As a team that only allowed 49 goals in 36 games, the 2002-2003 Cornell men’s hockey team was not designed for offensive prowess. However, 2003 brings a new look to Lynah Rink and part of that new look will likely involve more goals on the scoreboard.
“This new group has the ability to produce offense, there’s no doubt about it,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
As with any hockey squad, Cornell’s offensive duties fall largely on the corps of forwards up front. This year’s front line boasts a mix of some familiar faces and some newly acquired talent that should create a consistent barrage of opportunities throughout the season.
A pair of seniors leads the charge for the Red and will be counted upon to bring lasting consistency to the Red’s forwards this season.
“[Seniors] Greg Hornby and Ryan Vesce — those are the only two guys I pencil in every night,” said Schafer of the duo. “I know what they bring to the table night in and night out and that’s why I know they’ll be in our lineup.”
Vesce, who led the Red in scoring last season with 45 points and 19 goals, is as elusive on the ice as any player in the ECAC. Often underappreciated, Vesce earned second team All-ECAC honors last year while becoming the first junior to reach the 100-point mark at Cornell since Joe Nieuwendyk ’88.
“I’ve said it a lot, but I believe that Ryan Vesce is the most underrated forward in the country,” said Schafer of his most consistent performer on the power play faceoff man. “And I’m sure he’s out to prove that here in his senior year.”
Hornby, unlike Vesce, is the Red’s most physical player and gets his chances by simply forcing opponents into making mistakes. Hornby has become a fan favorite on the East Hill due to his brutal style of play and propensity for the big hit. However, 2002-03 saw Hornby add another weapon to his likeable arsenal: goal scoring.
Junior Mike Knoepfli came on for the Red near the end of last season and was one of its most reliable performers throughout the postseason. Knoepfli will see extensive ice time this season, and the Red’s hoping that he will match his play in last year’s postseason on a game-to-game basis.
Mike Iggulden and Paul Varteressian round out the junior class of forwards and find themselves in similar situations after playing sporadically over their first three years on East Hill.
“This has to be Iggulden and Varteressian’s year, they need to produce for us,” said Schafer. “There’s probably not two more important people to have step up this year and elevate their game than those guys.”
The sophomore class consists of the fiery Abbott twins, Cam and Chris, the flashy Matt Moulson, the playmaking Dan Pegoraro and the yet unrealized talent of Shane Hynes.
The Abbott twins, playing alongside the similarly styled Hornby, were two of the Red’s most pleasant surprises in 2002-03. The “high energy” line, as Schafer refers to them, wasn’t just the Red’s most physical line but also one of its most clutch, as the trio poured in 18 goals last year.
Moulson, Pegoraro, and Hynes all showed signs of greatness during their rookie seasons but will need to play a more solid style of hockey in 2003-04. This trio has the potential to be one the Red’s finest offensive fronts in recent memory, but all three have yet to show Schafer the type of consistency such a distinction would require.
The freshman class of forwards was brought in to solve some of Cornell’s scoring issues from a year ago. Mitch Carefoot is a strong player, with good hockey sense and a knack for getting to the net. Byron Bitz, at 6-4, is also a physical player and reminds many of a recently departed forward who himself had some success at Cornell.
“When you see him, anyone immediately compares him to Stephen B