Union seized upon the apparent weakness of the dominant Big Red. Cornell jumped out to a 1-0 lead just over a minute into the game. However, anyone in Messa Rink could tell that the game was not about to be a rout. The Dutchmen and their fans responded with fervor. Cornell was able to abate the then-flying Dutchmen for only eight minutes. Then, sophomore defenseman Gostisbehere got a defending Cornell forward to bite on a deke and used the move to skate into open ice generating offense that would result in Union's first goal despite at least three saves from Iles on the opportunities resulting.
The Dutchmen continued to control the play of the first period for much of the remaining time. The Dutchmen enjoyed the man advantage in the last five minutes of the first period. Likely Cornell and definitely the Lynah Faithful (especially those who read WAFT) knew that Union owned the most efficient and successful power-play unit in the nation. Cornell's first penalty kill since its last outing in Denver did not go as one would have hoped. Iles was as stellar as he would need to be to kill penalties against the nation's best power-play unit. However, Cornell's failure to clear the zone when he was clearly committed after stopping several shots and great Union opportunities led to Kyle Bodie converting on a wide-open right side of Cornell's net.
Cornell took control of the mental and physical game in the second period. Cornell's physicality of play increased noticeably. The toll it began to take on the Dutchmen of the Capital District became apparent by the end of the period and definitely by game's end. The Big Red began to assert dominance in territoriality and Cornell's defense along with continued stellar play from Iles kept the Dutchmen off the board. Cornell began to grind down Union. The dividends of "sticking to the process" or "playing the system" would not pay off until the third period, but one could tell that if Cornell could stave off a third unanswered Union goal that Cornell's offense would erupt.
The sense of potentiality was realized in the second period. The line of Bardreau, Esposito, and McCarron tallied their and Cornell's second goal of the game. Bardreau in his first game back from representing the United States in the 2013 World Junior Championship scored the tying goal for Cornell and gave the Big Red their answer to the Dutchmen's last tally.
For some Union fans, the writing was on the wall. Union fans began to leave the building as soon as Cornell tied the score. Union's student section to its credit remained strong and began chanting all the louder to drown out the raucous contingent of the Lynah Faithful. The boxscore may make it seems as though the ice tilted decisively toward Cornell. That would be an inaccurate description of the game. The Dutchmen threatened many times and seemed for tentative fans to be on the cusp of converting at any moment.
Cornell was confident and equal to the task. A lapse in Union's defense led to Lowry taking the puck away, beating his defender, and racing down ice with Ferlin streaking up the right side. For the uninitiated who have not had the pleasure of watching this, this has become a common occurrence. It was a steep task for Grosenick to stare down two of the best forwards in the league with no defenders to assist him. Lowry made a laser-like pass to Ferlin who received it on his stick and dumped the puck in the net for Cornell's go-ahead goal. There was nothing Grosenick could have done to prevent the Big Red's duo from converting.
Cornell had allowed already one Union goal on the power play. There was a collective gasp among the Faithful when the announcer at Messa Rink as well as the scoreboard displayed that McCarron was receiving a two-minute minor penalty with barely over two and a half minutes remaining in the game. Levity and laughter soon replaced apprehension when Union's 14, Gostisbehere, was awarded a two-minute minor for embellishment.
Cornell dominated the remainder of the game. Union pulled the goaltender with 1:12 but Cornell was equal to the task of clearing the zone and limiting Union's chance to those of poor quality that Iles stopped easily.
Cornell won the game in relatively convincing fashion taking down a ranked opponent and defeating the only team under consideration in the Capital District. Houston Field House awaited the next evening.
The ever-well traveling Lynah Faithful and the hype of Cornell playing at any rink in the ECAC ensured that attendance at Houston Field House surpassed 3,000 attendants for only the second time this season. I find it shocking that it was only the second time this season that attendance eclipsed that threshold considering the history and traditions of RPI hockey and their fans.
For the second night in Capital District, the host scored on its first power-play opportunity. Engineer defenseman Bailen converted on a power-play opportunity just 20 seconds into Cornell's penalty killing. Cornell was given a power-play opportunity shortly thereafter on which the Big Red could not convert.
I will try not to belabor the next point, but I cannot discuss this game without addressing it. Cole Bardreau was in the offensive zone working along the boards as he is accustomed when Burgdoerfer checked him from behind in a manner that resulted in violent, intentional boarding. Bardreau's helmet and head collided with the boards. He fell to the ice unable to move. The Lynah Faithful rightly and appropriately erupted into clamors and chants to throw Burgdoerfer out. The officials acquiesced.
I have not yet this season referred to any hits on Cornell players as dirty because I think it is a term that should be used sparingly in a game as physical as hockey, but Burgdoerfer's hit was unquestionably dirty and he deserved the five-minute major and ten-minute game misconduct if not more.
Bardreau remained on the ice. Still unmoving. The RPI student section and fans began chanting "let's go red" before there was any sign of movement from Bardreau while medical personnel had just begun to respond to him. I've attended games when players have been severely injured and the sequence of events is much the same as what was unfolding on the ice. Some members of the Lynah Faithful responded curtly through shouting at and over the RPI fans chanting while there was little more than a few movements from Bardreau. I agree with those who yelled in principle, but not in content. I found some of the content inappropriate. The choice of RPI fans to start chanting before there was any sign of movement let alone sign of if Bardreau was okay was troubling and deplorable.
As hockey fans, especially college hockey fans, there is a time and a place for certain conduct, but one must always keep the game in context. Yes, as passionate as the Lynah Faithful and RPI fans are, the object of our passion remains just a game. The possible life-threatening or life-changing injury of a young man does not deserve raucous cheer other than those of support. It is a game in context. The outcome matters little more than bragging rights and outside the small world of college hockey, it's result is moot compared to the well-being of the student-athletes who compete for it. Fans need to realize that and chanting while a player is still on the ice apparently unable to move for what seemed like several minutes shows a gross lack of perspective.
For any RPI fans who want to argue that the "let's go red" was a pithy show of solidarity and support for Bardreau and Cornell based upon the fact that Cornell and RPI both use the chant, I have one question: why didn't Houston Field House erupt into universal applause when Bardreau finally was able to get to his feet and skate to the bench? It was the only game that I have attended including rivalry clashes where a player endured what was at the time a very startling injury and the opposing fans did not show support. Perspective.
When wandering the concourses of Houston Field House after the first period, I heard the grumblings of RPI fans that Bardreau embellished the hit and the resulting injury. Contextually, I do not find that inappropriate as ludicrous as I may find the accusation. After the fans of both teams know that the injured player has not suffered a life-changing injury, they are free to say what they wish.
Bardreau missed several shifts, but ultimately returned to play. Thankfully he seems to be okay.
Cornell threatened several times on the five-minute major but only McCarron found the back of the net behind Kasdorf and he did it with 4:22 remaining in the major power play. McCarron seemed determined to convert on the major and make RPI pay for the hit on his linemate. McCarron generated among the best chances but only one of his earliest on the five-minuter major made it past Kasdorf.
RPI's second goal came much like its first on the power play. Cornell would not have an answer until 32 seconds remained in the game. By that time, RPI had scored a goal that took a strange arcing path over Iles glove and into the net just past the halfway point in the third period. Cornell would battle back but without earning the win.
Cornell turned its offense on entirely during the last 1:35 of game play. The Big Red's line of Ferlin, Lowry, and Miller converted. Cornell seemed poised to rally to a tie to force overtime. The energy level was that high. With seconds remaining the puck cleared the zone. For the second night in a row a controversial icing call left one team feeling cheated that they were forced to defend more seconds than was appropriate. This time, it was Seth Appert who was shouting over the call. Some Cornell fans felt that the face-off should have been in the offensive zone. The face-off took place in center ice and although Cornell generated a few chances in just a matter of seconds, Cornell left Houston field House with a 3-2 loss.
Cornell played a great two periods against Union. Cornell delivered only a good game against RPI. Cornell has grown accustomed to the ability of its talented players to exploit passing lanes between defenders against even teams as skilled as Denver. RPI was wise to this tactic and seized upon it regularly to generate dangerous turnovers. The story of the game should be as much about RPI as well, however most have tried to use it to detract from Cornell. Cornell played only a good game against RPI. The storyline should be that Cornell would have needed to deliver a very good or great game to defeat the Engineers.
I predicted that goaltending would make the difference in the Cornell-RPI clash. I was incorrect. Special teams were the story of the weekend. Cornell's power-play unit has generated amazing offense. I will not criticize the system or approach as I may have at this point last season, but it still has difficulty converting the opportunities that it generates. Cornell needs to convert more often. Cornell scored just one power-play goal on nine opportunities over the weekend.
Cornell allowed five goals on the weekend and scored five goals. Cornell allowed three power-play goals on five power-play opportunities this last weekend after its stellar second-game outing against Denver. The penalty kill suffers almost from too much confidence. Too often has Cornell seemed contented to defend in its own zone rather than desperately seeking the zone clear that would allow the penalty killer and Iles to reset.
Union's one power-play goal came after extensive pressure and great saves from Iles. Had Cornell cleared the zone for just but a respite in that game, Cornell would have killed off both penalties that it allowed against the best power-play unit in the nation. Schafer will get the power-play unit clipping at the level that it deserves but Cornell needs to maintain the relative discipline that it embraced over the weekend. The Big Red's opponents drew only 14 minutes of penalties over the weekend which is five and a half minutes less than Cornell's single-game penalties-in-minute average.
Cornell outshot its opponents with a differential of 72 shots to 59 shots. During even-strength play, Cornell outscored its opponents by a margin of two to one over the weekend. This team has the offensive talent to go far. It is very hard to find a line more offensively skillful and threatening than that of Ferlin, Lowry, and Miller.