LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Get ready for a big show on the big sheet.
Freshman forward Noah Bauld and senior forward Jake Weidner scored goals in the second period, then the Cornell men’s hockey team added two more goals late in the third period to pull away for 4-1 victory over Union on Friday night in an ECAC Hockey Championship semifinal at 1980 Rink – Herb Brooks Arena.
With the win, third-seeded Cornell (21-7-5) will advance to the championship game against top-seeded Harvard at 7:35 p.m. Saturday. The Crimson defeated Quinnipiac, 4-1, in Friday’s first semifinal.
Throughout the season, the Big Red has continued to debunk the thinking that its size makes it too slow. But if other performances wouldn’t convince an on-looker, the first period of Friday’s game would certainly be enough to stand alone. Add to the equation that this weekend’s games are played on the international-sized ice sheet at 1980 Rink, which is 100 feet wide compared to the North American norm of 85 feet. Cornell didn’t only hold its own against a team that boasted two of the nation’s top three point-producers — it was the aggressor.
Senior goaltender Mitch Gillam made 33 saves for the victory. He made a blocker stp on Sebastian Vidmar’s shot from the slot in the game’s third minute, but the rest of the first period was all Big Red in one of its most impressive periods of the season. Cornell outshot second-seeded Union (25-9-3) in the first period by a gaudy margin of 21-7 — except it didn’t have any goals to show for it, thanks to steady play from Dutchmen goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos. Cornell produced a couple of quality chances on the game’s first power play, but Sakellaropoulos made a save with his right arm on Alex Rauter and a right pad save on Mitch Vanderlaan in the waning moments before the teams went back to five-on-five. The 21 shots were tied for the most in a single period for the Big Red all season (Dec. 28 vs. Northern Michigan).
But perhaps even more impressive than the Big Red’s first-period blitz was its ability to follow it up with another strong second period. Bauld got Cornell on the board at the 3:23 mark after a Union defender blew a tire on a breakout, giving the Big Red possession while the Dutchmen scrambled to recover. Bauld fed junior forward Dwyer Tschantz in the slot, and his quick turnaround shot clanked off the far post. But Bauld was waiting on the door step to convert for his third goal of the year. This weekend actually serves as a homecoming for Bauld, who attended Northwood School in Lake Placid for the 2012-13 season.
The Big Red then doubled the lead about four minutes later on the power play. Senior defenseman Patrick McCarron fed a long pass from the left point to Weidner toward the top of the right circle, and his blast tipped off the top of Sakellaropoulos’ glove before splashing the net to give Cornell a 2-0 lead.
Union started to find its footing later in the second, with Gillam called back into action to keep the lead at two. He stopped a redirection from Zachary Emelifeonwu by flashing the right pad, then he was quick to stop a one-timer by Brett Supinski in a four-on-four late in the frame. Matt Nuttle smart stick position then helped kill off a Union power play in the final minute before intermission, deflecting away a shot from Mike Vecchione.
The Dutchmen finally broke through on the power play in the third period, with Cole Maier swatting a bad-angle rebound into the net to cut the Big Red’s lead to 2-1 with 12:37 to play. Union had 18 of its 34 shots on goal in the third period, though that turned out to be the last to beat Gillam.
Senior forward Eric Freschi then gave Cornell some breathing room with 3:12 to play. Junior forward-turned-defenseman Alex Rauter alertly took a shot from the far reaches of the left point when he saw Freschi wide open in right of the net, and the senior redirected the shot between Sakellaropoulos’ legs for his second goal of the year.
Sophomore forward Beau Starrett then added another goal a minute later, converting his own rebound after sophomore forward Anthony Angello created a turnover at the Union blue line. It was Starrett’s fourth strike of the season.
Cornell will be returning to the ECAC Hockey Championship finals for the first time since 2010, when it defeated Union to capture its league-best 12th ECAC Hockey title.
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