SCHENECTADY — Tyler Hynes got in the lineup for just the second time this season.
Ryan Scarfo and J.C.Brassard each scored a goal.
And Connor Light delivered a crushing hit to stop a rush with 20 seconds to play and Cornell desperately trying to tie the game with an extra skater.
The Union men's hockey team doesn't have many seniors, but they each contributed in their own way on Senior Night at Messa Rink on Saturday, as the Dutchmen closed the regular season with a 4-3 victory over No. 2-ranked Cornell in front of packed and loud crowd of 2,449, including a typically strong contingent from Ithaca.
With Cornell (17-3-2 ECACH, 23-4-2 overall) and Union (16-5-1, 21-13-2) having already clinched the No. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, for the ECAC Hockey tournament, there was no trophy or playoff positioning on the line.
It didn't seem like that was the case, though, as the Dutchmen and Big Red played what was easily the most entertaining and memorable game of the season at Messa Rink.
The game started with big hits throughout the first and second periods, and ended on Brett Supinski's feathery redirection goal from Anthony Rinaldi with 8:50 left in the third period for a 4-3 lead.
After a lackluster performance in a 1-1 tie with Colgate on Friday, head coach Rick Bennett showed his team the "All Heart!" YouTube video of former NHL player Wendel Clark, and his pugnacious, never-say-die style was on display on the Messa ice, as the Dutchmen threw everything they had at the Big Red.
"We used a superhero in the video about 92 times, and I'll leave it at that," Bennett said. "I think tonight was a little bit of Wendel Clark hockey. So we showed that video about all heart. That's what we're looking for here."
"Right from the get-go, the crowd was into it, and you could feel the energy in the rink," Scarfo said. "When Messa gets loud like that, it's always a blast, especially going into the last regular-season game for the seniors."
Neither team led by more than a goal, and although there were only five total penalties in the game, Union was 3-for-3 on the power play, making the Dutchmen 5-for-6 on the PP against Cornell in two games this season.
Cornell took a 2-1 lead during a rousing first period featuring a continuous succession of big hits.
The Big Red got on the scoreboard at 13:47 on an easy putback by Yanni Kaldis on the power play, after Union goalie Jake Kupsky had come from out of nowhere with a pad save to stop Alex Rauter with most of the net to shoot at.
It was the first power-play goal given up by the Dutchmen in 16 man-down situations.
Scarfo scored his team-leading 20th of the season three minutes later on a rebound of Brassard's point shot while the Dutchmen were on the power play.
The tie lasted just 1:17, as Edmonton Oilers third-round pick Matt Cairns scored his first collegiate goal on a one-timer slap shot from the left circle that ripped its way inside the far post.
At 9:49 of the second period, Cole Maier tied it 2-2 for Union with another power-play goal, finishing a deft feed from behind the net by Sebastian Vidmar for his 10th of the season.
The Dutchmen went up 3-2 at 3:03 of the third when Brassard's slap shot from the point went right up the gut and past goalie Hayden Stewart.
At that point, the Big Red had given up just seven power-play goals in 46 man-down situations, but the Dutchmen scored five of those, including two in a 4-3 loss on Feb. 2.
Cornell got one back just over a minute later for a 3-3 tie and plenty of time left.
Supinski scored his ninth with less than nine minutes left, and Union weathered the final push from the Big Red.
"When we finish our hits, it slows them down and makes our breakouts easier," Supinski said. Then you get rewarded offensively when you're bearing down, doing those little things."
"It was a ton of fun, closer to a playoff game than we've had in awhile," Maier said.
"Right off the opening faceoff, our guys were engaged, and you could tell it would be special," Bennett said. "And I can't thank the fan support tonight. This place was electric.
"They [seniors] all contributed, just like they did for the Mayor's Cup. These guys will remember that for the rest of their lives, just for the magnitude of the game."
The Dutchmen will be off next weekend while waiting for a home quarterfinal series. Cornell will draw the lowest surviving seed from the first round, and Union will play the next lowest.
Cornell 2 0 1 — 3
Union 1 1 2 — 4
First period — 1, Cornell, Kaldis 4 (Rauter, Yates), 13:47 (pp). 2, Scarfo 20 (Brassard, Morgan), 16:47. 3, Cornell, Cairns 1 (Angello, Locke), 18:04. Penalties — Campbell, Union (slashing), 12:47; Starrett, Cornell (holding), 15:11.
Second period — 4, Union, Maier 10 (Vidmar, Rinaldi), 9:49. Penalties — McCrea, Cornell (tripping), 7:52; Kolias, Union (holding), 19:01 .
Third period — 5, Union, Brassard2 (Morgan, Rinaldi), 3:03 (pp). 6, Cornell, Mullin 4 (ua), 4:07. 7, Union, Supinski 9 (Rinaldi), 11:10. Penalties — McCrea, Cornell (tripping), 1:26.
Shots on goal — Cornell 7-8-9 -- 24. Union 16-10-10 — 36.
Power-play opportunities — Cornell 1 of 2. Union 3 of 3.
Goaltenders — Cornell, Stewart 4-1-0 (36 shots-32 saves). Union, Kupsky 11-9-2 (24-21).
T — 2:09. A — 2,449. Referees — CJ Hanafin, Anthony Kenney. Linesmen — Matt Brady, Michael Emanatian.