Cornell led 2-1 after two periods but suffered a 3-2 loss to Union.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Cornell led 2-1 after two periods but suffered a 3-2 loss to Union.

March 15, 2019

No. 10 Men’s Hockey Surrenders Late Lead to Union to Set Up Must-Win Game 2 of ECAC Quarterfinals

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This post has been updated.

After a wild second period that included some prime chances, a near-goal and an overturned goal, Cornell men’s hockey was up by one with 40 minutes played. But although the Red mostly outplayed its opponent on Friday night, its season now lies on the brink.

The No. 2 seeded Cornell lost in game one of the best-of-three ECAC Quarterfinals against No. 7 seed Union Friday night, 3-2, setting up a must-win game two on Saturday night. A loss on Saturday most likely means the end of Cornell’s NCAA Tournament hopes — and definitely dashes its ability to compete at Lake Placid.

Two Union goals in the span of five minutes in the second half of the third period erased a one-goal Cornell lead and put the Red in the hole in the quarterfinal series, whose winner will advance to the conference championships at Lake Placid next weekend.

Cornell’s upperclassmen have been here before. Two seasons ago, the Red rebounded from a 6-2 game one loss to Clarkson to win games two and three and punch its ticket to the conference semifinals.

“It was a lot worse [two years ago]; we got our butts kicked the first night and had to grind a couple games out the next two days,” Schafer said. “And that’s where we are at right now.”

“I’ve been in this position before my freshman year, we got [beat] by Clarkson in the first game but we bounced back,” said junior defenseman Yanni Kaldis. “We just have to put it in the past and do the things that we didn’t do well today, do them better tomorrow and the things we did well today do them tomorrow.

Cornell not just controlled the pace of play and held the Dutchmen in its own zone during a majority of the night’s offensive action, but the Red outshot Union in the contest, 34-19, and 15-8 in the third period alone.

“We did a lot of good things tonight, we just have to carry those things over and finish our chances and get ready for game three on Sunday,” Schafer said. “We have to bring it and get it done tomorrow night.”

Minutes after Kaldis was denied by Union netminder Darion Hanson out front, sophomore forward Cam Donaldson’s ice-level shot made it past Hanson. But the puck just barely stayed out of the net and was cleared at the goal line by Union defenseman Michael Ryan. A video review — the first of three in the period — upheld the no-goal call.

While much of its success this season came from playing with a lead, Cornell was forced to play from behind Friday due to Union forward Sebastian Vidmar’s wraparound goal 9:37 into the second. Against a tired Cornell fourth line, Vidmar and the Dutchmen first line beat sophomore goaltender Matt Galajda to put Union on top first.

Though Cornell’s play was dominant, the goal that came a few minutes later was flukey, as senior defenseman Matt Nuttle’s sharp-angle shot made it past Hanson — confirmed after video review deemed no offsides. Cornell got lucky again about three minutes later when an apparent Union goal scored thanks to a poor Cornell backcheck was waved off for goaltender interference after a lengthy review — the third of the 20-minute frame.

“I don’t even know why we have linesmen on the ice anymore, just have someone set the puck down,” Schafer said. ”Anything that gets scored on, it’s a review. … With three TV timeouts and reviews, the game took two hours and 33 minutes tonight. It’s not what college hockey is about.”

With 1:02 left in the second, sophomore forward Kyle Betts picked a clutch time for his first goal of the season, a deft tip of a shot from classmate Tristan Mullin’s gave the Red a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission.

Betts centered a fourth line with freshman Liam Motley and junior Noah Bauld, a strong bottom line for Cornell that was bolstered by the return of freshman center Max Andreev from a lengthy injury. The three created some solid offense but were caught on the ice defensively for Union’s first goal.

“It’s been a very frustrating year personally so it felt good to get one,” Betts said of his goal. “But [I] would trade that goal for a win any day of the week. So in the end, it doesn’t feel that good.”

Like in the second, Cornell started the third in dominant fashion, as sophomore Brenden Locke’s top line drew a power play just 53 seconds in. Cornell was 0-for-3 on the power play in the loss — “Our powerplay needed to play better than it did in the three chances that they had,” Schafer said.

On the power play and at even strength, Cornell had many almost-goals. A few deflections and loose pucks somehow didn’t make their way past Hanson.

“Every chance you get you have to think like it’s your last scoring chance you’re going to get in the night and you have to bury it,” Schafer said of what his team’s mindset must be going forward. “How many times we had pucks in the crease tonight — it’s got to be in the back of the net.”

Union captain Cole Maier scored at 10:40 of the third to tie the game at 2-2. Just 4:47 later, Union forward Brett Supinski’s shot from the point deflected off Cornell sophomore forward Morgan Barron and beat Galajda for the Dutchmen’s eventual game-winner.

Cornell had scoring chances abound, many with Galajda pulled in the final two minutes, but couldn’t put the equalizer past Hanson.

“We created a lot of chances, but we’ve got to start finishing them,” Kaldis said. “If we do the same things tomorrow we’ve gotta get grittier in front of the net and make sure we bear down.”

All three of Union’s goals came from top-six forwards. While Cornell was able to play four full forward lines for the first time in months, it suffered matchup problems against Union’s best goal-scorers.

“We’re going to have to look at line matchups because the guys that are up against [the top] line, they are minuses tonight,” Schafer said. “We need to address it and come back and get ready for tomorrow.”

Do-or-die game two is set for 7 p.m. Saturday.

“We have to play tomorrow like our lives depend on it,” Betts said.