Union-Cornell postgame report (with 3 videos)
There was a time when Union was invincible in the third period. If the Dutchmen had the lead after two periods, you knew that they were going to put the team away.
But that killer instinct has been missing for the Dutchmen this season.
They came into Friday’s game against Cornell with an 8-1-2 record when leading after two periods. And with a 2-1 lead against the Big Red after two periods, the Dutchmen had a chance to improve upon that record.
Instead, for the second straight game, and for the fourth ECAC Hockey game in their last five, the Dutchmen failed to protect a third-period lead. They suffered their second straight defeat when leading after two periods when Cornell rallied to win, 3-2.
Last Saturday, Union suffered the same fate. The Dutchmen took a 2-0 lead into the third against league-leading Quinnipiac, and had a major power play for nearly the first five minutes of the period. But the Dutchmen generated very few scoring chances, opening the door for the Bobcats to score three times and take a 3-2 victory in Hamden, Conn.
The other two ECACH games in which Union blew third-period leads were against Brown and Yale on the road Dec. 7-8. The Dutchmen managed to get ties out of those games.
“A big part is turnovers,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “Not being able to catch a pass in the neutral zone. We must practice passing in the neutral zone more than any other team in the whole country. I’m trying to figure [it] out because we show film, we practice it, and I don’t if it comes to game time, we have guys that are a little frightened to catch passes in the neutral zone. That’s a little disheartening for me at this time.”
Union defenseman Mat Bodie believes his team lacked the mental and physical toughness to put away Cornell.
“I thought they outworked us in the third,” said Bodie, the team captain. “They played smarter than us in the third. Both those things caught up to us in the end.”
Union goalie Troy Grosenick doesn’t believe his team is losing confidence.
“It’s something that we need to correct, and it’s something we should have corrected before,” said Grosenick, who made 33 saves. “We just need to get more mature as a team, and look ourselves in the mirror and ask what we can do better.”
The Big Red slowly started to take control in the second period. If it wasn’t for Grosenick and a couple of shots that hit the post, Cornell would have had the lead sooner.
And the Big Red’s power play made the Dutchmen work. Although Union shut down all four Cornell power plays, which came in the first two periods, it allowed 11 shots on those opportunities.
“Honestly, I thought we were playing the Russian Army from back in the ’70s there, and our PK has been good,” Bennett said. “But, good Lord, we needed to slow down that momentum.”
And that proved to tire out the Dutchmen.
“And it’s the same guys taking the same penalties,” Bennett said. “That is going to stop because guys are going to be sitting up in Section P with their sports coats on, and we don’t care who it is.”
Bennett didn’t single any player out, but for the second straight game, Dutchmen defenseman Shayne Gostisbehre took an embellishment penalty. He was hooked by John McCarron with 2:36 left in the third. McCarron was called for the hook, but Gostisbehere dove to draw the call. Instead of a power play, it was four-on-four.
Gostisbehere was called for a dive late in the second period of the Quinnipiac game, and he missed part of the Dutchmen’s major power play in the third.
The winning goal came as a result of a turnover. Kevin Sullivan had the puck along the right-wing boards in the Cornell zone. Instead of sending it to the corner, Sullivan sent it up to Charlie Vasaturo at the right point.
But Greg Miller got a piece of the puck, and it hopped past Vasaturo, leading to a two-on-one break. Joel Lowry led the rush, and he fed a nice pass over to Ferlin, who put it past a helpless Grosenick with 9:33 left.
“We really didn’t need to throw it up there,” Bennett said. “We should have cycled it back down low. I guess that’s the way it’s going right now.”
The Dutchmen can forget about a third straight Cleary Cup regular-season title. But if they don’t get their act in gear, they may find themselves playing the second weekend of March in the first round of the ECACH tournament, and, maybe, not even at home.
Team USA players honored
Gostisbehere and Bardreau, who were teammates on Team USA’s World Junior Championship gold-medal winning team, were honored after the pregame warmup. They each received a framed picture of from the tournament.
Gostisbehere and Bardreau sat next to each other in the Team USA locker room.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” Bardreau said. “I didn’t know [Shayne] very well before the tournament. But we got paired up with each other the locker room and got to know him pretty well. He’s a great kid.”
I have three postgame videos.
To see Union’s press conferences, click here.
To view Cornell’s press conferences, click here.
To watch the Gostisbehere and Bardreau picture presentation, click here.
My three stars of the game:
1) Cole Bardreau, Cornell forward — Had a goal and an assist.
2) Andy Iles, Cornell goalie — Stopped 32 shots.
3) Troy Grosenick, Union goalie — Made 33 saves. He was left out to dry on all three goals.
That’s all from Messa Rink. I’ll be back with you Saturday night when the Dutchmen host Colgate.
Good Night! Good Hockey!