October 31, 2003

Men's Hockey Hosts Western Michigan for Pair

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For the past two weekends, the No. 11 men’s hockey team has performed for the Lynah Faithful. Two weekends ago, the icers gave the Cornell community its first look at the team at the intrasquad Red-White game. Last Saturday, the icers throttled the U.S. Under-18 national team in an exhibition. But, neither of those contests counted. This weekend, that all changes, as the Red kicks off its regular season with a two-game set against Western Michigan, with both games beginning at 7 p.m.

The Broncos (2-3-1) come into the game having already played six games. After starting its season with a split against nationally-ranked Ferris State, Western Michigan has won just one of its last four contests. However, it enters the contest with significantly more game experience than Cornell, an advantage that cannot be discounted.

“Game experience will play some factor,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.

The Red, which finished last season with a perfect 15-0 home record, will have the advantage of playing in front of its home crowd.

“Unlike last year, it’ll be nice to be at home for our first game. We kind of stuck in there and found a way to win in our first game last year,” Schafer said. “I think we’ve got to do the same thing against this weekend … not to expect perfection.”

The Red’s most dangerous opponent this weekend might be itself. After an appearance in the Frozen Four last season, there are high expectations coming into this season and the pressure will be heavy from the opening faceoff.

“The biggest thing for a lot of guys is not to get frustrated, knowing that we will be a much different team in two weeks, and five months from now,” Schafer said. “I think that guys need to control the things that they can control, great work ethic, play very physical, stay very disciplined. Those are all areas of the game that we can control.”

The explosive Broncos will pose a challenge to a revamped Cornell defense. With three defensemen — Doug Murray ’03, Mark McRae ’03, and Travis Bell ’03 — and netminder David LeNeveu ’05 gone from last season’s top-ranked unit, the Red will have its hands full. Winger Dana Lattery leads the Broncos with four goals and three assists in just four games, while Vince Bellissimo has six points on the year.

“They’ve got a lot of guys through their whole four lines that can get up and down the ice and create,” Schafer said of Western Michigan. “They can be creative and dangerous one-on-one. It’ll be a real good test for our defensemen to play the body and stay above them and try to frustrate them. They’re the kind of team that we need to keep the puck away from.”

The key, as always for the Red, will be to use its size and strength to its advantage.

“We need to make sure that it’s a two-game set that we play for 120 minutes,” Schafer said. “It’s one of the few times you can really treat it as a playoff game and really come out and physically go after them, wear them down for the weekend.”

Last season, the Red played two game sets three, against Boston University, Colgate, and RPI, winning five of its six games. Cornell, which physically punishes its opponents along the boards, seems to flourish in such opportunities.

“I think it’s an advantage for a team that does play physically. You’ve got to come out, throughout the course of the night, just constant pounding. It can’t be just eight or nine guys. We need 18 guys to come out and be disciplined with — finish every check at home and give them very little space, make them pay on every possession. Every time they touch it, they need to be hit.”

Archived article by Alex Ip