Dwyer Tschantz skated in on Mitch Gillam’s goal. It was the shootout stage of Cornell Hockey’s Red/White scrimmage, where players get to skate in, one-on-one with the goalie, and take a shot. Tschantz slowly drifted to his left and then decided to try something sensational. With Gillam swallowing up the left side of the net, Tschantz pulled the puck left, then back to the right between his own legs, and ripped a wrist shot into the undefended right side of the cage. It all happened in the blink of an eye, and Gillam immediately slumped, shocked that Tschantz had the audacity to try such a maneuver and the fact that Gillam never saw it coming. Tschantz’s stunning shootout goal was the most exciting moment of this weekend’s Red/White scrimmage.
The Red/White game was the first chance for Cornell hockey fans to see the 2016-17 team. In particular, all five freshmen made their debut, and several players who rarely get ice time during the season got a chance to skate in front of the Lynah Faithful. Of the freshmen, both Corey Hoffman and Jeff Malott scored goals, while Noah Bauld’s playmaking and Connor Murphy’s speed were on display. Yanni Kaldis is a dark horse to be the most effective of the five this season, as he could be an impact defenseman right away. Plus, fans got to see Matt Nuttle, Luc Lalor and Beau Starrett, who all had injury-plagued freshman seasons and will look to stay healthy and make an impact this year. Ryan Coon also got time in goal, and while the senior has still yet to play a regular season minute for Cornell, he would be a suitable fill-in if Mitch Gillam and Hayden Stewart were sidelined.
As the leaves turn to brilliant orange on East Hill, the hockey season really starts to shift into gear. The Red/White scrimmage was the hors d’oeuvre, and this weekend’s exhibitions are another appetizer before the main course of the regular season begins next Friday. The Red faces off against the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) on Friday and Brock on Saturday. Although the Red typically makes quick work of Canadian exhibition opposition, with a 22-1-3 record in exhibitions since 2000, UOIT could pose a real challenge. The Ridgebacks are 5-0 in the Ontario Hockey Association, and will be intent on making a real statement by beating Cornell at Lynah. Brock, on the other hand, is 1-3 in the OHA, and should be no match for Cornell. The Red could put five or 10 goals past the Badgers on Saturday.
Coach Schafer has a typical plan for exhibition games. He uses them as a transition from the relaxed atmosphere of Red/White to the frantic regular-season pace that Cornell will deal with next Friday at Merrimack College. While Schafer likes to give equal playing time to everyone at Red/White, he will likely return to the typical method of handing the best players the most important ice time. Expect to see Mitch Gillam starting one, if not both, games this weekend, and forward and defensive combinations that will actually be used in the regular season. This weekend has taken on increased importance, because Cornell will not be home again until Nov. 18, an astonishingly late home opener. In the meantime, the Red will have some of the season’s toughest road games, including Harvard, Dartmouth and Yale. Cornell really needs to hit the ground running this season, or risk the psychological and physical toll of a losing streak.
At Lynah this weekend, Cornell men’s hockey faces an opposing team for the first time this year. Don’t expect to see Dwyer Tschantz taking shots through his legs, but there will be quality hockey on display, and these games will play a huge role in getting this pivotal Cornell season off to a positive start.