ALBANY, N.Y. — Most were expecting the matchup between second-seeded Cornell and third-seeded Union to be a marquee semifinal matchup. That is until Sean Backman went down and top-seeded Yale fell to Brown in the ECAC quarterfinals. Many experts thought Yale might still be the favorite to win back-to-back Whitelaw Cups, but it is clear now that the two teams who battled Saturday for the 49th ECAC tournament championship were the strongest and most complete come playoff time.
In the end, the Big Red dominated the Dutchmen at both ends of the ice to take a convincing 3-0 shutout victory for their record 12th Whitelaw Cup. The shot totals ended up rather close, but the shot charts were anything but. Cornell was all over Keith Kinkaid in the first two periods, with 16 of their 24 shots through two coming from the doorstep. At the other end, Union was forced to the outside and left unable to penetrate the slot, managing only four shots inside the faceoff dots through two periods before becoming more aggressive in the third to try and mount a comeback as the Red were content to play lock-down ‘D’ and forecheck hard. The game was never really in doubt, but Ben Scrivens came up big at the very end to preserve the shutout.
That is not where the story ends, though, for Scrivens, who is really making his case for the Hobey Hat Trick. The shutout was his third in a row to win the tournament, having not allowed a goal since the first period of Game 1 against Harvard in the quarterfinals. His shutout streak of 230:30 is the seventh-longest in NCAA history and surpasses Mark Dekanich of Colgate for the longest ever by an ECAC backstop. No goalie had ever even posted back-to-back shutouts during the conference championship weekend, and the previous career record for the entire tournament was three. Scrivens, who obviously did that in this tournament alone, now has five career ECAC tourney shutouts.
It goes farther than that, though. The three games previous to the three shutouts, Scrivens allowed only one goal per, and they were all on the power play. He has not allowed a goal at even strength in 362:17.
“I have no other answer than to be humble,” said the ever-modest Scrivens. “We play defense by committee; my job is to stop any pucks that get through. If it’s 50-something like Yale put on at home this year, or if it’s only under 20, all I can really do is be ready and take care of my end of the bargain. I guess I’ll take a little bit of credit, but the majority of the credit goes to the defense. [They] block a ton of shots in the slot, anything wristed down they’re eating it, and those things aren’t very fun.”
Cornell got three of the four power plays in the opening period, and they capitalized on the second at 15:09. A shot came from Mike Devin at the point that went wide right and caromed back to the side of the net off the boards. It was picked up there by Tyler Roeszler, who wheeled around as he went behind the net and found Joe Devin to the right of the cage. He made sure to get underneath it and lift it over the glove of a then-seated Kinkaid, who got turned around when he though Roeszler was going to circle the goal.
The Big Red scored again on the power play and again late in the frame at 17:25 of the second to take a dangerous two-goal lead to the third. There was a four-man battle in front of the net for a loose puck between Colin Greening and Riley Nash of Cornell and Nolan Julseth-White and Brock Matheson of Union. The puck squirted out to the right a few feet, where Sean Whitney found it and lifted it again over the glove of Kinkaid.
The two power-play goals for Cornell, which went 2-for-8 to Union’s 0-for-5 with the man advantage, were the only special teams tallies of the entire championship weekend.
“Ultimately, I thought that we just took too many penalties tonight,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “Seemed like every time we got going a little bit, we took a penalty there, so I think that’s really the difference in the game. I think we got overemotional at times. Sometimes you want it too much and you go out and try a little too hard instead of taking a deep breath and keeping your composure.”
“We went into the game [knowing] that Union’s a very disciplined team,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer, who tied Joe Marsh of St. Lawrence for the record of five titles as a coach. “What we had to do to make them draw penalties was to lean on their down-low players and bring them to the net.”
Patrick Kennedy added an impressive empty-net goal with 17 seconds left from 175 feet away. He grabbed the loose puck in the right wing corner of the Cornell zone, turned, and fired a laser along the ice that found the middle of the net at the other end.
Union’s program-best season is over with the loss, while Cornell locks up a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.