Union could not solve Cornell goaltender Mitch Gillam. As a result, it’s riddle of a season is over.
Appropriately enough, the end came in a period the Dutchmen knew oh-so-well this year: overtime.
Gillam stopped 32 shots and Matt Buckles scored the winner early in overtime as Cornell completed the sweep of its best-of-three series against Union with a 2-1 victory in front of 3,888 fans at Lynah Rink.
Fans were chanting “Thank you Gillam” following the latest spectacular performance from the junior goaltender, who earned a shutout on Friday night against Union. There would be no chant if not for the winning goal by Buckles, who was not in the lineup on Friday.
“Coming in to tonight, I wanted to contribute any way possible and I ended up getting a goal, which was nice to help the team win,” Buckles said.
The Big Red (15-9-7) moves on to the second round; Union falls to 13-14-9. This marks the first losing season for Union since 2006-07, when it went 14-19-3. That was also the last season Union failed to make it to the second round of the ECAC Hockey tournament.
In addition to nine ties, Union was 2-3 in overtime this season including Saturday’s loss.
“I really thought we were starting to come on strong there and kind of feed off the momentum,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “We had two chances there at the end, but credit goes to them. They made the most of it. I thought we did a good job of weathering the storm tonight. I like how these guys battled. It was a much better effort tonight.”
Gillam earned the victory despite his team failing to score three goals for the 13th time in the past 16 games. The game was a hard-hitting affair with both teams earning quality chances only to be turned away by the respective goaltenders. Alex Sakellaropoulos made 26 saves for Union.
“[The defense] is making me do less work I feel like even though I’ve had 50 shots in two games; better than 60 or 70,” Gillam said. “They’re letting me see the puck, they’re taking away sticks in front of the net and just letting me focus on the shot at hand so I think we’re doing a tremendous job.”
Gillam’s shutout streak of 111 minutes, 20 seconds came to an end midway through the third period as Union tied the score at 1-1 with a power-play goal. Gillam made the initial save on a slap shot by Brett Supinski, but the rebound landed in the slot and Matt Wilkins swatted it into the half-open net with 9:04 remaining in regulation.
But the Dutchmen could not capitalize on that swing.
“Obviously it’s disappointing,” said Wilkins, the senior co-captain. “It really felt like we had the momentum going our way at the end of the third. The guys really battled tonight, but the bounces just didn’t go our way. It’s definitely a tough loss to take.”
Cornell’s penalty killers then went to work at the end of the third period and the beginning of overtime to keep the game scoreless with Jared Fiegl in the penalty box for hooking.
Buckles then ended the game 3:18 into overtime. Christ Hilbrich battled for the puck in the corner and then sent a pass to the slot for Buckles, who pushed it into the net for the winner.
The Big Red fed off the energy of the fans in the opening minute of the game as they peppered Sakellaropoulos with four shots but the junior turned away all of them, including three nice kick saves in a 20-second span. The first time Union was deep into their offensive zone was for a faceoff after an icing call with 2:57 into the game.
Despite Big Red dominating the opening part of the first period, the Dutchmen appeared to score first with 13:16 left as Ryan Scarfo poked in a loose puck after Cole Maier skated the puck to the crease. The referees waved the goal off after a lengthy review, determining a Union player hit Gillam to knock the puck loose.
“Our guys throughout the course of the game fought through a lot of adversity, kept plugging away,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. “It was great to see Matt Buckles get the game winner. Great attitude.”
Union 0 0 1 0 — 1
Cornell 0 1 0 1 — 2
First Period — None. Penalties — Knisley, Cor (holding), 11:54; Cornell bench, served by Angello (too many men), 12:42; Rauter, Cor (interference), 19:36.
Second Period — 1, Cornell, Bliss 2 (Vanderlaan, Angello), 10:25. Penalties — J. Taylor, Uni (holding), 14:00.
Third Period — 2, Union, Wilkins 7 (Supinksi, Vecchione), 10:56 (pp). Penalties — Rauter, Cor (hooking), 10:20; Fiegl, Cor (hooking), 19:21.
Overtime — 3, Cornell, Buckles 6 (Hilbrich, Yates), 3:18. Penalties — None.
Shots on Goal — Union 13-7-11-2 — 33. Cornell 8-10-9-1 — 28.
Power-play opportunities — Union 1 of 5; Cornell 0 of 1.
Goalies — Union, Sakellaropoulos 11-11-7 (28 shots-26 saves). Cornell, Gillam 15-9-7 (33-32).
A — 3,888. T — 2:35.
Referees — Kevin Curtis, Tom Steinel. Linesmen — Glen Cooke, Stephen Drain.
Categories: College Sports