March 20, 2014

MEN’S ICE HOCKEY | Red Will Take on Union in ECAC Semifinals Showdown

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Less than five days after junior forward Brian Ferlin’s overtime goal sent the men’s ice hockey team pouring over its bench and onto the ice to celebrate its game three ECAC Hockey quarterfinals victory over Clarkson in front of a raucous Lynah crowd, the fourth-seeded Red heads to Lake Placid for a Friday afternoon semifinals showdown with two-time defending league champion Union.

Union, who entered the tournament as the top seed, swept Dartmouth in its quarterfinals matchup to extend its current unbeaten streak to 11. The Dutchmen recently jumped to second in the major national polls and previously grabbed the ECAC regular season title with an 18-3-1 league record.

“They’re great defensively — they’ve got great stick position on the ice surface, they make it difficult to make plays on [and] they’re very committed as a group of players to the defensive side of the puck,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of the Dutchmen. “Everyone will go and point and say they’re one of the best offensive teams in the country, but they spring that a lot from the defensive side of it.”

Union is the only team to beat Cornell twice in the regular season, taking the Red, 3-0, in the first matchup and then beating the team, 4-1, at Lynah. While both Schafer and several players have cited the first game against Union as one of the low points of the season — the Red mustered only 11 shots on goal throughout the entire game — the second game was a physical, hard-fought battle with a more even balance of scoring chances.

“We had a tough game against [Union] here at home, we thought we played pretty solid and ended up losing the hockey game, but we were happy with our game plan and we were happy with how we played,” Schafer said.

Junior defenseman Jake Macdonald shrugged off the notion that the Red needed to make any drastic changes to the team’s game plan to defeat the Dutchmen.

“Honestly, I just think we have to play the same way we did the last time we played them,” he said. “I thought that we outplayed them — if we can continue to chip pucks into their zone and get pressure on their defense and just have an all-around solid game, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Two of Union’s biggest threats stem from what Schafer called the “one-two punch” of defensemen senior Mat Bodie and junior Shayne Gostisbehere, who both figure prominently in the Dutchmen’s attack with 29 and 28 points, respectively. Gostisbehere was recently named one of 10 Hobey Baker award finalists.

“You have to be a little more careful with some of the talented D-men they have back there jumping into the play,” junior forward Joel Lowry said. “You don’t want to give them too much time or space, you want to limit them and not let them jump up because they can make plays.”

The Lake Placid ice sheet also poses a separate set of issues for the Red, as the rink is Olympic-sized versus the more common NHL size the Red has played on all season. Olympic rinks are significantly wider, which can change the style of play needed for success.

“Everyone thinks the wide ice surface is going to open things up, but it can close things down,” Schafer said, noting that he spoke to the team about these problems at practice that day. “If you’re a team that wants to stay up in the perimeter in Lake Placid, your offensive chances are going to diminish.”

Michelle Feldman / Sun Staff PhotographerJunior forward Brian Ferlin made the overtime goal that secured the Red’s entry into the ECAC semifinals. His aggressive offensive play will be instrumental for the Red against Union on Friday.