With the 2017-18 Cornell men’s hockey schedule now clear, so too have the challenges between the team and a second consecutive trip to both the ECAC and NCAA tournaments.
As customary, Cornell will play twice against each conference opponent, once at home and once on the road. But as opposed to the 2016-17 season, the Red will have the luxury of trying to get out to a fast start playing a majority of the first half within the confines of Lynah. Before Thanksgiving last year, Cornell played just twice at home, as opposed to this upcoming season when it will play just twice on the road before the November holiday.
Cornell will take on some intriguing opponents in the 2016-17 year, such as Canisius and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The Red has only played five combined games against the two opponents, but the games this year will give Cornell fans a look at two very unique programs.
On top of that, Cornell will return to Madison Square Garden for another installment of Red Hot Hockey, take on Harvard at home in November, ship out to Ohio for a two-game series against Miami and end the season on the road in the Capital Region. But the team will not travel to the Sunshine State for another installment of the Florida Classic, ending a 17-year streak.
Below is the full listing of the 2017-18 season, including analysis for each opponent the first time they are listed.
Oct. 14 & 15: Exhibition Games Against Canadian Schools
First puck drop at Lynah this year will, yet again, come against two Canadian schools in exhibition tune-up games. The Universities of Guelph and Ottawa will make the trip to town, and the games give Cornell fans a sneak peek of real action which will begin two weeks from then.
Oct. 28 & 29: Season Opener vs. University of Alabama in Huntsville
2016-17 record: N/A
All-time record: 3-0-1
The Red will open the official 2017-18 campaign with a two-game series against UAH before beginning ECAC play. It will be the first time the two teams face off since the 2009-10 season, when UAH visited Lynah for a two-game series in December. The Red took the first game, 3-1, but tied the second at two. While the Red will be just opening its regular season, UAH will have already played four games when it arrives to Ithaca after a pair of two-game series at Notre Dame and Michigan Tech.
UAH plays in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and consistently goes against tough teams in Bemidji State, Ferris State and St. Cloud State, among others, and finished last season 9-22-3. Last year, Cornell and UAH had just one mutual opponent — Northern Michigan — and both teams handedly defeated the Wildcats by multi-goal margins.
Nov. 3: at Quinnipiac
2016-17 record: 1-1
All-time record: 18-16-3
The Bobcats have been a long-time formidable opponent for the Red, a team that finished as NCAA runner-ups and ECAC champions in the 2015-16 season. Last season, the Red dropped the first of two games against Quinnipiac, 3-1, during the home opener at Lynah, but came away with a 2-1 victory later on in the season in Connecticut.
Quinnipiac is a team that has not been shy to shoot the puck, averaging just over 35.5 shots per game last season. There were hardly any times last season when Quinnipiac had 20-shot games or worse, but two of those came against Cornell. The usually defense-minded Red — which allowed the second fewest shots in the country last year — will once again look to fend off the reliably high-powered Bobcat offense.
Nov. 4: at Princeton
2016-17 record: 2-0
All-time record: 90-51-8
The Red came away with two big victories against the Tigers last season with a 4-2 win at Lynah and then a 5-1 victory at Princeton. In the first game, Cornell came out sluggish, not scoring until the 13:20 mark of the second period. Even then, the Red was down 2-1 heading into the final period until a big three-goal period powered the Red to victory.
The second game saw a breakout performance from then-freshman Jeff Malott, who only had three points heading into the game. Malott proceeded to score a hat trick in the first period before leaving due to injury on the way to head coach Mike Schafer’s ’86 400th career win.
Princeton loses goaltender Colton Phinney this year to graduation. Finney finished his career with the most saves in Tigers program history, but the team still possesses much of its high-producing skaters. The Red currently holds a 10-game unbeaten streak against Princeton and will look to add two more to that streak this season.
Nov. 10: Dartmouth
2016-17 record: 0-1-1
All-time record: 80-48-6
Outside of eventual Frozen Four competitor Harvard, Dartmouth was the lone ECAC foe Cornell was unable to defeat all year. In the second game of the first road stretch of the year, then-sophomore Mitch Vanderlaan netted a shorthanded goal to open the scoring in the third, but Dartmouth responded just over two minutes later with a crucial goal that left the teams in an eventual tie.
Later in the year at Lynah, Cornell got out scoring fast with two goals in the first period. But for the second night in a row that weekend, the Red let its opponent score four unanswered goals and eventually lost in front of the 1967 championship team, who was honored during first intermission.
This year, Dartmouth loses its top scorer Troy Crema to graduation, but retains several key pieces, including an improving goalie in Devin Buffalo. Cornell holds a historically positive record against the Green, and will look to keep that alive in two regular season games next season.
Nov. 11: Rivalry Game vs. Harvard
2016-17 record: 0-3 (including playoffs)
All-time record: 74-65-11
All year long in 2016-17, Harvard gave Cornell headaches. In both regular season games, Cornell looked like the better team for good parts of the game, but let the Crimson capitalize on key stretches of play to sweep the regular season series.
In game one, Cornell nearly managed to storm back from a 4-1 deficit, but Harvard staved off the upset at home to win by one. Then at Lynah, Cornell got off to the 1-0 lead, but the Crimson notched four unanswered goals to leave Cornell fans heartbroken in the rivalry game.
Cornell and Harvard met again in the ECAC finals, but the Crimson dominated to win the championship game, 4-1, en route to a Frozen Four appearance.
Harvard loses a significant amount of talent this upcoming season, including Alex Kerfoot, Sean Malone, Tyler Moy and Luke Esposito, but still boasts dangerous players such as Ryan Donato, Adam Fox, Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Merrick Madsen in net.
Nov. 17: St. Lawrence
2016-17 record: 2-0
All-time record: 60-45-8
During last season’s campaign, one prominent issue that faced the Red was letting go of early leads. In both instances against SLU, Cornell was close to repeating that story, but narrowly escaped with two victories.
In the first game, Cornell headed into the second period with a 2-0 advantage, but the Saints came back and answered with two of their own to erase the deficit. But then-sophomore defenseman Brendan Smith found the perfect time to score the first goal of his collegiate career to close out the second period and put a halt on the SLU comeback, ultimately putting the Red on top.
In the second game, both teams came in tied for third place in the ECAC, and play followed a similar story to the first game. Cornell again came out to a strong start and scored three goals in the first period. But once again in the second period, SLU scored back-to-back goals of their own and held Cornell scoreless, giving the Saints a fighting chance heading into the third. But with then-senior goalie Mitch Gillam ’17 leading the way and making key stops to prevent SLU from completely erasing the lead, classmate Jake Weidner ’17 scored early in the third to give the Red a 4-2 victory and complete the season sweep.
Nov. 18: Clarkson
2016-17 record: 2-1-2 (including playoffs)
All-time record: 66-54-16
During the regular season, neither team was able to get an edge as both contests resulted in 3-3 ties. In the first contest, after trading goals in the first period, Clarkson came back and opened the second period with back-to-back goals. But then-junior forward Trevor Yates ended up being the Red’s savior and scored a pair of his goals of his own to come away with a point from the contest.
The second time around, it was Clarkson who had to salvage the tie. Despite heading into the final period of play with a 2-1 lead, Cornell was able to score two goals to gain the 3-2 lead, but Clarkson scored in the final three minutes to knot the game. But luckily for the Red, the tie clinched the first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs.
That first-round bye paved way for a matchup between the two teams in the ECAC quarterfinals at Lynah. The first game of the series was a shocker given the close nature of the regular season, as Clarkson blew away a rusty Cornell team, 6-2. But a pair of gritty 2-1 victories afterwards saved Cornell’s season and sent the team on its way to ECAC Championship Weekend.
Nov. 21: vs. Niagara
All-time record: 14-2
While the Purple Eagles did not make their way onto the Red schedule last year, the two teams did face off during the 2015-16 season in a home-and-home series to open the season, in which the Red came out victorious both times.
The series opened in Niagara and after trading goals, the teams headed into overtime in a 2-2 deadlock. But just under two minutes into OT, Christian Hilbrich ’16 came away with a goal and gave the Red the 3-2 victory, making it five straight years of opening the season undefeated.
The very next night the teams made their way to Lynah, a game which that time around was not a close affair; the Red came away with a convincing 4-0 victory. The game extended Cornell’s winning streak against Niagara to 10, a streak which the Red will look to build upon this year.
2016-17 record: N/A
All-time record: 23-19-3
As has been custom since the 2007 season, Cornell will spend an odd year taking on BU at Madison Square Garden — a contest the Red has never won. Read the Sun’s full story on the game here.
Dec. 1 & 2: at Miami (OH)
2016-17 record: 2-0
All-time record: 3-3
For the first time in program history, Cornell will travel to Oxford, Ohio, to take on the RedHawks after the two-game series was played at Lynah last season. While the Red did sweep the series last season, each game was only decided by one goal.
Last season, the Red had eight wins after giving up the first goal, one of the highest numbers in the country. In the first match, Cornell got off to a slow start and could not get the puck in the net until the 1:55 mark in the second period, heading into the final period down 2-1. But Cornell then came out in the third on an offensive tear, scoring three goals in the span of five minutes, and despite a RedHawk goal to close out the game, Cornell hung on for the 4-3 victory.
The second game was a typical Cornell game — a low scoring, defensive affair. This time, the Red played with a lead to lose and headed into the third period with a 2-0 lead. However, Miami came to life in the third and made Cornell play on its heels, especially after scoring a goal to cut the lead to one. But Gillam, who came up huge for the Red many times, once again did his part to save the team and came up with crucial saves to cap the scoring for the RedHawks, keeping the final score 2-1.
Dec. 30: vs. Canisius College
2016-17 record: N/A
All-time record: 1-0
A late December game is nearly unheard of for Cornell hockey if it’s not in Florida. In fact, it is the first time this will be occurring since 1979. And to go along with an unusual time to play a game comes an unusual opponent in Canisius, a team that the Red has only faced once before. That contest came back on Nov. 27, 2004, a game where Cornell came away with a 3-0 victory.
Canisius recently lost its head coach Dave Smith when he took the coaching position at RPI. The Golden Griffins are now under the leadership of Trevor Large, who served as assistant coach of the program from 2014-17.
Canisius is a rather new program, joining the Division I ranks in 1998. The Golden Griffins play in the Atlantic Hockey Conference with Niagara, the team that Cornell opens its season against. Canisius came off a strong 2016-17 campaign with a top-place finish in the AHC regular season standings thanks to a 21-11-7 overall record, so no doubt will Cornell have its hands full when the Golden Griffins visit Ithaca.
Jan. 5: vs. Princeton
Jan. 6: vs. Quinnipiac
Jan. 12: at Yale
2016-17 record: 1-0-1
All-time record: 83-60-7
2016-17 was not kind to Yale. The Bulldogs were selected to finish fourth and fifth in the ECAC media and coaches’ poll, respectively, but ended up eighth once it was all said and done.
Part of that can be attributed to inconsistent goaltending. Both Patrick Spano and Sam Tucker appeared in double digit games, which can hurt a team looking for a steady hand between the pipes. That showed against Cornell, as the Red chased Spano out of his cage after he let up five goals at home in the first game between the two. Tucker replaced him, and held Cornell scoreless for the remainder of the game outside of an empty net goal, and Cornell won 6-3.
In the second game, Tucker was given the start and held Cornell to two goals to help his team secure a tie on the road. It was a game in which Schafer said his team “stopped working,” but the team would regroup to down Brown the next night.
Yale is plagued this year by the loss of two of its top three leading scorers — John Hayden and Frankie DiChiara — to graduation, along with Spano.
Jan. 13: at Brown
2016-17 record: 2-0
All-time record: 76-43-7
Despite ending the season last in the ECAC, Schafer has always been wary of Brown and its quick offensive core. The team managed just four total wins in 2016-17, but beat out Colgate and nearly beat out RPI in goals for.
Defense has been the issue, as the Bears let up a league-high 87 goals last season, nine of which came from Cornell skaters.
Cornell defeated the Bears in both contests last season, 4-2 on the road and 5-3 at home. But Brown returns plenty of young talent this upcoming season, as its top six scorers are heading back to Providence. Only three seniors played over 20 games, so another year of experience could mightily help the young Bears.
Jan. 19 & 20: Colgate (Home-and-home series)
2016-17 record: 2-0
All-time record: 81-57-15
This year as opposed to last, Cornell and Colgate have managed to schedule in a home-and-home series instead of Tuesday night games in each others’ barn.
That did not seem to phase Cornell last year, however, as the Red defeated the Raiders 3-2 on the road, and shut them out 4-0 at home. Colgate would go on to finish third to last in the ECAC with a 6-13-3 conference record.
Colgate’s most interesting aspect is the ability to share the love. The spread of highest scorer to sixth highest last year was just seven points, similar to Cornell’s lineup. Both leading scorers Jake Kulevich — a defenseman — and Tim Harrison have graduated, but the next scorers are freshmen likely to grow into a bigger role.
Jan. 26: at Harvard
Jan. 27: at Dartmouth
Feb. 2: vs. Union
2016-17 record: 2-0-1 (including playoffs)
All-time record: 38-20-9
Cornell presented Union a tall task all of last season. Despite finishing tied with Harvard for first place in the ECAC standings, Union failed to beat Cornell, with a 5-3 win on the road and a 3-3 tie at home.
That success carried over into playoffs, as Cornell downed the Dutchmen in the ECAC semifinals 4-1 to continue the reign of terror on the small school from Schenectady.
This year, Union has lost its top scorers in Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo. Vecchione is signed with the Philadelphia Flyers and Foo with the Calgary Flames.
However, Union head coach Rick Bennett is fresh off his second ECAC Coach of the Year award and will do his best to manage of the blow of losing two of the program’s most decorated skaters.
Feb. 3: vs. RPI
2016-17 record: 2-0
All-time record: 62-36-10
Cornell has long held an advantage over RPI, and that carried over last year. Gillam notched one of three shutouts against the Engineers at home last year in a 2-0 win, but the first game did not come as easy. RPI held the lead at the halfway mark of the third, but then now-graduated Matt Buckles ’17 scored to knot the game up, and rising sophomore Yanni Kaldis got his first career goal to win it for Cornell with less than 30 seconds remaining in a tied game.
This season, however, RPI welcomes a new head coach in Dave Smith, who last spent 12 years at the helm of Canisius and found much success there. He elevated the Golden Griffins into the public eye, and looks poised to raise RPI’s level of skill as well.