February 7, 2003

No. 5 Red Gets Last Regular Season Shot at Green, Cats

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The men’s hockey team will attempt to stay atop the competitive ECAC standings this weekend as it faces Dartmouth (12-8-1, 8-6-0 ECAC) tonight and welcomes Vermont (9-12-3, 6-8-0) tomorrow. Both games begin at 7:00 p.m. at Lynah Rink. The Red (17-4-0, 12-2-0) split a road weekend earlier this season, defeating Vermont 8-0 and dropping a 5-2 contest in Hanover the following night.

Many consider tonight’s match-up with the Green the ECAC’s game of the week. Though Dartmouth is currently tied for fourth in the conference and trails the Red by a formidable eight-point margin, the importance of the game runs deep for both teams.

Cornell’s senior class has never beaten the notorious giant killers in four seasons on East Hill. Tonight’s game could mark the Class of ’03’s final opportunity to spell the juggernaut from up north.

“We’ve talked about [what we need to do to beat Dartmouth] and we’ve stressed a lot about being very, very aggressive both physically with the puck and being disciplined,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86 when asked what his team will look to do differently this time around against the Green.

Dartmouth boasts a pair of young guns who have been able to consistently produce offensive numbers for the Green this season.

Sophomore Lee Stempniak is currently tied for second in the conference in total goals with 11, while freshmen Hugh Jessiman is fourth in scoring with 23 points in 14 games. Jessiman has garnered a lot of attention lately, outscoring the rest of the ECAC freshman class by an incredible margin (his closest competition has 10 less points in six more games) and easily establishing himself as the odds-on favorite for Rookie of the Year honors.

Overall, the Green boasts an offensive-minded attack that will give up goals in order to open up the game to a scoring dual. Dartmouth tellingly holds a fourth overall offensive ranking (3.86 goals per game), while allowing the opposition an average 3.64 goals.

“We need to play within our system and be way more disciplined, finish our chances and just play our hockey game,” said senior co-captain Doug Murray.

On Nov. 16, Cornell and Dartmouth met for the first time in 2002-03, and the Green stole a closer game than it appeared. Two of the Green’s five goals were empty-netters, and it remained a one-goal contest until just under two minutes remaining in the third period.

It was arguably the Red’s most frustrating performance of the year, as chances went unfinished, goals were disallowed, and the bounce of the puck seemed to favor the Green.

Cornell experienced a similar feeling after last Thursday’s loss to an overmatched Colgate team.

“[Colgate] was a team we shouldn’t have struggled with, had we played our own style. But we surely didn’t do that,” said Murray.

Tomorrow night’s game against a lesser Vermont team should allow the Red to flex its offensive muscles, though last week’s loss to the Raiders reminded Cornell that it did not have the luxury of taking a night off.

“Every win means a lot to us right now, anyone that saw what the loss to Colgate did to us in the PairWise and the RPI. We’re playing on a different plane here and what I mean by that is that every game we play, there’s a lot at stake for us as there is for them,” said Schafer.

“With the race being as close as it is, you can’t slip up in one game or else they’re going to be right there,” added B