ITHACA, N.Y. — That old third-period magic continues to work for Union.
Thanks to that, the Dutchmen find themselves in a position to have a weekend off in March. The Dutchmen scored the final three goals of the game, including two in the third period by Matt Cook and Andrew Buote, to rally for a stunning 3-2 ECAC Hockey win over Cornell on Friday at Lynah Rink. The victory moves the Dutchmen (8-5-4 ECAC, 13-10-5 overall) one point ahead of the Big Red (9-7-1, 11-10-3) for the final ECAC tournament first-round bye.
Union, which swept Cornell for the first time in 10 years, is only two points in back of second-place Princeton and Quinnipiac, who both lost Friday. There are five games left. Union plays at Colgate tonight, while Cornell hosts Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Princeton is at Dartmouth and Quinnipiac visits Harvard.
“[The win] is significant, but we try not to look too much at the standings,” said co-captain Cook, who became the first Union player to score two goals in a game this season. “We try to do what we said all year, kind of stay within ourselves and worry about our systems. Our is obviously to finish in the top four. There’s five games left. A lot can happen in five games.”
A lot happened in this contest. Union gave Cornell five power plays in the first period, and fell behind, 1-0, on Blake Gallagher’s power-play goal late in the period. The Big Red then took a 2-0 lead at 6:43 of the second period when Topher Scott blasted a shot from the left wing past goalie Justin Mrazek.
After that goal, the game’s tide shifted. Instead of Cornell clamping down defensively like it is known to do, it was Union which took control by outhustling the Big Red, and getting great scoring chances. It has been a trademark of the Dutchmen since the start of 2008. Union 9-2-2 in its last 13 games.
“I thought we got ourselves in a lot of trouble in the first period with the penalties,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “Once we settled down a little bit, I thought we really stepped it up the whole second half of the game. It has been the way things have been going for us the past four games. We just keep getting stronger and stronger as the game goes.”
Cook was in the slot for both of his goals. On the first one, he one-timed a Josh Coyle pass from behind the net past Ben Scrivens with 3:07 left in the second. He tied it at 4:23 of the third, when he redirected a Brendan Milnamow left-point shot past Scrivens for his team-leading 10th goal of the year.
“When we got up, 2-0, I thought Union really raised their level of performance, and competed very hard to get back into the game and we didn’t respond,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. “They took it to us.”
Buote was also in the slot when he got his second goal of the season, and second game-winner. As Union was changing lines, Mike Schreiber dumped the puck in the Cornell right corner. Coyle hustled to get the puck, and then centered it to Buote, who banged it home with 6:05 left.
“Cook must have come off the ice there,” said Buote, whose other game-winner came Nov. 30 at Quinnipiac. “I went in there as fast as I could, and Coyle made a real good play down low. I think he might have beaten two guys, and threw just a perfect pass out to me. All I had to do was tap it in.”
Mrazek made sure Cornell wouldn’t score again. After allowing two goals and getting pulled following the first period of last Friday’s Harvard game, a sharp Mrazek made 25 saves.
“I just wanted to get back at it,” Mrazek said. “The next time I got another opportunity, I wanted to make it count.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.