February 27, 2004

Destiny In Their Own Hands

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As per usual, the ECAC standings have come down to the final weekend of the season. With just five points separating first place from fifth, this weekend’s action will largely determine the conference tournament seedings and the all-important first-round byes.

“Obviously you want home ice and a first round bye. From the start of the year, you want to be in that group of the top four,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. “With a lot of the guys we have banged up, it is a great opportunity for us to catch a little breather. We know the advantage from that from the previous year — being fresh going into the playoff run.”

For Cornell (13-8-6, 11-6-3 ECAC), the equation is actually quite simple. If the team can earn three points against St. Lawrence tonight and Clarkson tomorrow, it guarantees itself one of the top four seeds and a first-round bye. The Red currently sits tied for third with Dartmouth at 25 points Otherwise, its fate will lie in the unsteady hands of the hockey gods.

“They are very similar in a lot of different ways,” Schafer said of this weekend’s opponents. “It’s made more of a difference on how we come prepared and how we fight for loose pucks. The real key to winning is how much passion and desire we put into these games in order to win them, and in order to gain that bye.”

St. Lawrence (11-17-6, 7-10-3 ECAC) ranks eighth in the ECAC with 17 points, and is coming off one of its most impressive weekends of the season. Shutting out second-place Brown 4-0 last Friday and tying sixth-place Harvard 3-3 the following night, the Saints have certainly gained momentum heading into the playoffs.

On offense, the Saints are led by senior Rich Peverley and sophomore T.J. Trevelyan. Peverley’s 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in 34 games are a team-best and good for 11th in the ECAC. However, it is Trevelyan that provides the most firepower, having scored 21 goals in just 32 games this season. Trevelyan has particularly excelled on the power play, leading the conference with eight tallies on the man-advantage and topping the nation with 11 such scores overall.

After sharing time with classmate Kevin Ackley earlier in the season, junior goaltender Mike McKenna has claimed sole possession of the puck-stopping duties over the last month of play. McKenna is 5-5-3 in conference play with a 2.31 GAA and .917 save percentage. The somewhat streaky netminder has recently shown signs of greatness, stopping 59 of 62 shots faced last weekend.

Clarkson (12-15-5, 7-11-2 ECAC) is also coming off a weekend that saw it shock second-place Brown. However, the Knights weren’t able to fend off Harvard the night before, losing a closely matched game, 2-1.

The Golden Knights score just 2.45 goals per game (ninth in the ECAC) while allowing just under three goals to their opponents. One number which has hurt Clarkson all season is its 18.80 penalty minutes per game average. With almost an entire period of play lost in penalty kill situations each game, sophomore netminder Dustin Traylen has often been asked to bend over backwards for his team.

Junior Mac Faulkner leads the Golden Knights with 33 points (11 goals, 22 assists) in 31 games, while classmate Chris Blight boasts a team-best 14 goals. Unfortunately for Clarkson, neither has been able to show particularly well in conference play.

Cornell split last weekend, beating RPI 2-1 in a highly anticipated match-up on Friday and losing a disappointing game against Union 3-0 Saturday. The letdown against Union was one with which Schafer’s team has become all too familiar. However, the implications of this weekend’s action demand that the Red show up against its opponents.

“After the loss last weekend, we have to get back to playing our own game,” said senior assistant captain Ben Wallace. “I overheard Ryan saying something about the power play, and that’s definitely a key. You’ve got to start producing and continue to kill penalties. We’ve got to focus more on when we’re on special teams.”

Cornell has battled its way to the nation’s third-best defensive mark at 1.81 goals allowed per game. It has also performed spectacularly on the penalty kill, fighting off 88.5 percent of its opponents’ chances, fourth-best nationally.

Cornell freshman goaltender David McKee has also been impressive in net, posting the nation’s fourth-best GAA (1.72), the seventh-best save percentage (.924), and is tied for second with five shutouts.

Archived article by Scott Jones