No. 16 Cornell men’s ice hockey (12-8-5, 7-7-4 ECAC) will look to bounce back after a disappointing one point weekend with road games coming up against Harvard (14-8-3, 10-5-3) and Dartmouth (13-11-1, 10-8-0).
The team uses relatively the same approach on the road as at home, but the away environment creates some changes during the game, according to junior forward Jeff Kubiak.
“You have to feed off your own energy because you do not have your home crowd,” Kubiak said. “Momentum on the ice, big hits and big shifts by certain lines gets the team going and the energy it creates is huge to road success.”
With NCAA tournament selection Sunday approaching, the Red is looking for two quality results to strengthen its resume.
Although polls do not impact the NCAA selection committee’s final decisions, they are a good gauge of what teams will be making the tournament. A total of 16 teams are selected, so right now Cornell is on the bubble. The Red started the season hot, winning seven of eight games before downing then-No. 1 Providence, 2-1, in overtime. Things have gone awry as of late, as the Red has just one win in its last ten contests.
A win on the road against a talented Harvard side would certainly go along way in securing a playoff berth. Nonetheless, Harvard presents numerous challenges, including a bevy of talented forwards led by senior Hobey Baker Award finalist Jimmy Vesey.
Associate head coach Ben Syer noted the importance of starting the game strong and not giving up an early lead, especially against a team like Harvard with offensive talent.
“We know they’re very skilled up front so we need to advance pucks and get into the offensive zone,” Syer said. “Certainly we need discipline and have to stay out of the penalty box because they have a great power play.”
In their first meeting of the year, Cornell gave up six goals to Harvard, three of which came on the power play.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time working on defending the power play,” Syer said. “What our guys need to understand is that there isn’t a lot between killing a penalty off and giving up a power play goal.”
A slight breakdown, such as a player not getting out to the puck in time or not putting a stick in the right lane, can be the difference between success and failure on the penalty kill.
“Every detail matters so that’s what we spend a lot of time on,” Syer said. “The last part of it is you have to clear the puck 200 feet.”
On the other side of the ice, Cornell has been creating more scoring chances after recent struggles, according to Syer.
“I thought we got pucks to the paint at different times over the past weekend,” Syer said.
Syer noted that Harvard and Dartmouth each have their own unique styles of play, but it ultimately comes down to consistent pressure and presence in the offensive zone.
“We have to make sure we are getting enough pucks down there so that we can go to work in the offensive zone,” Syer said.
If the Red can gather two wins this weekend, the team can punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament. Conversely, another sluggish couple of games could severely jeopardize the Red’s chances.
The Red has the talent to match up with both Harvard and Dartmouth. It will all come down to execution.