November 10, 2003

Vesce Leads M. Icers to Weekend Sweep

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. — There was no Lynah Faithful and the pep band showed up late to Ingalls Rink Friday night. None of it seemed to matter for Cornell, though, since the offense showed up right on time, as the men’s hockey team (2-1-1, 2-0-0 ECAC) scored two early goals en route to a 6-2 pounding of Yale (1-3-0, 1-1-0).

The first goal came at 4:48 of the first period. Yale attempted to clear the puck from deep within its end when senior forward Greg Hornby came crashing in. Checking the Bulldog defender, Hornby cleared enough space for sophomore Cam Abbott to gain control of the puck. Abbott, just off the left side of the Yale net, then sent the puck to his brother Chris who caught Yale goaltender Josh Gartner off guard, putting the puck between the netminder’s pads.

Yale had the opportunity to even things up three minutes later, as Cornell freshman Byron Bitz was called for hooking. Instead of producing points, however, the Bulldogs’ power play unit allowed them.

After his two minutes were served, Bitz retook the ice and joined the penalty kill unit. Almost immediately, Cornell forced a turnover and the Red found itself with a 2-on-1 in Yale’s end.

Bitz and junior Mike Iggulden worked the puck back and forth, leaving Yale’s lone defender to make a choice. He chose Iggulden, Iggulden chose to pass to Bitz, Bitz chose to shoot. The result was Cornell’s second goal of the game.

The Bulldogs struck late in the first period, picking apart the Cornell defense and screening Red freshman goalie David McKee. Yale forced a slapshot through traffic to make the score 2-1 heading into the second period, but it would prove too little, too late, as Cornell had both confidence and momentum.

“Us scoring first was a big boost, especially on the road. [We] took their crowd out of it and got off to a good start,” said Bitz. “It was very important for us to score first.”

Senior assistant captain Ben Wallace agreed.

“It’s a lot better when we get an early lead,” he said. “It helps us out a lot, just to play our game. It relieves the nerves a little bit. That’s what we did tonight and I thought we played very well defensively, and just got it out of our zone when we needed to.”

Cornell quickly added to its lead in the second. Freshman Mitch Carefoot muscled the puck into Yale’s end within the first minute of play, passing off to senior captain Ryan Vesce. Vesce gave it right back, catching Yale’s Gartner off guard and on the left side of the net. Carefoot took a quick shot from the top of the crease, finding the back of the net for the first goal of his career.

The Red scored its fourth goal two and a half minutes later on the power play. It was the first of two goals the Cornell power play unit would score on the night.

“I thought we played a solid game on the road,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “This is a tough place to play and always has been for us.”

McKee alleviated some of the pressure, making 24 saves in the contest.

“I thought he was very solid for the most part of the night,” said Schafer. “You can’t fault him on either one of the goals … it was a great win for him on the road.”

“He just came up big when he needed to,” said Wallace. “When he’s playing like that back there, it just gives us all confidence in him and we are just able to do our own jobs.”

McKee said the same of his teammates.

“The guys were amazing, they helped me out a lot. I faced less shots than I did in the last two games, a lot more puck recovery … we just had a really good overall game.”

Part of that solid play also included effective backchecking, something the team addressed earlier in the week.

“That’s something we talked about last week, we needed more backside pressure,” said Bitz. “The forwards had to come back harder and make a big play.”

From Wallace’s perspective, the team did just that.

“The backcheck, the guys were coming back really hard, and that allowed our defensemen to stay up.”

Wallace also noted the team’s strong forecheck, a trademark of Cornell hockey.

“The forecheck was great. The guys were going one after another in there, and just keeping the puck in there. That makes our job a lot easier when the puck’s not in our end.”

Schafer also noticed the improvement in play.

“Getting on the road can be a really good thing sometimes,” he said. “I was very happy with the way our guys were a better hockey team this Friday than last Friday.”

Getting on the road was not a good thing for the pep band, however. The band’s bus suffered mechanical problems towards the tail end of its trip to New Haven, causing the band to arrive late.

“We had to stop and it got fixed in Newburg, then we hit traffic,” said pep-band conductor Paul Husserl ’04. “We also contacted another bus company in case we needed another bus to use.”

Band or no band, Wallace and the team knew they had to get down to business.

“After last weekend, we just wanted to come in here and prove it to everybody and ourselves that we could do it, and we definitely did that tonight.”

Archived article by Matt Janiga