After the Cornell men’s hockey team lost in the national semifinal game in 2003, many people surrounding the program grew concerned about the future of the program. Because after the program’s first Frozen Four appearance in 23 years and the winningest season in the history of the program, the Red saw seven players graduate and an eighth leave the school for the NHL.
Red fans’ concerns were assuaged in the fall of 2003, as the men’s hockey Class of 2007 admirably stepped up to fill the void. Seven players will comprise the Red Class of 2008, a group that includes four forwards, two defensemen and a goalie.
Headlining the class is Ray Sawada, a forward hailing from Richmond, B.C. The Coastal Conference Rookie of the Year for the Nanaimo Clippers, Sawada was selected in the second round (52nd overall pick) by the Dallas Stars in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Last season, he recorded 26 goals and 48 assists in 79 games to help guide the Clippers to the Doyle Cup title, emblematic of the league championship.
“Ray Sawada, for the Cornell fans, I think is very much like Greg Hornby [’04] as far as his physical approach to the game, and obviously rated very high in the draft, so he combines the physical and mental approach that Greg had,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86, who made Sawada and classmate Tyler Mugford the sixth and seventh Nanaimo players to join the Red in the past five years.
Mugford, a 6-0, 190-pound forward from Prince Albert, Sask. recorded 20 goals and 15 assists in 85 games for the Clippers. Topher Scott and Matt McKeown are the other forwards joining the Red.
“I think that Topher Scott is a kid who’s small by stature, but you see the awards that he’s won on leadership and heart,” Schafer said.
Scott, a native of Buffalo Grove, Ill., was the team captain and most valuable player for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League. He had 21 goals and 31 assists in 65 games.
McKeown has 26 points in 42 games for the Niagara Falls Canucks of the Golden Horseshoe Junior B Hockey League. He also had two goals in the playoffs for his team, which won the regular season title. The native of Niagara Falls, Ont., will add depth to the Red’s talented bench.
In goal, Cornell will bring in one of the top goaltenders in the USHL last season. Troy Davenport of Inver Grove Heights, Minn. was twice named USHL Defensive Player of the Week for the Green Bay Gamblers. He had a 2.72 goals against average, a .913 save percentage, and two shutouts in 49 games.
“He’s very solid technically, carried the whole load for their hockey team the whole season. He was on a young hockey team in probably one of the best leagues in junior hockey. He was just someone that we think can be successful in college hockey,” Schafer said. “He’ll come in and he’ll compete … otherwise we wouldn’t have brought him here.”
Davenport will challenge sophomore David McKee for the starting nod between the pipes.
On the blue line, the Red welcomes Doug Krantz and Sasha Grenier-Pokulok. Krantz, who hails from Marysville, B.C., is the third member of the Class of 2008 to play in the BCHL last year. He had 12 goals and 35 assists in 70 games, serving as the assistant captain for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
Grenier-Pokulok, a native of Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que., played 39 games for the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, recording 23 points. He adds significant size to the Red, standing at 6-5 and 200 pounds.
“The two defensemen who come in have both run their power plays on their respective teams. They both obviously have real good size,” Schafer said. “They’re both guys that are probably more attuned to the offensive side of the game rather than just being big, physical, defensive defensemen. They’re guys who both have the ability to get the puck to the net. That’s one of the things that our defense needed to improve on here.”
Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Sports Editor