SCHENECTADY — The storyline coming into Friday’s ECAC hockey men’s game between Union and Cornell was the meeting of twins Ben and Zach Tupker as opponents for the first time.
But a former Dutchmen forward stole the show.
Gabriel Seger returned to Messa Rink and haunted his former team. Seger had a goal and two assists to help the No. 17/18 Big Red to a 6-1 victory over the Dutchmen.
Seger, who leads Cornell (6-3-0 ECACH, 19 poits; 9-5-1 overall) in scoring with three goals and 10 assists, spent three years at Union. In two seasons (Union didn’t play in 2020-21 due to the coronavirus pandemic), Seger had 14 goals and 29 assists in 71 games. He entered the NCAA transfer portal at the end of last season and landed at Cornell.
“It’s a special place to come play at,” Seger said. “But I have to see this as another game. It’s a big game, so treat it as a normal game. But obviously I know a lot of guys at Union still. It’s a special feeling, but it’s good to come out of it with a ‘W.’”
Asked why he decided to leave Union after last season, Seger said, “It was not an easy decision at all. It was a lot of factors [that] played in. I don’t know what else [to say].”
Seger’s play against the Dutchmen (3-6-0, 9 points; 8-11-1) was impressive. He assisted on Cornell’s first goal of the game. He sent a pass to defenseman Sebastian Dirven at the top of the slot. He moved slightly to his left and fired a wrist shot past goalie Connor Murphy 1:32 into the game.
He picked up an assist later in the first on Ben Berard’s goal that made it 3-0.
Seger got his goal on the power play late in the second period, six seconds after John Prokop was called for tripping. Seger was in the slot when he tipped a Sam Malinski high-slot shot. The puck hit the post and rolled in the crease. Murphy tried to corral it with his stick. Instead, Murphy knocked into the net to give Cornell a 5-1 lead.
“It’s tough anytime we get scored on, whatever player it is,” Union head coach Josh Hauge said. “At the end of the day, I like the guys in our locker room. I wish him nothing but the best. We’ve got the group that we have, and I’ll go to battle with them any day.”
Seger, who was strong on faceoffs while at Union, showed that against the Dutchmen. He won 14 of 18 faceoffs.
“He’s one of the most humble kids that I’ve coached,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said. “He’s really appreciative of his time [at Union]. It was a difficult decision, obviously, as he answered, to leave Union. I know it had to be a little bit special coming back playing against his [former] teammates. But then once the game got going, it just kind of rolled from there.”
Seger was the last Cornell skater in the postgame handshake line, and he received hugs from several of his former teammates.
“I spent three years here, so I have a lot of good relationships,” Seger said. “Probably 12 or 15 of them played tonight. A lot of them were my classmates coming in, so we’ve been through a lot together. It’s just good to see them for a little bit.”
One of Seger’s former teammates is captain Owen Farris.
“He’s a guy that I’ve known for three years while I was here,” said Farris, who scored Union’s only goal, a second-period tally that pulled the Dutchmen within 3-1 with 6:58 left. “I just wished him all the best the rest of the season and tomorrow night [against RPI].”
Union’s effort against Cornell wasn’t good. It was 0 for 5 on the power play, which included a two-man advantage in the second period. The Big Red were 2 for 2 on the power play. For the third straight game, Union failed to reach 20 shots on goal.
Murphy was replaced at the start of the third period by freshman Kyle Chauvette, the fifth time that has happened this season (two were because of injury). But Hauge quickly snuffed out any goalie controversy heading into Saturday’s 4 p.m. game against Colgate by saying Murphy will be in goal.
“He’s 100% starting tomorrow,” Hauge said. “He’s our guy. He’s a stud. He’ll be lights out tomorrow.”
Cornell 3 3 0 — 6
Union 0 1 0 — 1
First Period — 1, Cornell, Dirven 1 (Seger, Berard), 1:32. 2, Cornell, Rego 2 (Penney), 14:35. 3, Cornell, Berard 2 (DeSantis, Seger), 18:57. Penalties — Kempf, Cor (interference), 6:43.
Second Period — 4, Union, Farris 4 (Ferguson, Petruolo), 13:02. 5, Cornell, Malone 2 (Andreev, Malinski), 16:01 (pp). 6, Cornell, Seger 3 (Malinski, Bancroft), 16:29 (pp). 7, Cornell, Malone 3, 18:41. Penalties — Malinski, Cor (tripping), 4:09; Suda, Cor (cross-checking), 9:43; Andreev, Cor (tripping), 10:26; Ferguson, Uni (tripping), 15:22; Prokop, Uni (tripping), 16:23.
Third Period — None. Penalties — Suda, Cor (interference), 13:46.
Shots on Goal — Cornell 12-14-5 — 31. Union 3-11-5 — 19.
Power-play opportunities — Cornell 2 of 2; Union 0 of 4.
Goalies — Cornell, Shane 8-4-1 (19 shots-18 saves). Union, Murphy 7-9-1 (26-20), Chauvette (0:00 third, 5-5).
A — 2,185. T — 2:20.
Referees — Matt Wyld, Mike Baker. Linesmen — Patrick Philbin, Michael St. Lawrence.
Contact Ken Schott by email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @slapschotts.
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