Series Record: 30-14-7
Friday, January 18
February 4, 2012 and February 24, 2012
Last year, Cornell and Union met only two times in the season. Not unusual, but given past history of meeting in the playoffs, particularly notable in 2010, and the teams's ascension to the National Tournament, it is worth noting. Union steamrolled the ECAC's last year with two exceptions. Cornell did not allow Union to win, holding them to a tie at Messa (4-4), and beating them at Lynah (3-2). The only team to fare better against the Dutchmen was Brown, being the sole team to sweep Union during the season of its first Whitelaw Cup.
In the first game Cornell met Union, late in the season, they faced Union's backup goaltender, Colin Stevens. Union was disciplined, drawing only one penalty on the evening and not allowing Cornell to convert. The same could not be said about the Big Red. While the Big Red only took three penalties, the Dutchmen converted on two of those opportunities, both in the first period, giving the Dutchmen the lead after one. When all was said and done, an overtime period was played, seven Cornell players tallied a point, Andy Iles stopped 24 shots, and the game ended in a 4-4 draw.
The next game, at Lynah, would tell a different tale. This time, Cornell faced Union's Hobey Baker nominee goaltender Troy Grosenick in front of the Lynah Faithful. At stake was a possible first-place finish in the ECAC. If Cornell won, they would hold the tie breaker over Union should Cornell equal or better Union's performance against Colgate the next night. If Union won, they would own outright the first place seed in the ECAC Tournament if Cornell did not beat RPI. Union seemed determined to finish the regular season with a win, scoring just over a minute into the game and leading 1-0 at the end of the first period. But it would not end there.
Cornell's power play saw only four opportunities that night to Union's six, but Cornell was the team that capitalized on its power-play opportunities. Freshman John McCarron scored a power play goal in the second to even up the score. The second period ended 1-1. The third period was not as sedate. Union came out strong with the second goal of the game coming 4:27 seconds into the period. Eleven seconds later, Greg Miller scored unassisted to tie the game up yet again. He did what we have seen so much this season, determined to tie the game back up and doing so. The game-winning goal would come from a seemingly unlikely source. Words will not do this goal justice, so click on the embedded YouTube video below to watch how this goal happened (and hear the deafening roar of the Lynah Faithful).
Union's season last year was a Cinderella story. The second year they claimed a regular-season title, the first year they won the Whitelaw and the second year they ever made the National Tournament. It was a year for the Union history books. They entered the Tournament as a one seed, advancing to the Frozen Four for the first time in Union's history before losing to Ferris State, another first-time Frozen-Four participant.
This season was the season according to Union Hockey fans, players, and coaches. They made it to the Frozen Four and this year, their goal was no less than a national championship. But the Union of last year is not the same as the Union of this year. Union is 10-7-4 on the season, suffering losses to Merrimack (in the Dutchmen's home opener), Dartmouth, and Vermont, and a tie with UConn, and sweeps by Quinnipiac and Lake Superior. Grosenick is at a .914 save percentage with Stevens, their backup, at .920. The Dutchmen, however, have a more impressive power play at 25.2% and a penalty kill above 90 percent. Their impressive power play is first in the country and their penalty kill ranks sixth, behind UNH, Dartmouth, Notre Dame, Canisius, and Quinnipiac. Union is a team looking to define itself this season and this will be their first home game since December 1, 2012. After such a long stretch, and coming off a second loss to Quinnipiac, Union is looking to rebound.
Keys to the Game:
Special Teams. Obviously to beat any team, there is a need for good goaltending, scoring, and defense. But this game is going to come down to a special teams battle. Cornell has shown that when push comes to shove, it can kill penalties like no other. The number of penalty minutes killed in the second game against Denver, including two major penalties shows that. Union is number one in the country for power plays, but Cornell has shut down other potent power-play units before namely in Denver. Cornell will more than need to prevent power-play opportunities in this game. The last time Cornell scored a power-play goal was against Ferris State in Estero, FL. The other thing that Cornell will need to look out for on special teams is shorthanded goals. Union has scored 5 shorthanded goals this season, with the Bodie brothers tallying three of them, offensive threat Wayne Simpson picking up a fourth, and Hatch tallying the fifth. Cornell has not allowed a shorthanded goal this season with the only shorthanded tally being Axell's in the Ferris State game. Regardless, shorthanded breakaway opportunities have figured into three games this season but none since November 3rd against RPI. So while Union has not scored a shorthanded goal in over two months, being vigilant on the power play is always something one ought to do when facing a team with a shorthanded goal history.
More importantly, Cornell's power play needs to prove itself. Cornell remains the most penalized team in college hockey (not in small part due to the 76 penalty minutes given during the second game in Denver), but Union gives up, on average, 12.6 minutes of penalty per game. That is roughly six power play opportunities for its opponents. The Big Red has more than enough firepower to capitalize on these opportunities.
In terms of goals overall, Union scores 3.14, while Cornell allows only 2.53. Cornell will need to keep Union's scoring opportunities down in order to keep them from reaching their average. With players back in the lineup, Cornell will need to score wherever it can and not rely on "pretty" goals this weekend. A goal is a goal.
While Cornell and Union do have a coach in common, this historical look will examine two players who will be honored at Friday's game.
The World Junior Championship roster consisted of 13 college hockey players from teams such as Cornell, Harvard, Union, Boston College, Providence, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Michigan Tech, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. College hockey players dominated the scoring. The captain of the team was from Wisconsin. Two of the alternate captains were from Cornell and Michigan. The team came from a third-place finish and defeated northern neighbor Canada in the semifinals and Sweden in the gold-medal game in order to claim their prize. Bardreau played a pivotal role on the team as did Gostisbehere and honoring them both at the Cornell-Union game at Messa seems only appropriate.