Matt Buckles’ goal in Cornell’s 14th overtime of the season gave the No. 8 seed Cornell Big Red a 2-1 win and 2-0 series victory over the No. 9 Union Dutchmen, sending them to the next round. Mitch Gillam’s 32-save performance, fresh off of a game one shutout, gave him 59 saves for the series, while his counterpart Alex Sakellaropoulos totaled 27.
Tension started early Lynah Rink, as Union freshman Brett Supinski poked the puck into the net amidst a scrum. Immediately following the goal, Gillam, notorious for his composure, chased down the linesman and demanded a review, prompting the anxious Lynah Rink crowd to become uncharacteristically silent. Upon their return to the ice, the officials immediately declared the goal no good on account of interfering with the goaltender.
Five minutes later, a holding call on captain John Knisley handed Union the one-man advantage. The next 25 seconds featured a pair of missed Union shots and a Cornell attempt at a short-handed goal. As Patrick McCarron let one loose toward Sakellaropoulos, the whistle blew, this time against leading scorer Anthony Angello for being the fifth man on the ice. Now with a five-on-three, the Dutchmen poured on the pressure, but couldn’t score.
The lack of conversions on the power play proved costly to the Dutchmen, as the Big Red moved down the ice with Ryan Bliss in control. As Bliss fired a slap shot wide left, Jeff Kubiak was in an ideal position to rebound it off the boards and send it to freshman Mitch Vanderlaan. As Vanderlaan wove his stick around a Union defender, Bliss remained alone behind the right faceoff circle and fired a one-hop shot on the feed past Sakellaropoulos into the right hand corner of the net, giving Cornell the 1-0 lead.
After Mitch Vanderlaan’s attempt at extending the lead was waved off due to a quick whistle, the game once again became a battle of the goalies.
Despite the deficit, Sakellaropoulos continued to shine in the third period. Starting just three minutes in and ending with 12:00 to go in the period, Cornell kept the puck in its offensive zone, carving apart the Union defense but leaving the goaltender completely locked in. The first of a Sakellaropoulos’ saves came on an Alec McCrea attempt from the left-hand circle. As McCrea readied the slap shot, Sakellaropoulos began his diving motion and grabbed the puck with his chest.
“[Having Alex Sakellaropoulos] is going to be big,” said Union coach Rick Bennett. “I thought Alex took a major step the last month and a half of the season.”
Minutes later, Sakellaropoulos’ maintaining of the score came into play when a hooking call resulted in Union’s fourth power-play opportunity of the game. While the Big Red did clear the puck in the beginning, Brett Supinksi’s fake shot left Gillam lunging to his left while the puck was passed to Matt Wilkins. With the goalie down and a wide-open net, Wilkins shoved the puck in with ease, tying the game at one.
A hooking call on Jared Fiegel with 38 seconds to go in regulation gave Union a power play heading into overtime; however, the Cornell forecheck was strong once more and finished off the penalty with only one shot on goal allowed.
Two minutes passed before Cornell found captain Christian Hilbrich with the puck near Sakellaropoulos on the goal line. With strong defensive coverage near Hilbrich, the forward slid the puck up the line toward Buckles, who punched a backhand shot through, sending Cornell to the next round.
Pending tomorrow’s decisive game three between Colgate and Dartmouth, Cornell will face either Yale or Qunnipiac on the road, something coach Mike Schafer is not concerned over.
“They’re all good teams, they’ve all got good special teams and good goaltending,” said Schafer “We’ll get a chance to regroup tomorrow, get back to work on Monday, see who the opponent is and start to prepare for them.”