Heading into last season, expectations were high for the men’s hockey team. Ranked in the top-10 of both national polls and armed with NCAA tournament experience, Cornell was expected to contend for the national title. Coming into this year, the Red is still ranked among the best in the nation. However, with the graduation of seven seniors and the departure of statistically the best goalie in NCAA history, David LeNeveu ’05, there were more questions than answers heading into Saturday night’s annual Red-White intrasquad scrimmage.
“When you have nine freshmen, going into the game with over a third of your team as first-year players, you have a lot of question marks,” Cornell assistant coach and White head coach Brent Brekke said.
Some of those questions were answered, as newcomers Byron Bitz, Mark McCutcheon, and Mitch Carefoot all tallied, while the returning players showed that they’re as good as ever. The scrimmage had to have a winner, though. This year, it was the White squad, which prevailed by a 5-4 score.
The scrimmage was organized into two 20-minute halves. Each half began with a 10-minute period of even-strength play before each squad took turns on a three-minute power play. The half then concluded with four minutes of five-on-five. After the two halves, each unit had a one-minute extra attacker session before the scrimmage concluded with a shootout.
The Red scored first, as senior captain Ryan Vesce, last season’s leading scorer, beat senior goalie Todd Marr. Junior defenseman Charlie Cook picked up the assist on the goal, scored at 7:27 of the first half.
That lead wouldn’t hold for long, as the White’s twin tandem of sophomores Chris and Cam Abbott struck just 11 seconds later. After breaking into the offensive zone, Chris Abbott dished the puck to his left to brother Cam, who beat sophomore Louis Chabot five-hole.
The teams would remain scoreless until Bitz scored his first goal in front of the Lynah Faithful, hammering a slapshot past Marr to give the Red a 2-1 lead heading into halftime.
Trailing 2-1, the White team scored two quick goals after halftime to take the lead. Junior Mike Knoepfli scored at 13:05 to even the score before McCutcheon wristed a shot past Chabot to give the White a 3-2 edge.
“The thought process in recruiting them was that they’re offensive players,” Brekke said of standout freshmen Bitz and McCutcheon. “That’s what they’re expected to do. They did what we expected of them, and hopefully that continues.”
Sophomore Dan Pegoraro knotted the score at 3-3 with a short-handed breakaway goal with 4:43 remaining in the second half. That score would stand until the shootout.
In the shootout, the White took an early lead, when its first shooter, Knoepfli, beat Marr. Junior defenseman Jeremy Downs evened the game at 4-4. However, the very next shooter, the White’s Carefoot, beat Chabot for the gamewinner. Vesce, the Red’s last shooter had a chance to tie, but freshman netminder Dave McKee made a sprawling save to deny the captain.
“it was a good save, bad move. He made a great save, and he roobed me,” Vesce said. “I had an open net and he reached back and Dave made a great save.”
For the men’s hockey team, the game served more of an evaluation purpose.
“It’s still going to take some time to filter out as far as who should be playing with whom and who should be playing in different situations. It’s definitely a big help to have a game like that tonight,” Brekke said.
“We have to fine tune our systems a little bit. The power play is definitely an area we need to work on. The penalty kill can always get better. We’ve got a talented team. It’s just putting them into the Cornell system that’s going to make the team successful,” Vesce said.
Even though it was an intrasquad game, the coaches of the two squads still wanted the win and the bragging rights along with it.
“You never want to lose in an intrasquad game. You hear about it for the whole year until the next intrasquad game. It’s a little fun competitiveness,” Red coach Scott Garrow said. “I’ve known Brent since we played together at Western [Michigan] and I don’t like to lose to him in anything.”
After only three official practices, just playing at Lynah was the biggest thrill for the icers.
“It was nice to get back and playing hockey,” Garrow said.
Archived article by Alex Ip