Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of the Big Red Sports Network, which provides excellent Cornell sports coverage throughout the year for alumni, parents, students and fans everywhere.
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On a night to honor team’s six seniors, a trio of underclassmen led the way for Cornell.
Freshman Dwyer Tschantz and junior John Knisley each scored, while sophomore goaltender Mitch Gillam made 26 saves, as the Big Red (11-11-5, 9-8-3 ECAC) held off defending national champion Union (14-16-2, 6-13-1 ECAC) 2-1 Saturday night at Lynah Rink. The win clinched at least home ice in for the ECAC Championships, while leaving open the possibility for a top-four finish and a first round bye.
Similar to the previous night vs. RPI, the first few minutes were dominated by the Big Red, but had no goals to show for it. They outshot the Dutchmen 11-9 in the opening frame, the only period they held the shot advantage, but were continually thwarted by goalie Colin Stevens, who stopped 25 of 27 shots. However, unlike the previous night Cornell would not end the first period scoreless. With just under two minutes to go in the period, Matt Buckles fired a shot on goal at the very end of a Cornell power play. Stevens made the save, but Tschantz jammed home the rebound for a goal through a scrum of players, which was upheld after an official review.
Union, who all season has looked like a completely different team than the one that won it all last year, had the first few scoring chances of the second period, but came up empty thanks to some fantastic saves by Gillam. Their first chance came short-handed one minute into the period, when Daniel Ciampini, the nation’s leading scorer, had a one-on-one breakaway. However, Gillam played it beautifully, and stuck out his right pad to make the save after Ciampini’s attempted deke to preserve the 1-0 lead. This would not be the last time Ciampini was thwarted by the sophomore goaltender. After a Jacob MacDonald interference call midway through the second, Union had a golden opportunity to tie the game on the power play. Mike Vecchione slid a perfect pass to Ciampini in the slot, but Gillam slid to his right to kick it away in a highlight-reel save.
Just seconds after the spectacular save Cornell doubled their lead. Madison Dias brought the puck into the neutral zone and hit a streaking John Knisley in stride for a breakaway. The junior forward then flipped a backhand over Stevens’s blocker, sending the Lynah Faithful into a frenzy. It was the Big Red’s third shorthanded goal of the season, with Eric Freschi scoring the other two.
The rest of the game saw Cornell go into a defensive shell, allowing Union to get more scoring opportunities. After the Lynah crowd sang the six-verse alma mater during the second intermission, as per tradition for the last regular season home game, the Dutchmen went into attack mode. They outshot the Big Red 9-4 in the third period, and got their lone goal of the game as well. Ciampini finally solved Gillam when he knocked in a loose puck in front of the net on a 4-on-3 power play for his NCAA-leading 24th goal of the season.
But that would be all for Union. With Gillam not allowing any dangerous rebounds, and with superior forechecking, Cornell didn’t allow any quality scoring chances for the remainder of the game. Even after the Dutchmen pulled Stevens with a minute to go, the shot-blocking and defensive skills of the Big Red preserved the 2-1 victory.
After the victory, the team had its traditional postgame Senior Night ceremony, where they honored the careers of Cole Bardreau, Madison Dias, Joel Lowry, Jacob MacDonald, John McCarron and Joakim Ryan. Each player got a chance to skate around the rink to thank the Lynah Faithful for four years of support, before walking with their families to center ice.
Cornell finishes up the regular season next weekend, taking on Brown on Friday night, and then Yale on Saturday night.