The Red (2-0-0) kicks off its ECAC Hockey season play against Colgate (4-3-0) this weekend. On Friday night the upstate N.Y. rivals will face off at 7 p.m. in Hamilton, N.Y. After the game, Cornell will get back on the bus, come home and prepare for another match against the Raiders on Saturday at 7 p.m., this time at Lynah Rink.
“It’s a fun series — it’s fun to go up there and play [and] it’s obviously always fun to play at home,” said junior goaltender Andy Iles. “They’re a good team — they were a really good team in our league last year and I’m sure they’re going to be contending for a league title. And just any time you get into league play is really exciting because there is so much on the line in every single game, and we are excited to get in the ECAC play now and try to get off to a good start … We’re looking forward to this weekend and looking forward to playing two tough games against a good team in Colgate.”
While the home-and-home series with Colgate is an annual tradition, this is the earliest the two teams have met in the season. Cornell and the Raiders have never before faced off before to begin the ECAC season.
“It’s definitely different than any other road trip — you hop on a bus, get off the bus, play, come back home that night, wake up the following morning and play again,” Iles said. “It’s something that we’re not used to, but it’s a short little bus ride and its definitely fun to go up there and play.”
The No. 5/6 ranked Red squad is coming off its opening weekend, where Cornell won both of its non-league games against Colorado College.
“It was huge for us,” said senior forward and co-captain Erik Axell. “Going forward, I think there’s a lot of things we did well, there’s a lot of stuff we can build off, so it was definitely a great weekend to start.”
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said that he also felt that while there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, this past weekend was a promising start for the Red.
“We need to work on everything just in general, but I was pleased that only two weeks into the season … I didn’t really see something that was really sticking out and I think a lot of that credit goes to our captains and our team throughout the preparations in the fall,” he said. “You only have eight practices to get your guys ready and there’s so much to cover … [But there was] nothing glaring that came out of the weekend.”
The Colgate team Cornell is facing this weekend looks very different from the one the Red saw last season, as the Raiders have turned over 11 of their players.
“Colgate is always a tough match up,” Axell said. “They’re always a great team. Even losing those guys, there’s always going to be new guys that come in and they seem to be scoring from everywhere [so far].”
However, Schafer discussed how he is taking these changes into account while preparing the team for this weekend.
“They got a lot of guys back on defense, that always helps — when you lose a lot of guys and you lose them on defense it makes things much more difficult,” he said. “They lost most of their guys up front. They’re skilled, seeing how they’ve played so far they’ve been able to put a lot of goals in the back of the net. They got some recruits that can get up and down the ice [and] skate very well. [They’re] not as big as they might have been in the past physically, and they’ve been up and down a little bit and I think that happens with a young team ... We’ll focus on [them,] but we are still gearing up so much for ourselves that we’re all worried about all our own systems and how we are practicing and playing.”
Last year, Colgate swept the two-game series. However, the Red was able to enact its revenge on March 17th, when the two met again for the ECAC Hockey third-place game. Cornell won and secured its at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“It’s always a huge rivalry, we go up there and I think it’s one of the more fun road trips we go to because you go on the ice and they are throwing Big Red gum at us and stuff like that,” Axel said. “It’s always an exciting environment to play in but especially after last year, we lost both games against them [so] it’s definitely something we are looking forward to and it will be a challenge but we’re excited for it.”