1-1 entering the third period, a feeling of doubt crept over the crowd at Lynah Rink, a crowd that had watched its beloved Red go 1-5-1 in its last seven games and lose not only its first place hold on the ECAC, but almost a home playoff spot.
In the locker room, there was a different attitude.
“We came in the dressing room and we knew we were going to win,” senior tri-captain andrew McNiven following the important 2-1 victory over Union.
“We were a better team than them tonight, no doubt about it, going into the third period, there was no question who was going to win,” McNiven added. “It was really just a question of how we were going to score the goal.”
As it turned out, McNiven — playing in his final regular season home game — had the answer to that very question.
Streaking down the right side of the rink, he unleashed a wrist shot that beat the nearly impenetrable Brandon Snee. Not a soul in the building (save the Union fans in section O) could have thought of a more fitting way for Cornell to take the lead. And with just under seven minutes left in the game, the Red had found a lead it would not relinquish.
“I looked to go top left and actually scored bottom right,” the senior joked. “I guess that’s why I’m not a goal scorer.”
McNiven’s goal, only his second of the year and 12th of his Cornell career, was assisted by another senior tri-captain, Larry Pierce, who made a great neutral zone pass to spring McNiven.
“It was great for Andrew to score the goal,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said after the game. “Justice was served tonight. It was nice to see him get the game winner.”
The go ahead tally did more than just give the Red a much-needed win. The victory, coupled with a Dartmouth loss to Clarkson, gave Cornell a fourth place finish in the ECAC and a home-ice playoff date with Princeton next weekend.
“[Securing home ice is] a big burden off our guy’s shoulders, I think they’ve been really feeling the pressure here in the last couple of weeks,” Schafer said.
Cornell opened the night’s scoring with a goal from sophomore Matt McRae. After taking a brilliant pass from freshman Ryan Vesce, the forward took the puck around Snee on the right side and put it in the back of the net.