With three crucial wins under its belt, the No. 3 men’s hockey team heads on the road this weekend for the first time this season to face Ivy League rivals Yale tonight, followed by Brown tomorrow night.
“Going on the road against Yale and Brown is always a tough trip. Last year our game was for first place and at Brown we went into overtime to win … but we have high expectations to go on the road and see what will happen,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
With a combined 11 goals scored in last weekend’s games, the Red (3-0, 2-0 ECAC) has already demonstrated its talent early in the season. After losing to Yale (1-1-1, 0-1-1 ECAC) three times last year, including the game for the No. 1 spot in the ECAC Hockey league, Cornell is determined to change the outcome this time around.
“Guys have been marking this one on the calendar. We’ve been looking forward to getting back and playing Yale. They didn’t have a great weekend last weekend, but they are going to be a strong team,” said senior forward Blake Gallagher.
Yale has had a rough start so far this season; they lost to Rensselaer, 5-2, last Friday before mustering up a late goal on Saturday to tie Union, 3-3. Although the Red holds the all-time series lead with the Bulldogs, 77-52-5, Yale swept all three games last season, including the championship of the ECAC tournament, 5-0. Yet, Cornell has had good luck playing in New Haven, Conn., and has won six of the last seven games played there.
Throughout the week in practice, the Red has been working hard on improving its speed to play and skate against an up-tempo team like the Bulldogs. Since Yale has some strong forwards, Cornell’s defenders will have a demanding task of keeping them in line and thwarting any scoring opportunities. In addition, the Red continues to work on its special teams units, which have already played an enormous role in its game. Cornell leads the nation in converting power-play opportunities at 44.4 percent and it is ranked No. 10 in killing off penalties at an 88.9 percent rate.
“It is a tough place to play; they are rated high. As we go on in the year, one of the things that we try to preach is that every game is each of its own … and you can’t afford to have a letdown,” Schafer said.
On Saturday, the Red returns to the ice to face the Bears (0-2-1, 0-1-1 ECAC). With a new head coach in tow, Brown has become a much more competitive team, despite some struggles in the past few years. Cornell skated to two victories against the Bears last season, but the last meeting was a 3-2 overtime win in Providence.
“Judging how they did this past weekend, Brown is a much improved hockey team. We beat them last year in overtime, so we are expecting two tough games this weekend,” Gallagher said.
More than giving the Red another win on its record, the team’s victory against Dartmouth last weekend provides insight into how Brown’s squad might play this weekend. The Bears’ coach assisted the Dartmouth program last season, so the Red will be prepared if he uses similar tendencies with his new team.
“[Yale] beat us last year in the ECAC finals so I think we have some unfinished business and Brown always plays us tough so we have got to try to take momentum into this weekend,” said junior forward Tyler Roeszler.
“Our game plan doesn’t change on the road. We approach every game the same whether we are at home or on the road. Obviously, at home having the crowd makes it a lot easier, but we are looking forward to getting on the road,” Gallagher said.
The Red will take what it has learned from last weekend’s games — both the good and the bad — as it progresses forward throughout the season.
“We played a solid 60 [minutes] on Friday night and we saw the outcome of that. We also found out on Saturday that when we didn’t skate and we stopped working, we fell behind but we found a positive out of it and we found a way to win, which I think is important,” Roeszler said.