With its sights set on getting back into the “Cornell hockey mindset” for the regular season, the men easily downed two Canadian foes this weekend in a pair of exhibition games. The Red defeated UOIT on Friday, 3-1, and Brock on Saturday, 8-1.
Despite the fact that the games do not count for official statistics, Head Coach Mike Schafer ’86 said he is happy with what he saw in his squad. Taking a step back from the X’s and O’s, Schafer said he valued this experience for its benefits that are not defined by numbers.
“I enjoyed sitting there watching some of the young guys experience Lynah Rink for the first time,” he said. “Biggest crowd some of the freshmen have ever played in front of, so it was fun to see.”
Both games were riddled with an incredibly high number of penalties — there were 22 total times either penalty box had a new inhabitant.
In game one against Ontario Institute of Technology, Cornell was awarded the majority of the power plays and two of Cornell’s three goals came on the man advantage.
Early on in the second game against Brock, the tables turned, and the Red was the team that played mostly a man down, but the ship soon righted itself and the team went on to score four goal on the powerplay.
Although satisfied with the overall performance, Schafer said he was displeased with the team’s start.
“Really disappointed in our players and I talked to them after the first period about how we can move on and play as a team,” he said. “I told them I was really surprised they could be that easily satisfied after beating a team last night that was pretty good and come back and not play harder prove yourself every time you take the ice. I was disappointed how we started, but very happy with the response after we talked.”
The rampant penalties gave Schafer and his staff a good look at special teams units, and they were overall happy with what they saw, according the Schafer.
“When you come out in front of 4,000 people, you get antsy and want to do well,” Schafer said. “That’s what our penalty kill did [against Brock].”
Another encouraging sign for the Red is that the players on the scoresheet this weekend are seldom the ones to score goals. Sophomore defensemen Matt Nuttle and Brendan Smith did not score at all last season, but both notched a goal during exhibition weekend.
“[Nuttle] gets pucks down to the net offensively and shoots the puck well,” Schafer said. “He had a slow start — he came out in first period and had his worst period of hockey so far — but what I like about him so far this year is his growth mentally.”
Beau Starrett — who was sidelined for a majority of last year due to a broken collarbone — was also successful this weekend, scoring one goal and adding four assists in two games, after just one goal all last season.
“You are only as good as your linemates and I think Dwyer [Tschantz], [Trevor] Yates and I clicked tonight,” Starrett said after the win over Brock. “We were able to contribute well offensively. Hopefully [the injury] was just a speed bump last year. I’m hoping to stay healthy this year and contribute with whichever role.”
Other players, too, stepped up in these games, which is something Schafer had wanted, given the uncertainties surrounding senior Jeff Kubiak, along with juniors Dan Wedman and Ryan Bliss.
Cornell fans got a first look at some of the newly-introduced freshmen — Yanni Kaldis and Noah Bauld — who will likely see ice time this year.
Kaldis quarterbacked a majority of Cornell powerplays in the first game and Bauld went on to score his first goal in a Cornell jersey, although it did not come in NCAA play so does not count as an official first career goal.
In the first game against Ontario, Schafer elected to start last year’s starter, senior Mitch Gillam. While Schafer plans to start his dependable goalie this season, he has also acknowledged the incredible improvement of junior Hayden Stewart, who got the nod against Brock.
“I thought [Stewart] was solid without looking back at the video,” Schafer said.
Senior goalie Ryan Coon was eventually subbed in for Stewart when the Red’s offense attained a comfortable lead, but the deployment of Stewart could be a foreshadowing of what Cornell fans can expect next season when Gillam is gone and Stewart is a senior.
“Ryan is a tremendous teammate and a fantastic student,” Schafer said of his behind-the-scenes senior. “[But] Stewart has to unseat Mitch and has to continue to work if he wants to play.”
Above all, while generally happy with the performance, Schafer and his staff know there is still plenty of fine-tuning to be done prior to Friday’s opener at Merrimack. However, according to the head coach, this weekend’s games did a fine job in getting a surprisingly-packed Lynah Rink energized for the season, especially on parents’ weekend.
“Good start to the season with this weekend,” Schafer said. “We are on the road for a long, long time [early this season] … but we are looking forward to the challenge.”