by Ryan Fay
ITHACA -- Cornell didn't need a third period rally this time.
The Big Red, who rallied in the third period to beat Union at Messa Rink on Jan. 18, scored three first period goals en route to a 4-2 victory over #20 Union Saturday night at Lynah Rink.
The fast start began when defenseman Tim Boyle, seeing his first action since Jan. 26, turned the puck over to Cornell's John Knisley. The Big Red freshman proceeded to beat Troy Grosenick to start the scoring at 6:21.
Just over two minutes later, Joakim Ryan capitalized on a loose puck and got the better of Grosenick with a low wrister through traffic to make it a 2-0 cushion.
With Shayne Gostisbehere off for holding, Greg Miller fired over Grosenick's blocker to make it a 3-0 Big Red lead at 10:13. The goal was Miller's team-leading 14th of the year and Cornell's first power play tally since Feb. 2.
Union had a golden importunity to score in the waning seconds of the first, but David Roy missed a wide open net.
Instead, the game would remain 3-0 in favor of Cornell until Cole Ikkala put Union on the board at 5:40 of the third period. Aided by an off-the-wall pass from Roy, the junior let go of a wrister that went into the top corner of the net.
"Our line was trying to get pucks to the net all game and we got a good bounce," Ikkala said. "I planted my stick in the slot, got it off real quick, and it went upstairs."
Union injected a little late game drama when Daniel Carr's power play goal made it 3-2 with 5:46 left in regulation. Set up by Gostisbehere, Carr blasted a one-timer past Illes. But the Big Red cinched it with an empty net goal from Miller with 30 seconds left in the third period.
Getting a couple goals in the third was little consolation to head coach Rick Bennett.
"It was a little too late," Bennett said. "We can't hang our hats on that. There are no moral victories this time of year."
The loss at least temporarily drops Union out the top four in the ECAC standings. With wins by Yale and Dartmouth, Union is one point out of a first round bye.
When Union closes out the regular season next weekend at home against St. Lawrence and Clarkson, one thing has to change.
"We have to learn to play a full sixty minutes," Ikkala said. "That's been a problem for us the past few weekends and it's something we have to fix going into this last weekend and the playoffs. It's not going to win it with just 40 minutes."
What to expect moving forward is something of a question for Bennett. The team has struggled in its past two road weekends, but looked strong beating Yale and Brown at Messa Rink a week ago.
"From weekend to weekend, it's like a box of chocolates at times with this team," Bennett said. "You don't know what you're going to get."
Union outshot Cornell, 38-27, including a 32-16 edge over the final two frames. Illes recorded 36 saves for the Big Red while Grosenick stopped 23 for the Dutchmen.
Senior Wayne Simpson, who leads the team with 30 points, was a healthy scratch on Saturday. It was his first time out the lineup in his Union career.
When asked for a reason behind sitting Simpson, Bennett remarked that Simpson hasn't scored a five on five goal since the Penn State series Nov. 24-25.
Joining Simpson in the stands were a couple other regulars, forward Daniel Ciampini and defenseman Sebastian Gingras. Mark Bennett and Boyle took their spots in the lineup.
"Some of the guys put in the lineup... guys rallied around them and played as hard as they could," Bennett said. "I just hope the cast in the stands learn a lot from them."
Rick Bennett postgame:
As per tradition, the Lynah faithful let the opposing goaltender hear it at the start of the third period. Grosenick was the recipient of that serenade tonight.
ONTO THE ICE
Union comes onto the ice to start the second period: