Tenth-ranked Cornell (11-6-4, 9-3-2 ECAC) enters this weekend against Princeton (6-12-3, 5-7-2) and Yale (10-11-0, 6-8-0) with one thought on its mind.
Ask anyone on the team what the goal is for the weekend, and its pretty much unanimous.
“We’ve gotta sweep,” said junior goaltender Matt Underhill, whose 1.75 GAA in ECAC games is a big reason the Big Red is where it is. “We sweep, we’re still in first place — that’s the bottom line.”
Sophomore defenseman Doug Murray echoed Underhill’s sentiments.
“We can’t afford to give up any points to these two teams,” the big Swede said.
A sweep would do a lot more than just give the Red bragging rights. Two wins will keep the Red in its current precarious position atop the ECAC. With only two points separating the top four teams, each game is a critical test.
Despite the relatively low eighth-place rankings of Princeton and Yale, each poses a very real threat to the Red’s supremacy. Each team is scoring three goals per game and each is trying to climb out of a recent funk that has relegated them to an out of the playoff prospect. Princeton has lost nine of its last ten, including a 6-1 loss to Clarkson last weekend. Yale has lost three straight, including being swept by Clarkson and St. Lawrence last weekend.
The Red will need to have a good mentality to win against two teams that are very tough to defeat at home.
“We know that both of these places are tough places to play,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
Special teams will be key in both games. While Cornell’s power play is fifth in the nation at a 89.5 percent kill rate, the power play is clicking at an impressive 22.8 percent clip. While the Red has been taking advantage in odd-man situations, Yale and Princeton have each struggled.
Princeton has the conference’s second-worst power play at 17.9 percent and has the ninth-worst penalty kill at only 76.7 percent. That second number could offer a veritable feast for the Cornell power play teams, which have been incredible of late. Especially good has been the line of freshman Ryan Vesce and sophomores Sam Paolini and Stephen B