Although some were concerned with the men’s hockey team’s play during the first few weeks of the season, the Red has allayed many of those fears over winter break, boasting a nine-game unbeaten run (7-0-2) which started all the way back in Nov. 19 with a 1-1 tie against Rensselaer that was halted just this past Saturday at Princeton.
After sweeping Niagara over Thanksgiving break in two high-scoring contests, No. 8 Cornell (11-4-2, 6-3-1 ECACHL) recorded a pair of impressive wins at Lynah Rink over conference foes Princeton and Quinnipiac by the scores of 4-1 and 2-1, respectively. Those wins paved the way for a six-game run in which the Red only conceded three total goals.
Cornell next took to the ice over three weeks later at the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla. Shaking off any rust, the Red produced a convincing 3-0 win over Northeastern using goals by seniors Matt Moulson and Daniel Pegoraro and sophomore Doug Krantz. A day later, the Red took the tournament on a shootout, defeating Minnesota-Duluth, after the two teams played to a 1-1 tie.
During winter break, junior netminder David McKee, a Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist last season, recovered from a relatively shaky start to his 2005-2006 campaign by earning Most Valuable Player honors at the Florida College Classic. McKee has recorded two shutouts over the break and his goals against average is now 2.06 – tops in the ECACHL. The goaltender has been aided by a resurgent Cornell penalty kill as well. Starting from the second period of the team’s game against Quinnipiac on Dec. 3, the Red had stopped 36 consecutive power plays – a streak which ended last Saturday against Princeton.
In addition, the Red has moved up to eighth in team defense nationally, allowing 2.12 goals per game this season.
For their individual efforts in Florida, Moulson, senior Cam Abbott, who scored the Red’s lone goal against Minnesota-Duluth, and junior defenseman Ryan O’Byrne were named to the all-tournament team.
The Red came back to Lynah Rink for the first time in 2006 on Jan. 7, and hosted non-conference foe RIT. Led by a two-goal, 17-shot performance by Moulson and three assists by junior Byron Bitz, Cornell extended its unbeaten streak to eight, coasting to a 3-1 win in which RIT goaltender Jocelyn Guimond was forced to make 53 saves on 87 total shot attempts.
Last Friday, the Red continued its impressive play on both ends of the ice by crushing Quinnipiac (10-13-0, 4-11-0), 6-0, in New Haven, Conn., behind a pair of goals by junior Mitch Carefoot and a three-point showing by Moulson. Meanwhile, Cornell’s penalty kill snuffed out each of the Bobcats’ six power-play opportunities.
However, the Red had a setback at Princeton’s Hobey Baker Rink this past Saturday, falling 3-0 to the Tigers (7-12-1, 4-9-1), who were led by the stellar play of goaltender Eric Leroux. Princeton took the lead on a first-period goal by Darroll Powe and with Cornell’s offense unable to find its way past Leroux, who made 35 saves, Grant Goekner-Zoeller scored the Tigers’ second with four minutes left in the encounter. Powe added an empty-netter to seal the deal with eight seconds left, snapping the Red’s national-best unbeaten streak.
Similar to its results up to this point, the Red’s success for the remainder of the season will continue to hinge on the play of its captain, Moulson, who is first on the team in goals (12) and points (23) and has recorded at least one point in 14 of the team’s 17 games. Sophomore Topher Scott leads the Red in assists with 12, while Bitz (3 goals, 9 assists) and O’Byrne (5 G, 4 A) have also made notable contributions on the offensive end.
However, the loss to a lowly Princeton team might be worrying for some, considering that the squad’s road to the ECACHL postseason in March is extremely difficult over the next month and a half. With first and eighth place in the ECACHL separated by six points, the Red, tied for fourth, still has to face No. 17 Colgate twice and No. 15 Harvard and Dartmouth once.
Nine of the Red’s remaining 12 games are against teams which are currently in the top half of the ECACHL standings and Cornell will start this tough stretch on Friday night when it hosts league frontrunners, No. 10 St. Lawrence, in the first of two meetings this season between the sides.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor