Game Notes: No. 9 Cornell Faces No. 6 Union in ECAC Hockey Semifinals

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The quest for a league-leading 13th ECAC Hockey championship continues for the Cornell men's hockey team this weekend with a trip to the league's showcase weekend in Lake Placid. The #9/9 Big Red will take on #6/6 Union in Friday's second semifinal at historic 1980 Rink - Herb Brooks Arena. All games from the ECAC Hockey Championship weekend will be broadcast by American Sports Network, with games also carried across numerous outlets — including TSN2 nationwide in Canada and by SNY in the upstate and metro New York markets. Eric Cohen will have the play-by-play and Colby Cohen will provide commentary. For Cornell, Jason Weinstein will be on play-by-play with Tony Eisenhut providing color commentary on WHCU (870 AM, 95.9 FM) in the Ithaca area. Their call can also be accessed here.

Semifinals: #9/9 CORNELL vs. #6/6 UNION

PLACE: 1980 Rink - Herb Brooks Arena  •  Lake Placid, N.Y.
CORNELL: 20-7-5 overall, 13-4-5 ECAC Hockey
UNION: 25-8-3 overall, 16-4-2 ECAC Hockey
RADIO: WHCU (870 AM, 95.9 FM)

Cornell game notes (PDF)
Union game notes (PDF)

Big Red Rewind:
•  Third-seeded Cornell is coming off a grueling three-game quarterfinal series victory against sixth-seeded Clarkson. The Big Red's last trip to the league semifinals also came after a three-game series win over Clarkson (2013-14).
•  The Big Red rallied to advance after a 2-1 victory in Sunday's Game 3. Video review overturned an on-ice call and led to Jeff Malott's goal in the first period, then Anthony Angelloscored the winner in the second period.
•  It was Angello's second game-winner of the weekend, as his goal on a two-on-one with Jeff Kubiak led Cornell to a 2-1 victory in Game 2 to force Sunday's rubber game. Patrick McCarronscored the other Big Red goal.
•  The Golden Knights barnstormed the Big Red in the opener, 6-2, marking the lone loss for the Big Red since Feb. 1 (8-1-3).

Who's Who at CU:
•  Sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan (15-12–27) leads the team in goals and points. Over the weekend, he had a six-game goal-scoring streak — the Big Red's first since at least the 2001-02 season. Vanderlaan's plus-13 rating is also tied for second-best on the team.
•  Senior defenseman Patrick McCarron (6-18–24) continues to lead the team in assists. He averages the fifth-most points per game for ECAC Hockey blueliners (0.75) and had an eight-game points streak earlier this season — a first for a Cornellian since Greg Miller from Oct. 29 to Nov. 22, 2011, and a first for a Big Red defenseman since Mark McRae from Jan. 25 to Feb. 21, 2003.
•  Junior forward Trevor Yates (12-10–22) leads the team with eight power-play goals and 13 power-play points. He has nine points in his last 12 games and is the first Cornellian with at least eight power-play goals in a season since Blake Gallagher had 10 during the 2009-10 season.
•  Sophomore forward Anthony Angello (12-7–19) had both game-winning goals over the weekend against Clarkson to eclipse his goal total for last year.
•  Senior forward Matt Buckles (9-9–18) had two assists over the weekend and now has nine points over the last 11 games.
•  Senior forward Eric Freschi (1-12–13) leads the team with a plus-14 rating. He was on the ice for just six five-on-five goals against in 22 league games.
•  Senior Mitch Gillam (20-6-5, 2.15, .920, 3 SO) had the nation's longest active unbeaten streak for goaltenders snapped Jan. 27, having backstopped the Big Red to a 10-0-1 record over 11 starts. The Big Red's lone nominee for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award had a 1.63 goals against average and .931 save percentage over that span.

Road Warriors:
•  Cornell completed the road portion of its schedule with a sterling 9-2-2 record, with the .769 winning percentage ranking second-best in the country entering the weekend (Ohio State, .781). This marks the Big Red's best road winning percentage since the 2002-03 season (.821), when Cornell reached the Frozen Four.
•  This year marks the first time since 2004-05 that the Big Red has swept three ECAC Hockey road weekends in a single season.

Awards Season:
•  The All-Ivy League teams were announced earlier this month, with the Big Red placing four players on the two teams for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Freshman defenseman Yanni Kaldis was named to the first team, while senior goalie Mitch Gillam, senior defenseman Patrick McCarron and sophomore Mitch Vanderlaan were all placed on the second team.

The Sum of Intangibles Is Tangible:
•  A quick glance at Cornell's traditional statistics illustrates some of the team's storylines, though several others fly beneath the radar.
•  Through 32 games, the Big Red has accumulated 119 man-games lost to injury — which includes lengthy absences from the team's leading scorer last year (Jeff Kubiak, 10 games) and a top-four defenseman (Ryan Bliss, 32).
•  Senior Jake Weidner has the massive task of being the Big Red's leading faceoff man. He enters the weekend fourth in the nation in average faceoffs per game (25.2), and Weidner is also far and away the nation's top shot-blocker among forwards (2.12 per game). He is one of three finalists for the ECAC Hockey Best Defensive Forward award, which will be presented during this weekend's games in Lake Placid.

Turning The Trick:
•  Mitch Vanderlaan's hat trick Nov. 12 at Yale was Cornell's first since Jan. 22, 2011, when Tyler Roeszler scored three times against Colgate. Subsequently, Vanderlaan was named the ECAC Hockey Player of the Week on Nov. 15.
•  Vanderlaan potted a couple more goals Nov. 19 against Princeton to become the first player from Cornell with seven goals in the first seven games of the season since Blake Gallagher did so at the start of the 2009-10 campaign.
•  Freshman forward Jeff Malott (5-3–8) then scored his first three collegiate goals in a span of 8 minutes, 44 seconds during the first period to power the Big Red past Princeton on Jan. 13. He was subsequently named ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week after becoming the first Cornell freshman with a hat trick since current NHLer Matt Moulson on Feb. 7, 2003.

What, Me Worry?:
•  Eight of Cornell's 20 victories so far this season have come in games in which the Big Red has surrendered the first goal. Its winning percentage of .607 in that scenario ranks third in the country behind just Harvard (.667) and Minn.-Duluth (.656).
•  The Big Red's resilience from an early deficit has become somewhat of a trend, with the team sporting a very respectable 13-12-4 record when conceding the game's first strike since the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign. That's a stark turnaround from the team's 14-34-5 record when yielding the game's first goal from the previous three seasons (2012-15).

Gillam's Groove:
•  Senior goaltender Mitch Gillam moved up to fourth on the program's all-time list for career shutouts Feb. 24 vs. Rensselaer. By stopping all 31 shots from Rensselaer, Gillam earned his 11th career clean sheet.
•  Gillam posted the third-longest shutout streak in program history last season, spanning 213 minutes, 17 seconds over four games in November 2015 — including consecutive shutouts at Yale and Brown. That marked the Big Red's first back-to-back shutouts since Andy Iles did so Dec. 2-3, 2011 against St. Lawrence and Clarkson, and it was the Big Red's first consecutive road shutouts since Ben Scrivens blanked Princeton and Quinnipiac from Nov. 7-8, 2008.
•  An odd twist on Gillam's 11 career shutouts is that he's only won nine of them — Dec. 28, 2014 against Lake Superior State and Nov. 20, 2015 against Yale were both scoreless ties.

First Ivy League Coach To 400:
•  Already the winningest coach in program history and in Ivy League history, Mike Schafer has eclipsed another milestone in his career with his 400th victory in January. He ranks 10th in victories among active Division I coaches and is Cornell's fifth-winningest coach across all sports — second among current coaches, behind just Dave Eldredge (men's and women's polo).

Feel The Draft?:
•  Cornell has five players on the roster who have been selected in the NHL Entry Draft, including four from 2014. Sophomore forward Beau Starrett (Chicago Blackhawks) was selected earliest in the group, having been taken in the third round with the 88th overall pick. Classmate Anthony Angello, also a forward, was selected in the fifth round by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Junior forwards Jared Fiegl (Arizona Coyotes) and Dwyer Tschantz (St. Louis Blues) were then picked in the seventh round. Senior forward Matt Buckles was taken by the Florida Panthers in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.

Never Too Close For Comfort:
•  Cornell's 1-0 win Jan. 7 at Merrimack was hardly new territory for the team. The Big Red had four 1-0 victories last season for the first time in program history. Cornell also set a team record by going to overtime in 14 of its 34 games last year. The previous record was 12, set in 1985-86, then matched in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
•  Cornell went to overtime in seven of its final 15 games last year, with a 4-3-7 record in those games.

Apple Harvest:
•  Freshman Yanni Kaldis (1-13–14) ranks third on the team in assists. His passes set up the shots resulting in all three of the Big Red's power-play goals Nov. 5 at Harvard, making him the first Big Red player to record three power-play assists in a single game since Byron Bitz on Jan. 7, 2006.

Helping Out:
Members and friends of the Cornell men's hockey program embarked on another mission trip to the Dominican Republic through the Portal de Belén Foundation over the summer. It was the fourth time the program has participated, following trips in 2009, 2012 and 2014. Current members of the team Ryan BlissAlec McCreaAnthony AngelloDan WedmanAlex RauterHayden StewartTrent ShoreJared Fiegl and Dwyer Tschantz were on this year's trip, as well as Mike Schafer, the Jay R. Bloom '77 Head Coach of Men's Hockey.

About Union:
•  The Dutchmen are currently tabbed seventh in the Pairwise Rankings and sixth in both the and USA TODAY/USA Hockey Magazine polls.
•  Union shared the Cleary Cup with Harvard for most points in ECAC Hockey play through the regular season. The tournament's second seed then swept seventh-seeded Princeton with two quarterfinal series wins last weekend.
•  Senior center Mike Vecchione (29-33–62; 8 PPGs, 4 SHGs) leads the nation in points per game (1.72) and is one of the favorites to win the Hobey Baker Award. He scored the series-clinching goal against the Tigers on an overtime penalty shot on Saturday night.
•  Junior winger Spencer Foo (24-35–59; 10 PPGs) is third in the nation in points per game (1.64) and has a national-best plus-31 rating. He played much of the season on a line centered by Vecchione, but now typically flanks sophomore Cole Maier (14-9–23).
•  Senior Alex Sakellaropoulos (22-4-2, 2.37, .923) has backstopped the Dutchmen for much of the season.
•  Union's power play has converted at a 32.4% clip since Jan. 1.

The Series Against Union:
•  Cornell holds a 37-20-9 lead in the all-time series and is 3-0-1 in its last four games against the Dutchmen.
•  The Big Red's undefeated run through February started with a 5-3 victory Feb. 3 at Union. Cornell scored three goals in the first period, then Jake Weidner and Anthony Angello scored 39 seconds apart in the third period.
•  The teams then traded heavy blows in a 3-3 deadlock on Feb. 25 in Ithaca to wrap up the regular season. Five of the game's six goals came on the power play, including Mitch Vanderlaan's tying goal with 5:01 left in the third period. Mitch Gillam stopped all six shots on goal in overtime.

Postseason Series With Union:
•  The Big Red is 5-3 all-time against the Dutchmen in postseason play. Union was in its 17th season in ECAC Hockey before the teams crossed paths in the playoffs, with Cornell sweeping a quarterfinal series in 2008 at Messa Rink.
•  This will mark the fourth consecutive year the Big Red and the Dutchmen will tangle in the ECAC Hockey Championships, and the second time it will come in a one-game semifinal matchup.
•  Cornell's last trip to Lake Placid ended with a 5-2 defeat at the hands of Union during the 2013-14 season, which later led to the Dutchmen's national title. No current Big Red players were on the scoresheet in that game, though current seniors Jeff KubiakJake WeidnerMatt BucklesEric Freschi and Patrick McCarron were all in the lineup.
•  Union swept Cornell in a 2015 first-round series at Lynah Rink, 4-2 and 7-0, then the Big Red returned the favor in the same round in 2016, 1-0 and 2-1. Matt Buckles scored the overtime series-clincher in Game 2.
•  Cornell's most recent of a league-best 12 ECAC Hockey championships came in 2010 after a 3-0 victory over Union in the finals in Albany.

Anniversary Season:
•  The Jan. 27-28 weekend marked a reunion for the 50th anniversary of Cornell's first national championship team in 1967. There were festivities throughout, highlighted by a special ceremony to honor the returning
members of the team during the first intermission of the second game.
•  This is also the 60th year of hockey in Lynah Rink. The facility was dedicated April 6, 1957, a few weeks after it hosted an exhibition between the New York Rangers and the Rochester Americans (AHL).

The Offensive Defense:
•  Mitch Gillam leads the nation's goaltenders in career points. His quick outlet pass Jan. 21 against St. Lawrence set up the line rush leading to Patrick McCarron's goal, giving Gillam five career points on one goal and four assists.

An Empire State of Mind:
•  The Big Red's stars in the Nov. 26 win over New Hampshire at The Frozen Apple at Madison Square Garden all had ties to New York. Junior forward Alex Rauter, who scored on a penalty shot in the third period, is from nearby Chatham, N.J., participated in the New York Rangers prospect development camp in 2012 and once played youth hockey on MSG ice in between periods of a Rangers game. Freshman forward Noah Bauld, who scored the game-winner, was actually born in New York before moving to his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia when he was a toddler, and senior goaltender Mitch Gillam once attended the New York Islanders' prospect camp.

The Streak Is Over!
•  Junior forward Alex Rauter's penalty-shot goal in The Frozen Apple on Nov. 26 ended a remarkable string of futility on such plays for the Big Red. Rauter became the first Cornellian to score on a penalty shot since Feb. 27, 1987 — 949 games since Joe Nieuwendyk scored on a penalty shot against Rensselaer.

Binational Interests:
•  Cornell has the unique distinction of having exactly 14 players hailing from both the U.S. and Canada. The Big Red joins just two other teams — Robert Morris and Michigan Tech — with an even split on their respective rosters.

Up Next:
•  If Cornell wins tonight, it will face Harvard or Quinnipiac in the ECAC Hockey Championship at 7:35 p.m. Saturday. If Union wins, Cornell will hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The selection show for NCAAs is at noon Sunday.