Surrounded by rising expectations, the Cornell hockey team will open its season in rare form, hosting an opponent from south of the Mason-Dixon line.
The Alabama-Huntsvillle Chargers (5-1, 2-0 CHA) will invade East Hill for a weekend series with the Red. The visitors, defending College Hockey America champions, are coming off a 3-1 victory over Air Force in which netminder Mark Byrne stopped 35 shots en route to the win. Byrne’s start was a pleasant surprise for the Chargers who anticipated an injury would leave their standout goalie sidelined until the holidays.
The Red will look to continue upon its impressive outing from last weekend’s exhibition game when it upended Wilfrid Laurier by a dominating 8-1 score. Junior Mark McRae paced a balanced scoring attack, posting a pair of goals and two assists. This is the first time in the last three seasons that Cornell will begin its season injury-free. Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 has high hopes that several of the players who were hampered by injuries last season will enjoy breakout seasons this year, including McRae and seniors David Kozier and Denis Ladouceur.
Adding to the optimism is the impressive preseason that the Red’s highly acclaimed freshman class has enjoyed. Forward Mike Iggulden recorded three helpers in the Laurier affair, while defenseman Charlie Cook and Jeremy Downs showcased their potential to enhance the Red’s two-way defensive style.
“We have an outstanding freshman class,” sophomore forward Ryan Vesce praised. “Everyone has contributed to the game in different ways.”
The depth of the team has served to enhance its quality by increasing intra-team competition — a situation that the Schafer and company see as beneficial for all.
“Guys are fighting for spots. You have to go 100 percent everyday or some guy can take your spot. That makes practice a lot more competitive, and you get a lot more done,” junior captain Stephan B