Touted as one of the top teams in the country, the men’s hockey team will open its 2002-2003 season with a preseason meeting on Sunday night against York University. While York (2-5) has already played in seven games, the Red, due to Ivy League regulations, is just kick-starting its campaign.
Cornell’s only game-action thus far consisted of last Friday’s annual Red-White scrimmage at Lynah Rink. The eighth-ranked Red has practiced just two weeks as a complete squad. Yet, the players and coaching staff are eager to begin the season.
“We’re really anxious to play,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. “We just need to really get after another team and get some playing time going.
“I wouldn’t say our guys are overly cautious in practice, but they’re just getting tired of each other, and they’ve been going very very hard, and it’s like a reward. It’ll be a reward for them to get some game action and get that excitement back in their blood,” he continued.
With just one exhibition game this season, the Red will need to get used to game-speed relatively quickly.
“Everybody needs to get back in sync and in rhythm, and we don’t have a lot of time to do it. It’s not like we have an NHL preseason where we can play five, six, seven games to get back in sync,” Schafer said. “It’s one exhibition game, and you’re right back into the thick of things.”
Considering that Sunday will be Cornell’s first competition since last March, the Red cannot be expected to perform in top form. Schafer, however, is looking for his troops to play gritty, defensive hockey — things that may not appear in the boxscore but will ultimately help the team achieve success.
“I think the biggest thing we’re looking for is to keep things relatively simple. There’s an old saying of ‘summer hockey’ where guys try to do a little too much coming out of their own zone, a little too much coming through the neutral zone, and that’s where transition offensive chances usually come from early in the season,” Schafer said. “The other thing is to be strong on your stick. The competitiveness over top of the puck is another early season habit that guys have to be very aware of.”
Cornell’s opponent, York, has not achieved much success this season in the midwest division of the OUA-SUO conference in Canada. York has won just two of its seven games this season, but is coming off of an 8-2 pounding of Ryerson. Schafer, though, is more concerned with his own club.
“We know very little about York. We have enough to worry about on our side of the ice surface let alone to worry about what they’re doing,” Schafer said. “Going into the game, we want to execute the systems that we’ve implemented from day one. We want to concentrate and focus on ourselves and take that same philosophy throughout the year.”
Sunday’s game will also mark the first time the freshmen will play in front of the rowdy Lynah Faithful.
“I’m sure they’ll be excited and probably a little nervous — probably like everybody else. Our guys are anxious and excited to get back in front of a full crowd here on Sunday night, but excited also to show what they can do,” Schafer noted. “I always believe that the freshman that comes out and handles that adjustment very well is a guy that’s going to be pretty confident in his abilities.”
After the game with York, Cornell will play its first regular season game on the road against a tough Ohio St. squad.
“We need to use this as a tune-up for Ohio St. the following weekend,” Schafer said.
Face-off is scheduled for Sunday 7:00 p.m. at Lynah Rink.
Archived article by Alex Ip