The Cornell men’s ice hockey team is welcoming back its top three point leaders from last season — senior center Jeff Kubiak and sophomore wingers Anthony Angello and Mitch Vanderlaan — and the trio is expected to take center stage yet again this season.
If any one of the three players steps onto the ice, opposing defenses take notice. Unfortunately for opponents, they typically have to defend against all three skaters at once. One is enough, and all three are just too much to handle, thus giving them the “JAM” nickname.
Last year, the JAM line burst onto the scene early on for the Red and quickly became one of the most feared lines in the ECAC.
Its centerpiece, Kubiak, is a gritty two-way player who can seemingly do anything on the ice. Last year, Kubiak led Cornell in points with 10 goals and 17 assists. The senior alternate captain was also a force defensively, leading Cornell with a plus 15 goal differential and developing into a talented face off winner.
However, Kubiak attributes more of his improvements to a combination of predominately mental fixes, along with physical adjustments as well.
“I took a step back and really looked at what makes me successful as a player,” he said. “It was hitting the reset button and keeping in mind the little things to make sure to be ready to go for the upcoming season and to play with confidence.”
Nonetheless, the Red will have to wait some time before Kubiak takes the ice, as he is currently sidelined with an injury.
“It’s frustrating right now because we’ll be missing Jeff [for] probably two to four weeks,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
When Kubiak returns, he will join up with Angello, who led Cornell in scoring last year with 11 goals. Being selected in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Angello is perhaps Cornell’s top prospect in terms of a professional future, as he is poised to carry the load offensively for the Red this season.
One of the more underrated players for Cornell, and the last member of the JAM trio, is Vanderlaan — a scrappy goal scorer who, like Kubiak and Angello, finds numerous ways to contribute on the ice. Vanderlaan has a knack for the game, and always seems to be in the right position at the right time. He will make the extra pass, fight for the extra puck and use his body position to wear down and outwork opponents.
One of the reasons why the JAM line was able to have so much success last season is the chemistry that the players have both on and off the ice, and Kubiak is happy with its continuation through the offseason.
“The chemistry is still there,” Kubiak said. “We’ve had a fun time so far playing with each other throughout the preseason.”
When asked about offseason improvements, Kubiak stressed the importance of finding new ways of getting better.
“It’s the little things as a personal player,” Kubiak said. “We each have our own tendencies and things that we like to work on everyday after practice and throughout the summer.”
With expectations running high for not just the JAM line, but the entire team as a whole, it is important that the players stick to their games and not let outside pressure affect their play.
“A big thing is just staying true to yourself and who you are as a person,” Kubiak added.
With Kubiak being sidelined for the first several weeks of the season, it could take some time before the JAM line gets going again. In spite of this, Schafer’s club has been mixing up the lines to prepare for the worst.
“We’ve had the chance to mix up with a lot of guys through the captain skates here,” Kubiak said.
Still, with the success the trio had from a year ago, the unit is hoping to get a chance to sustain another long run of success.
“We hope we get to play together some more and hopefully the chemistry is there to start off [the season],” Kubiak said.