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Two late goals from Eric Freschi and Beau Starrett, and a crucial late penalty kill helped Cornell defeat Union and set a date with Harvard in the ECAC championship game for the seventh time.
Leading 2-1 with less than four minutes to go in the game, Cornell was on its heels in the latter stages of a period in which they were outshot 18-6. A quick offensive zone possession turned into a goal, as Freschi tipped a shot from Alex Rauter in the low slot, beating Alex Sakellaropolous to hand Cornell a two-goal lead.
“That was a big goal. It was a great play by Alex Rauter to get it to the net front, and I just had to tip it five-hole, and it went in,” said Freschi.
It took just 62 seconds for the Big Red to score again. This time it was Starrett, who picked up his fourth goal of the season off his own rebound, crashing the net and firing the puck five-hole to give Cornell an insurance goal.
Although the Big Red had a comfortable three-goal lead, the game wasn’t over until the final buzzer, thanks to a late Union power play. With Freschi in the box for the final 1:37 of the game, the Dutchmen had a chance to come back, but crucial shot blocks and strong goaltending from Mitch Gillam kept Union off the board.
“(Jake Weidner) had a big block on the power play,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer, who lauded Weidner, who won ECAC defensive forward of the year, on his impact on the game defensively. “He leads our charge on the blocked shots.”
Cornell blocked 18 shots, but Union still got 34 pucks in on Gillam. Through 20 minutes however, the Big Red had outshot Union 21-7 and appeared to be well in control of the game after two periods, leading 2-0.
In the second period, Cornell lit the lamp twice, despite being outshot 9-6. Noah Bauld broke the scoreless tie 3:23 into the second, picking up a rebound in the low slot off a shot from Dwyer Tschantz that hit the post.
Weidner stretched the lead to two with a power play goal, taking a feed from Patrick McCarron and one-timing a shot past Sakellaropolous with 7:05 gone in the middle period.
Union mounted a strong push in the third period to take the lead in shots, and did manage to beat Gillam, capitalizing on a power-play opportunity. Cole Maier picked up his 15th goal of the season on the power play 7:23 into the third, but the late goals from Cornell put the game out of reach.
After the loss, Union coach Rick Bennett said his team may have underestimated the Big Red, a mistake he’s sure they won’t make again, as they head to the NCAA Tournament next week.
“We total got outplayed by that team,” said Bennett. “We’re off next week, so hopefully we can get the guys attention, and I believe we will, rebound and move forward.”