This post has been updated.
In a game whose outcome was thrown into uncertainty halfway into the third period, No. 2 men’s hockey eked out a win over Union, 5-2, behind an improved penalty kill and two empty-net goals.
The Lynah crowd didn’t have to wait long for the scoring to get started, with senior defenseman Yanni Kaldis potting a goal just 2:30 into the game. It was the captain’s first goal since Nov. 16 against St. Lawrence.
“I hit a couple posts last weekend, so I mean, the coaches have been harping on me to shoot more,” Kaldis said. “Today’s one of those days where it went in.”
Cornell — which came in clipping at 25.53 percent on the man advantage — notched two power-play goals in the tilt. The first came from another one of the Red’s three captains when junior forward Morgan Barron put the puck past Union’s netminder 13 seconds into an all-you-can-eat power play courtesy of Union’s Zachary Emelifeonwu.
“We work on the power play a lot, I mean, our whole special teams has been a focus these past few weeks — really getting it up to par,” Barron said. “Any time you can execute like that, I think that’s good for us.”
Emelifeonwu was hit with a five-minute major penalty for boarding and another 10 minutes for game misconduct.
Going into the first intermission, the Red stood at a 2-0 advantage — and had outshot Union, 13-1.
Cornell’s prolific first period did not translate into the second frame. The Red’s style of play grew over-complicated, resulting in a less crisp performance as the game went on.
“A good start,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “A poor second [period], worse third. I mean, it was disappointing … When we get a lead like we had, why don’t we continue to play simple hockey?”
The next goal of the night following that first intermission came on another Cornell power play, 17 minutes into the second period. Again it was Kaldis, with his second of the game and third of the season.
Cornell’s penalty-killing unit was perfect up until Union notched its first goal of the game with just over a minute left in the second period. The Red, which has been struggling with its penalty killing as of late, drew Schafer’s ire last week for what he deemed a shoddy performance, despite winning the game, 5-3.
But Schafer’s recent complaints are warranted — entering the weekend, Cornell’s 75 percent penalty-killing rate was fourth-worst in the nation.
On Friday, the unit showed marked improvement, even killing two separate 5-on-3 advantages for the Dutchmen — both of which lasted upwards of 20 seconds. Friday night marked the first game all season in which Cornell had to kill a 5-on-3 penalty. But that goal by Union’s Gabriel Seger at the end of the second frame tarnished an otherwise-stellar night for the kill.
“I thought we did awesome,” Schafer said of the penalty-killing unit Friday.
The third period saw Union’s second goal of the night, which was an even-strength tally by Dylan Anhorn. Suddenly, the game — in which Cornell had, to that point, outshot the Dutchmen 22-7 — appeared a lot less certain. With 10 minutes to go and facing only a one-goal deficit, tying up the game became a prospect within reach for Union.
And tie it they nearly did. Soon after Anhorn’s goal, junior goaltender Matt Galajda leaned left to block a shot that sailed in to his right. The call on the ice was a goal, but after a review, it was determined that a Union skater made contact with Galajda and Cornell was gifted its 3-2 lead again.
“In the first period, we played really well, almost no turnovers, got the puck in deep, went to work,” Kaldis said. “I think after that, we just kind of complicated our own game and started giving them chances.”
But the overturned call brought out a vengeance in the Dutchmen, who came back to play with renewed vigor in the waning minutes of the game. The third period would be the only one in which Union tied Cornell for shots on goal, with that tally reading 5-5.
“In the first, we were playing the kind of hockey we want to play … but we got away from that a little bit in the second and third,” Barron said. “So that’s going to be a huge emphasis for us tomorrow.”
What seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for Union came with 23.8 seconds left in the contest, off Barron’s second goal of the night into an empty net. But in reality, the last score came 5.5 seconds later from freshman forward Jack Malone before the Dutchmen had the chance to send their netminder back onto the ice.
Union goaltender Darion Hanson scarcely had time to resume his post before the final buzzer sounded on a 5-2 victory for Cornell.
The Red will retake the ice Saturday at 7 p.m. to face off against Rensselaer.