LAKE PLACID - Tonight's title game in the ECAC Men's Ice Hockey Championship will be an all Ivy League final, as Harvard and Cornell claimed victories Friday in semifinal action at the Olympic Center.
Both teams won by identical 4-1 scores, with Harvard knocking off Quinnipiac in the first matchup of the doubleheader, and Cornell dropping Union in the second game.
Sean Malone netted a hat trick and Harvard's defense, led by Merrick Madsen, limited Quinnipiac to a single goal as the the top-seeded Crimson ended Quinnipiac's season.
Malone, a senior, scored twice in the second period and added another in the third in a game that saw Harvard outshoot Quinnipiac 28-11 during the first 40 minutes.
The Bobcats were able to tie the contest at 1-1 on a power-play goal from Thomas Aldworth with 3:46 remaining in the second period, but the Crimson responded with three unanswered tallies to pull away. Malone netted what proved to be the game-winner shortly after Quinnipiac deadlocked the score when he rifled a rebound past Bobcats netminder Andre Shortridge with 1:10 left in the second.
Malone completed his hat trick 4:40 into the third to give the Crimson a commanding 3-1 edge, and linemate Luke Esposito sealed the victory on an empty-net goal with 2:05 left on the game clock.
The game was a rematch from last year's ECAC final in Lake Placid, which saw Quinnipiac defeat Harvard by the same 4-1 score.
"Holding that team to just 11 shots for two periods was great," Harvard head coach Ted Donato said. "And when they got that goal to tie it up 1-1, we came right back. We got half the job done tonight and we want to come back and finish it up tomorrow."
"It's exciting," Malone said. "Being a senior, this is my first hat trick, but more importantly, I'm just happy to get the win, and we're looking forward to tomorrow."
After a scoreless opening period, Malone, who hails from West Seneca put Harvard on the board nine minutes into the second with Mic Floodstrand. The Bobcats didn't take long to deadlock the game, with Aldworth burying a shot at the 16:16 mark off assists from Derek Smith and Luke Siplo.
Harvard quickly grabbed the momentum back, with Malone netting his second of the game at the 18:50 mark to put his team on top to stay. Nathan Krusko and John Marino picked up assists on the play.
The Crimson tacked on two more goals in the final period. Malone netted his third of the game early in the third and Esposito, a senior from Greenwich, Connecticut, ended Quinnipiac's hopes for a comeback when he buried an empty-netter from near center ice with just over two minutes left on the clock.
Madsen, a junior from California, only faced 11 shots during the first two periods, but stood tall in the third by stopping all 15 shots Quinnipiac put on net during as it turned up the heat.
"I thought Merrick was great in the end when we needed him," Donato said. "We've had some battles with them the last three or four years. A lot of the seniors on our team said if you're going to win the ECAC, you're going to have to go through Quinnipiac.
With the win, Harvard, which is ranked second nationally in the USCHO.com poll, improved to 25-5-2. Quinnipiac finished its run with a 23-15-2 mark.
Cornell 4, Union 1
Four different players found the back of the net for Cornell in a game that saw the Big Red jump out to a 2-0 lead and then bury two goals late in the contest after Union cut its deficit to a single goal.
Like Friday's opener, Cornell and Union battled through a scoreless first period, and the Big Red then scored twice in less than four minutes in the second stanza to take control. Noah Bauld got Cornell going with a goal at the 3:23 mark, and Jake Weidner upped the edge to 2-0 at the 7:23 mark when he fired home a rebound on a shot that caromed off a goal post.
After getting outshot 27-16 in the first two periods, the Dutchmen started to find some life in the third with their backs to the wall. They took advantage of a power-play to close the gap to 2-1 at the 7:23 mark when Cole Maier scored with assists from Spencer Foo and Jeff Taylor.
Eric Freschi, however, wound up netting a huge goal for Harvard when he tipped a shot from the point by Alex Rauter past Union netminder Alex Sakellaropoulos with 3:12 left in the third. Beau Starrett sent home Cornell's fourth goal, scoring 62 seconds later to make it a 4-1 final.
Union finished with a 34-33 edge in shots on goal. Mitch Gillam recorded 33 saves to earn the win in nets for Cornell, and Sakellaropoulos made 29 stops in goal for the Dutchmen.
Cornell improved to 21-7-5 with the win, while Union fell to 25-9-3.