A strong all-around effort by red-hot men’s hockey (15-4-4, 10-4-2 ECAC) lifted the team over Union, 6-1. The win marks another road-trip sweep for the Red and extends Cornell’s unbeaten streak to 12 games — the longest unbeaten stretch by any Division-I team this year.
While the Red got a quick lead in the first, the game was stuck at a 4-1 score for much of the second and third period, much accredited to improved play by Union (13-13-2, 7-7-2 ECAC). Ultimately, two late goals worsened the score for Cornell’s opponent. Union outshot Cornell, 24-23, including in the third period where Cornell trailed 14-7 in the shot department.
However, Cornell overwhelmed the Garnet Chargers, which entered Saturday’s contest unbeaten in seven of its previous eight matchups. Freshman forward Jonathan Castagna buried two goals in the first period — and four points in the game — en route to the 6-1 victory.
Cornell earns another three points with the win, giving it 33 points overall. It still remains eight points behind first-place Quinnipiac after the Bobcats’ Saturday night win and maintains a five-point lead over Colgate after the Raiders’ shootout victory Saturday.
Cornell wasted no time getting on the board on Saturday night, as it established offensive zone time right off the opening faceoff. Castagna found the puck on his stick after a couple of preceding chances and fired it over the shoulder of the Union goaltender to give the Red a 1-0 less than five minutes in.
Union retaliated with a few chances of its own, but all were fended off by junior goaltender Ian Shane. Though tested infrequently in the opening frame, Shane stopped the three shots he saw to maintain Cornell’s lead.
Shane’s save percentage improved to .922 after Saturday night’s victory, which stands as ninth-best in the nation. The netminder continues to lead the country in goals against average at 1.62.
Just a few minutes after the opening tally, the Red got on the board once again. It was Castagna again, this time cleaning up a loose puck to double Cornell’s lead.
The latter half of the first period was highlighted by a potentially game-changing call. Already on the penalty kill, a Union skater made a hard hit on sophomore forward Dalton Bancroft, sending him into the boards beside the Union bench. Carter Korpi, the culprit, was tossed from the game on a major boarding call, sending Cornell to a 46-second 5-on-3 advantage, immediately into the ensuing 4:14 5-on-4 power play.
However, Cornell couldn’t find an answer to the third-best penalty kill in the nation. It was a strong shower on the penalty kill for the Garnet Chargers — Union blocked three shots in the final four minutes of the period and nearly halved Cornell’s lead on a shorthanded breakaway attempt.
Despite having 1:42 left on the man-advantage to begin the middle frame, the Red struggled to generate much offensively. Union was quick to block shots and redirect shots from the Cornell power play unit and was aided by a handful of impressive saves by Kyle Chauvette.
Chauvette was a large reason Cornell failed to extend its lead on the five-minute power play chance. The sophomore goaltender concluded the game with 17 saves, while Shane finished with 23 for Cornell.
Despite the major penalty, Union’s discipline was its weakness on Saturday, as another penalty six minutes into the second proved to be a pivotal mistake. The Cornell power play, though lacking on its previous opportunity, quickly retaliated to cushion the lead. Senior forward Gabriel Seger, fresh off of his 100-point milestone in Friday night’s victory over RPI, converted on the man-advantage.
With momentum on its side, Cornell continued to apply pressure in the Union defensive zone. The Red’s offensive prowess was rewarded yet again, its fourth tally of the night coming just 47 seconds after Seger’s goal. Junior forward Sullivan Mack, breaking into the offensive zone with speed, juked the Union goaltender and snuck the puck between the pads for his third goal of the season.
The two goals in the middle frame were a reward from Cornell’s stifling style of play — after 40 minutes, Cornell limited the Garnet Chargers to just 10 shots on goal, with an impressive three of those coming while Union was shorthanded.
But Cornell didn’t leave the ice in the second period entirely unscathed, as a power play tally by Cullen Ferguson spoiled Shane’s shutout bid.
The third started off on a high note for Cornell, as Union took a quick penalty to give the Red a power play less than 30 seconds in. The Red couldn’t convert on the chance, a precursor to a period where Cornell maintained its lead but struggled to pull away.
The Red earned five power plays on Friday night, converting on only one. Similarly, Union notched one power-play goal on three attempts.
On one of those man-advantage opportunities midway through the final frame, Union got its best looks of the night, but Shane came up big. The netminder made a particularly impressive off-balance blocker save to keep the Garnet Chargers off the board.
As time dwindled down, Union elected to pull its goaltender with over three minutes left in an effort to lessen the Red’s lead. It was Cornell that got the better of the Garnet Chargers — despite being a man down — as the Red had an elongated shift in its offensive zone but couldn’t quite thread the puck into the vacant net.
With just over a minute left, a long shot from junior forward Ondrej Psenicka ultimately found a way through the shot-blocking defensemen of Union and into the net. Chauvette reclaimed his crease after Psenicka’s tally, but a late stinger by sophomore forward Winter Wallace — his first of the season — beat the Union goaltender to tie a bow on the 6-1 victory.
Cornell has three weeks left of its season and will be home for two of those weekends. The Red will be back in action this Friday, Feb. 16, and Saturday, Feb. 17, to take on Brown and Yale, respectively.