Ithaca, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Rodger Craig picked a pretty opportune time to score his first goal of the season.
The sophomore forward sniped a perfect shot over the glove of Union goalie Troy Grosenick, glancing off the post before splashing the net with 9:16 left in the third period to cap the Cornell's men hockey team's emotional 3-2 victory over Union on Friday night.
With the victory, the 11th-ranked Big Red moves into a tie with eighth-ranked Union atop the league standings with one game remaining in the regular season for both teams.
Cornell hosts Rensselaer at 7 p.m. Saturday night, while the Dutchmen travel up the road to take on Colgate simultaneously.
Sophomore goalie Andy Iles made 28 save in the victory and senior defenseman Sean Whitney had a pair of assists.
Cornell shook off two one-goal deficits, including a deflating one just 1 minutes, 12 seconds into the game.
A defensive breakdown left Union's Jeremy Welsh untouched on the doorstep, where he was free to bang home a rebound of his own shot.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere pinched along the left wing to create the defensive confusion.
The Big Red tried to claw back into the game, but was hindered by three penalties in the offensive zone.
But the Cornell stood tall against Union's elite power play – which converted twice in just three chances in the teams' meeting three weeks ago – going 6-for-6 on the kill Friday.
Cornell's best chance in the opening stanza was initiated by an alert pass up the middle through the neutral zone by freshman defenseman Jacob MacDonald.
Senior forward Locke Jillson deflected the puck into the path of classmate Sean Collins who had a semi-breakaway up the right side, but he lost the handle on the puck cutting to the middle.
The Big Red then got a couple of chances on the power play in the second period, taking advantage of the second opportunity to create the tying strike. Freshman forward Joel Lowry teed up a shot on the left point from Whitney, which was deftly redirected by freshman forward John McCarron past the glove of Union goalie Troy Grosenick at the 8:32 mark. The goal broke a stretch of 17 scoreless power-play chances dating back to the second period of a 2-2 tie with Rensselaer on Feb. 3.
Union made a couple of bids to regain the lead, but ran into extraordinary goaltending by Iles. Less than a minute after McCarron's goal, Union's Wayne Simpson found himself alone in the slot with a mostly open net that was quickly closed off by Iles. Then, with 33.1 seconds left in the frame, a poor Big Red line change led to an odd-man rush the other way. The Dutchmen picked out trailer Shawn Stuart breaking alone down the slot, by Iles moved well laterally and cut down the shot labeled for the upper corner on the far side.
The Dutchmen finally took the lead again on an odd sequence early in the third period. A Cornell break ended with McCarron clanking a shot off the crossbar and Union quickly transitioning the other way with numbers. Welsh converted his second goal of the game, and 22nd on the season, to put the Dutchmen ahead 2-1 with 15:33 to play.
The Big Red stormed back almost immediately on a similarly strange goal just 11 seconds later. Junior forward Greg Miller took a shot that was saved by Grosenick, but the puck caromed high off the glass behind the net and shot back out to the slot. Miller tapped it in for his team-leading 14th goal of the season. He now has eight goals in his last eight games.
Craig provided the winner a little more than six minutes later. Whitney started the play with a pass up the left wing in the neutral zone that Craig deflected past a defender. Gaining the zone, he went wide before unleashing a perfectly placed shot past Grosenick, who entered the day leading the country in goals-against average.
The win pushed Cornell's unbeaten streak to seven games, while ending Union's seven-game unbeaten streak.