One week ago, the men’s hockey team (2-1-1, 2-0-0 ECAC) embarked on its first road trip of the season after an opening-week performance that fell far below expectations. Thirteen goals and two conference victories later, the Red will again open a road weekend tonight against Clarkson before visiting St. Lawrence tomorrow. This weekend, though, the pressure of not yet having a conference win is off.
However, even though the Red has that monkey off its back, this weekend’s series will be far from a cakewalk.
“I expect obviously a hard fought game to be fought by both teams. That’s always one of the toughest trips in the league to go up there and win,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Our expectations are the same. We want to go up there and try to win hockey games.”
Last week, senior captain Ryan Vesce had a career weekend for the Red, tallying nine total points. Seven of the nine came last Saturday night at Princeton, as the Red pounded the Tigers, 7-0. The forward’s seven-point game was the first by a Cornell player in 25 years and was one point short of the school record. For his performance, Vesce was named the ECAC Player of the Week, as well as the U.S. College Hockey Online Offensive Player of the Week.
“You can’t predict what’s going to happen in the offensive game. You can’t go in expecting seven goals,” Schafer said. “The whole objective of the weekend is to win, and how we do that doesn’t make a difference.”
Vesce and linemate sophomore Matt Moulson have 11 points a piece on the season, for a 2.75 points per game average, a mark that is tops in the nation. In addition, the third member of the line, freshman Byron Bitz has seven overall points to comprise one of the most offensively prolific lines in the NCAA.
Clarkson (4-2-2, 1-1-0) enters the game following a split of its first conference games of the season last weekend. After falling to Rensselaer, 4-3, on Friday, the Golden Knights came back to beat Union, 4-1, on Saturday. Leading the way for Clarkson was Chris Blight, who scored three goals on the weekend, including two on Saturday night.
Saturday’s win was the first ECAC win for new head coach George Roll, who was hired by Clarkson after six seasons at Oswego.
“I know the reputation George has is his teams play a very up-tempo game and they work very hard,” Schafer said. “They’re very disciplined, and those are pretty good characteristics to bring to a program.”
Tomorrow night, the Red will continue its trip in Canton, N.Y. with a 7 p.m. game against St. Lawrence (2-6-3, 1-1-0). Cornell has had little difficulty with the Saints of late, going 3-0-1 over the past two seasons.
St. Lawrence also split its weekend series with Union and Rensselaer a week ago. After dropping a tight 4-3 contest to Union Friday, the Saints had little trouble with the Engineers the next night, outskating the Engineers, 4-0.
Despite a mediocre record, Schafer still anticipates a tough game from St. Lawrence.
“You can throw schedules out the window when they play at home. Last weekend, they shut out RPI, 4-0, at home. So things don’t get any easier after Friday night,” he said.
In the Saturday win, Tony Maci scored two goals to lead the Saints. Mike McKenna earned the shutout with 20 saves on the evening. T.J. Trevelyan scored two goals on the weekend and leads the team with 11 points on the season.
Schafer looks at the weekend as another chance for the Red to come together as a cohesive unit before returning home for five straight games beginning next week.
“It was a good opportunity for those guys to get out there and play a game with their teammates on the road, without our crowd, and just concentrate on hockey and not get caught up with the fans here,” he said. “Every practice, these guys feel a little more comfortable, more in tune with things, with what’s going on. Going on the road does nothing but bring the team closer together.”
Archived article by Owen Bochner