November 9, 2001

M. Icers Open ECAC Season, Face Union, RPI

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Although it has given an impressive showing in its short season, the men’s hockey team’s true season begins tonight when Union skates into Lynah Rink for the Red’s conference opener, followed by RPI tomorrow.

Cornell (2-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) has just recently climbed into the national rankings at the No. 15 spot (USA Today) with a commanding pair of wins (6-1, 5-2) over the University of Alabama-Huntsville last weekend. But although those non-conference games have attracted national attention, they mean very little compared with the team’s all-important ECAC record.

Facing two conference rivals, the Red has prepared itself for a closer, more physical game. After averaging 41 shots during its first two games, Cornell will likely see some of those scoring chances curtailed by a pair of stronger ECAC defenses.

It also faces a bigger offensive threat in both Union and RPI. The Skating Dutchmen (3-1-1, 0-0-0) are trying to regain the prominence they held early last season when they had 11 players in double-digits for points total. All but two from that group return.

Union head coach Kevin Sneddon has publicized his desire to become more offensive minded and his initiative has shown. His team has already notched 19 goals on the season (4.8 per game).

On the other end, Brandon Snee is between the pipes and carries a mediocre .892 save percentage. His 3.25 GAA isn’t too stellar either.

Renesslaer (1-3-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) also returns a strong squad, only losing one player due to graduation. Its record is deceptive, though, with one loss — a 6-5 defeat — coming at the hands of BU. On the other hand, the Engineers’ sole win was another high scoring effort against then No. 6 New Hampshire (6-4).

Both Union and RPI began their seasons almost a month prior to Cornell and were able to start official practices even earlier. However, the Red has come back almost entirely healthy, after working up for the season all summer and fall. And it exhibited that last weekend against UAH.

“We’re ready, we’ve been ready for a long time. You saw that last week,” senior goaltender Matt Underhill said.

All the things that head coach Mike Schafer ’86 professed were realized. The power play converted 50 percent of its chances. The penalty kill gave up nothing. Cornell resides among the top collegiate teams in both categories. But, if the parity in the ECAC in the past is the case this year as well, Cornell should not expect another blowout.

“There’s going to be a lot more tight checking — a lot more physical,” Underhill predicted. “Union’s like us, they bang and crash, but they’re not cheap. They’ll take a lot of penalties. RPI will take a lot of penalties, too.

“If we stay disciplined,” he continued, “we have a killer power play and we’re going to make them pay.”

After starting in his first game last Saturday following a slight muscle pull early in the season, Underhill was able to practice all week and considers himself in game shape.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m a lot sharper than I was last weekend,” he assured.

Underhill hopes to start this weekend, although the rookie David LeNeveu has been strong in net garnering ECAC Freshman of the Week honors.

Although lacking in game experience, Cornell’s veteran team knows the competition in the visitors.

“I don’t think it matters who [Union and RPI have] played,” Underhill said, “because I don’t think that they’ve played a team as good as us, yet.”

Archived article by Amanda Angel