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College Hockey:
Underhill Blanks Union in Cornell’s League Opener.

— Cornell’s first conference matchup of the year was a good one for the Big Red, as they blanked Union, 5-0, on Friday night. The win moves Cornell to 3-0 on year, while dropping the Skating Dutchmen to 3-2-1 (0-1 ECAC).

Both teams began the first period of the game playing hard, physical hockey and looking to create momentum. It took a while, however, for each squad to get going on offense. Early on, the Big Red managed to keep the puck inside the Dutchmen’s defensive zone, but struggled to create scoring chances. Similarly, whenever Union broke out of their own zone, they turned the puck over and fell back into a defensive mode.

With less than two minutes to go in the first period, Cornell’s offense broke the deadlock when a poor clearing attempt by a Union defender ended up on the stick of the Big Red’s Charlie Cook at the point. Cook fired a shot into traffic in front of the Dutchmen’s goal, where Greg Hornby deflected the puck to the outside for teammate Shane Palahicky. Palahicky had little trouble beating Union goaltender Brandon Snee, who was still focused on the congestion in the slot when the puck sailed into his net.

Palahicky and Hornby had a hand in that first goal, but also played solidly throughout the rest of the contest.

“I thought the line of [David] Francis, Hornby and Palahicky played great tonight,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “They really set the table for the other three lines with their hustle and their physical play. They did a great job, those three guys. I thought we had contributions from all four of our lines, from that standpoint.”

Union tried to turn the tables on Cornell in the first shift of the second period by playing very physical. Just 10 seconds after the opening draw, imposing Dutchman Doug Christiansen laid a punishing open-ice check on Cornell’s Jeremy Downs. But, Downs’ teammate and defensive partner Doug Murray was quick to come to aid his teammate, flattening Christiansen right after that hit.

This quick sequence of checking didn’t account for any goals or penalties, but it seemed important and indicative of how the rest of the contest was to proceed. For the rest of the night, whenever Union had opportunities to gain the upper hand, the Big Red battled back and asserted their dominance.

On the first power-play opportunity of the contest for Cornell, Doug Murray again made his presence felt, but not with a hit, rather a goal. Murray gave Cornell a 2-0 lead at 8:08 when he solved Union’s attempted penalty kill with a slap shot from near the blue line.

The Big Red were not content with only two goals on the night, though. Just 34 seconds after Murray’s tally, David Francis made it 3-0 following a scramble for possession in front of Snee.

The Dutchmen used a timeout following the third goal of the game in an attempt, once again, to gain some momentum. The stoppage in play did not pay them dividends, though. Cornell controlled the pace of the game for the bulk of the remainder of the period, and even scored again at 16:07. The goal came from Murray after a clever pass from Ryan Vesce.

Unhappy with their defensive slip-ups, Union’s coaching staff took Snee out of the game following Cornell’s fourth goal. He was replaced by sophomore Kyle Loney, who played the final 23:53 of the game for the Dutchmen. Loney didn’t fair much better than Snee, though. During his time between the pipes, he was scored on once, while only making five saves.

Goaltender Matt Underhill registered the shutout for Cornell. He was quick to praise his teammates for their hand in the defensive effort after the game.

“They bailed me out a couple times,” he said. “I thought our defense played really well. There were a couple pucks that jumped away from me that we jumped on right away, before Union could. You know, we held them to zero goals, that’s pretty damn good.”

The Dutchmen will look to make amends for their loss to Cornell when they travel to Colgate tomorrow evening. The Big Red, meanwhile, hope to continue their winning ways against Rensselaer on Saturday. Both games get under way at 7 p.m.

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