It’s never too early to get excited for the men’s hockey season, even if the puck does not drop for another three months.
The Red’s past season ended at the hands of No. 1 Quinnipiac in a 6-3 loss in game three of the ECAC Quarterfinals. This loss left the team with a slim shot at admittance into the NCAA tournament. Ultimately the luck did not fall the Red’s way and Cornell was not offered a berth to the tournament.
Four seniors have departed from the organization — two of whom have joined professional teams. With the formal announcement of the incoming freshman class, the program will look to add to its young core, which includes rising sophomores Mitch Vanderlaan, Anthony Angello and Alec McCrea.
The men will obviously be hoping for a better finish to the season than what they just experienced. In honor of the schedule being recently released, here are some important games to look out for in the upcoming season.
October 21 and 22: home exhibition games against Canadian foes
As per usual, the men will get their first test with two exhibition games against schools from north of the border. Last year, Cornell easily handled Ryerson and Laurentian, pumping in 11 goals in the two games and allowing only three. While these games will not count in the team’s standings, the matchups will give coaches and fans a first look at how the freshman class will look against opponents and will allow the team to get mentally in sync for what will be a long and grueling season.
October 29: away season opener against Merrimack to begin five-game road trip
This upcoming season, unlike the last, the squad begins its season on a five-game road trip. The Red will officially open its 2016-17 regular season campaign in North Andover, Mass., against the Warriors. After Merrimack, the team will take on Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown and Yale. Last year, the Red went 2-3-3 against these squads. While some of these teams will be without major contributors from last season — both Jimmy Vesey of Harvard and Alex Lyon of Yale have decided to take a stab in the pros — it will be interesting to see how the team is able to handle an early flurry of familiar rivals, especially on the road for every game.
November 11: home opener against Quinnipiac
The Red will begin its home stand for the ’16-’17 season on November 11, and it could not come against a more suitable opponent. Quinnipiac, a team that was ranked first in the nation for much of last season, gave Cornell an exciting ECAC quarterfinals, but the Bobcats eventually sunk the Red in game three. Even before the fireworks of the postseason, Cornell and Quinnipiac squared off twice and provided two of the most exciting games of the 2015-16 season. In the first game, the Red opened up a quick lead thanks to a major penalty, but was ultimately beaten in overtime. Then in February, the two finished in a 2-2 tie thanks to a last minute goal off the stick of Mitch Vanderlaan. The Red played some of its best and most exciting hockey against the Bobcats. It seems that sparks begin to fly anytime the two teams hit the ice.
November 26: The Frozen Apple against New Hampshire at Madison Square Garden
The Knicks and the Rangers let someone else take the stage in the latest installment of the Frozen Apple, held in Madison Square Garden. The past two times the Red participated in this game, they beat Michigan and Penn State. This year’s matchup, UNH, rivals Cornell in its decorated and storied program. This game is a great way for alumni and students to catch a game over Thanksgiving break in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
December 2 and 3: two-game homestand against Miami University (OH)
What separates this season from last is this intriguing series against a team that is almost always atop the national rankings. A Redhawks team that has qualified for the NCAA tournament nine out of the last 11 years will give Cornell a taste of the talent outside the ECAC. The Red has posted a winning record against teams hailing from the National Collegiate Hockey Conference — where the Redhawks belong — over the past eight years.
December 28 and 29: Florida College Classic
While many Cornell students will return home to their families in late December, recovering from finals and research projects, the men of the hockey team will make their annual trip to Estero, FL for another shot at the Florida College Classic crown. This year, Merrimack, Northern Michigan and Colorado College will be those standing between the Red and gold, though specific matchups have not been determined at this time.
Last year, the Red handed then No. 1 Providence its first loss of their season in an overtime thriller where rising senior Jeff Kubiak netted the game winner. The very next day, the team lost to an unranked Ohio State team in a shocking 8-0 upset in the Red’s worst loss of the year.
January 20: home game against Clarkson
Beginning on January 13 against Princeton, the Red will begin its final stretch of 15 games against ECAC opponents. Nine of those 15 will take place at Lynah Rink, and that begins with Clarkson. Regardless of what the first half of the season has in store for the Red, it is a welcome sight for the team to see a large number of home games on the docket when things begin to really get underway. Several players have noted their preference to play in front of the home crowd, feeding off the energy the Lynah Faithful produces.
January 27: home game versus Harvard
The game everyone will be waiting for comes in the midst of a slew of games against ECAC foes. There’s not much more to say about this game that has not been said thousands of times before. It is a game not to be missed, and, with Dartmouth visiting the very next night, it should shape out to be a very exciting weekend. Don’t forget to bring your fish.
February 24 and 25: season finales against RPI and Union
For the third straight year the Red will finish its regular season home games against the Engineers and Dutchmen, and it is the second straight year these teams are the Red’s last regular season opponents as a whole. This will also allow the club to honors its eight member senior class in the final game of the season.
What lays in store for the men is yet to be determined, but a couple of things are certain. The club will retain eight of the nine defensemen from last year. All of the top five scorers are returning. All members of the goaltending trio, including rising senior Mitch Gillam, will be back in the Cornell uniform.
Vanderlaan, Angello and McCrea all have a year of collegiate experience under their belts to put to use this next season. A rising junior class that has had a tough time leading on the scoreboard may be one of the missing pieces between the Red and glory.
This is a year that could be make-it-or-break-it for the team. Kubiak is a senior. Gillam is a senior. Weidner is a senior. None of them have been able to make it past the ECAC semifinals. These guys, along with several other classmates, would love to bring home some hardware to the hallowed halls of Lynah.
With time running short, only one question remains: will they be up to the task?