It was men among boys Friday at Achilles Rink. Union never stood a chance against fourth-ranked Cornell.
Ryan Vesce had two goals and an assist, and goalie David LeNeveu recorded his fourth shutout of the season as the dominating Big Red thoroughly outclassed the Dutchmen in a 6-0 ECAC victory.
Cornell (8-1 ECAC, 13-3 overall) outshot Union (3-5-2, 7-11-4), 35-17. The Big Red simply outmuscled and outhustled the Dutchmen in every phase of the game.
LeNeveu stopped 17 shots and was rarely tested. He lowered his nation-leading goals against average to 1.08.
“If there are any of our guys in the dressing room wondering why we keep pushing them to work out and hit the weights as hard as we do, that was proof tonight,” said coach Kevin Sneddon, whose Dutchmen are 0-5-1 in their last six games. “They physically dominated every facet of the game. We were outclassed in pretty much every category.
“I certainly don’t think we played nearly as well as we’re capable of, but that was [due], in part, to Cornell being the best team in our league and one of the best teams in the country.”
Two goals in a 2:27 span early in the first period helped the Big Red put the game away. On both goals, the Dutchmen defense was slow to clear Big Red players from the front of the net. Jeremy Downs had an open right-point shot that Union goalie Tim Roth stopped. Cam Abbott, who was stationed to Roth’s right, put in the rebound at 1:59.
Then at 3:36, Vesce made a nice pass in front to Matt Moulson, who backhanded past Roth.
“They were on every puck before us,” Union defenseman Randy Dagenais said. “They outworked us, and they outskated us. You can say that Cornell was the better team. But the bottom line is they out-executed us.”
Shane Palahicky made it 3-0 with 8:26 left in the first, scoring on a wraparound that just trickled over the goal line.
Not a bad start for a team that hadn’t played in two weeks.
“We used this last week as a test run to get ready for the playoffs,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. “We tried to build towards tonight and use it. We were just ready to play. Our guys had a lot of jump in their legs all night long. We just played very, very solid.”
Vesce made it 4-0 1:06 into the second period, even though he never shot the puck. After taking a pass off the Union left-wing boards from Stephen Baby, Vesce skated in on Roth. As he tried to deke Roth, Vesce fell down and lost control of the puck. As Roth stayed with Vesce, the puck rolled past his right pad.
Vesce scored his second goal of the game, a power-play tally at 12:29 of the second. Sam Paolini got Cornell’s sixth goal on a wrist shot from the left wing with 1:09 left in the second.
“We allowed them to beat us to the net, and that was something we focused on all week,” Sneddon said. “They’re big and strong, and they won almost every one-on-one battle with us. That’s the part that was a little bit frustrating.”
On Saturday, Cornell visits Rensselaer, while Union hosts Colgate.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.