Wake-up Call For Union, Bennett Hopes
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. Union has built itself on its offense this year on the way to the top of the ECAC. But that is the one thing that let them down the most on Friday night in its ECAC semifinal loss to Cornell, 4-1.
For two periods, the Big Red shut the Dutchmen down and dominated play. After a period, the shots on goal were 21-7 and the attempts were 32-15. Union got going late in the second, but at that point Cornell had built a 2-goal lead.
"I think it was a little bit of both — what they were doing and what we were not doing," Union coach Rick Bennett said. "It isn't a great combination. We addressed it between periods, it picked up a bit, but for the most part it just really wasn't there tonight."
Could Union have possibly have overlooked a strong Cornell team that was the only ECAC team that it did not defeat?
"I think our goaltender (Alex Sakellaropolous) played great and gave us a chance to win tonight," Bennett said. "Tonight we were just never able to rebound. For whatever reason, I think a word was thrown around that 'we underestimated this team.' I have no idea whoever would think that, going into this. That is something we have to fix this week."
Even though, at that point, the lead seemed insurmountable, it was inevitable the Dutchmen were going to make a run.
Cole Maier gave Union hope with a power-play goal at seven minutes, 23 seconds of the third period. It brought the Dutchmen within a goal. They pushed for an equalizer and dominated play for a while but it was Cornell that pulled away late to close out the win.
"You would hope that goal would have started something," said Maier. "That gave us momentum, we were firing pucks to the net and hoping for the best at the end. Unfortunately, we weren't quite able to put them by them."
Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo were relatively quiet on the night. Those two, both Hobey Baker Award finalists, were shutdown by the Big Red and neither got going. Foo registered a primary assist on the Maier goal, but for a pair that entered the night with 122 points and 43 goals, they were silent.
"They are a good team that is physical as well," Vecchione said of Cornell. "We just had to play through it. I just don't think we battled hard enough."
Although the Dutchmen's run in the ECAC ended in the loss to Cornell, Union will continue on and have another chance at success. To them, the chance is there and they will reflect on it. The faces on the players and the mood of the coach showed something else.
"I dont think there is much to take out of this game," Vecchione said. "The only positive for us was sitting in that stall, realizing we had lost and hoping it is a wake-up call for us."
If the NCAA tournament began today, the Dutchmen would still be a 2 seed. But the kinks will need to be worked out to take advantage, and Bennett doesn't want to hear any excuses if they're not.
"Whoever we get next week, our biggest hope as a coaching staff is that we get their attention," Bennett said. "I am not going to use 'it was finals week' and all that jazz (as an excuse). You know what? You're a student-athlete and I get you want to be a student first at Union College. That is what we promote as a coaching staff. But when it comes time to be an athlete you be an athlete. Tonight we were not athletes and that is disheartening.
"It is tough to get mad, when we totally got outplayed by that team. It really is. ... Looking at those faces in the locker-room... we have to separate that. We won't have that excuse, we're off (from school) next week. So hopefully we get those guys' attention. I believe we will, and we rebound and move forward."