This article has been updated.
No. 13 men’s hockey hosted Union at Lynah Rink on Friday night in its first ECAC home game of the season. The Red dominated wire-to-wire, earning a 4-1 victory and three points in the league standings.
For the second consecutive game, the Red started strong. Cornell spent most of the first period in its offensive zone, jumping out to a nine to five lead in shots in the opening frame.
The Red got on the board three and a half minutes in. Senior Kyle Betts, who has wreaked havoc on the forecheck in the Red’s first four games, came up with a turnover in the neutral zone and attempted a backhand shot. The puck bounced off the leg pads of Union’s Connor Murphy, but Penney was there to poke it in.
The sequence — a Betts turnover and a shot that deflected out to Penney — was reminiscent of Penney’s first career goal last weekend against Dartmouth.
“[Betts] has been able to not rush things like he had in the past,” Head Coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. “That kind of confidence is great to see. He’s a great player and we’re very fortunate to have him back as a [fifth-year].”
Just over halfway through the frame, the Red struck again when a backhand pass from junior Matt Stienburg found freshman Ondrej Psenicka right in front of the crease to set up a one-timer.
Cornell took its 2-0 lead into the second period. A pair of penalties in the opening minute of the middle frame gave the Dutchmen their first big opportunity of the game.
Junior Sam Malinski was sent to the box for interference in the opening minute of the period. The Dutchmen had an opportunity to capitalize on the man advantage after a Union skater got away with knocking down Howe — but Howe got back on his skates, shoved the opponent off and made a nice save.
Less than a minute after killing the first penalty, the Red found itself back on the kill when Penney was nabbed for interference. Howe once again bailed the Red out, flashing the leather on two glove saves and standing tall on a one-on-one to keep Union off the board.
“Penalty kills play [such a big role] in the momentum swings of each game,” Howe said. “To have the guys get in the shooting lanes and try to keep them to the outside was [helpful].”
The Dutchmen kept their foots on the gas during the next few minutes of full strength play, but Howe made save after save, receiving praise from the Lynah Faithful.
“I had high expectations for Lynah, and I think they’ve surpassed them,” Howe said. “[I’m] super grateful to be playing at Lynah in front of the best fans in college hockey.”
In his third start of the season, Howe finished with 21 saves on 22 shots.
“I think he gives us confidence, he plays the puck well back there,” Schafer said. “I thought he was really really solid tonight.”
Just as it seemed the Dutchmen were picking up momentum, Cornell came up with a turnover in the neutral zone. Junior forward Jack Malone skated past two Union defenders and flicked the puck in for a highlight-reel goal to extend Cornell’s lead to 3-0.
“I got a great pass from Hank [Kempf] and I saw an opportunity to put it to my backhand to get [Murphy] to freeze for a second and put it in a good spot to get on the other side of him,” Malone said. “Luckily that went in.”
Both teams had opportunities in the second half of the frame, but neither could capitalize, and Cornell took its three-goal lead into the third period.
The third period opened much like the second, with Cornell going on the penalty kill early on. Betts was called for interference just nine seconds into the final frame, and the Dutchmen took advantage. Union defenseman Brandon Estes found the back of the net at the 18:35 mark to put the Dutchmen on the board.
Cornell allowed one goal on its four penalty kills.
“I thought our penalty kill was erratic tonight,” Schafer said. “When we got our hands on it in the defensive zone we didn’t clear the zone very well. I thought we rushed things. It’s something that we’ll continue to work at.”
The Red coughed up a two-goal lead late in the third period of last week’s game at Dartmouth, but did a much better job protecting its lead on Friday night.
“At times we get a little laxed, kind of take our foot off the pedal a little bit,” Malone said. “We have to continue to build off the momentum we create early and continue that throughout the game.”
Cornell did not allow Union to score again, and added an insurance goal with just over eight minutes left. Stienburg was tripped up cutting to the net and lost the puck, but junior defenseman Travis Mitchell took possession and fired a shot in to extend Cornell’s lead to 4-1.
Cornell went on its first power play of the night after the trip, but came up empty. Stienburg was called for boarding right after Cornell’s power play ended. The Red killed the penalty to keep its lead at three entering the final minutes.
Union could not cut into Cornell’s lead, and the Red held on to close out the 4-1 victory.
The Red is back in action on Saturday night when it hosts Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Lynah at 7 p.m.