If the men’s hockey team could ask for one present this holiday season, it would be a homestand for the remainder of the year. After nine games this season, the Red has compiled a perfect 5-0 home record — a stark contrast from the 0-2-2 mark away from the ice at Lynah.
“At home, we pump ourselves up and feed off of each other’s energy,” rookie winger Raymond Sawada said. “We’re just looking to play our best and improve each weekend.”
The No. 12 Red hopes its luck at home continues tonight and tomorrow when the squad hosts Yale and Princeton, respectively. The last time Cornell faced two league opponents for a home weekend, it outscored Brown and Harvard by a combined 9-2. Furthermore, the Red has allowed an average of only 0.8 goals against at Lynah while tallying an uncanny 5.2 scores per game. If the averages hold up, the Red looks to be in good shape for a four-point weekend.
Cornell is also fortunate to be facing two teams that have struggled thus far in league play.
Yale (1-9-0, 1-7-0 ECACHL) notched its first win of the season just last weekend, exploding against travel partner Princeton with a 7-1 victory at Ingalls Rink in New Haven, Conn. The Tigers (4-5-1, 4-4-0) have experienced mild success under first-year head coach Guy Gadowsky, but have yet to face a ranked team this season. Both Princeton and Yale will face No. 13 Colgate this weekend as well.
Regardless of records, statistics, or other comparisons on paper, the Red is determined not to overlook or underestimate any opponent it faces.
“You can’t take any team for granted by their record,” senior defenseman Jeremy Downs said. “Any team in this league can beat any other team if someone doesn’t play their game.”
A key concentration for the Red this weekend will be maintaining stringent discipline on the ice. The Cornell penalty-killing unit has been tagged for five goals this season — four of them coming in road contests. While hardly the most porous unit in the league (the Red ranks fifth in the league while shorthanded, having killed 83.3 percent of penalties), head coach Mike Schafer ’86 and his team are quick to recognize the importance of effective special teams play. In practice, the squad has paid closer attention to limiting careless penalties after racking up 14 minutes versus Canisius last Saturday.
“We came off a pretty good weekends against Canisius,” Downs said. “Now we’ve been focusing on tightening up our systems, improving the forecheck and playing a disciplined game.”
Typical of Cornell squads from bygones past, the 2004-05 incarnation has developed a reputation for an unforgiving defense. The Red currently leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing a miniscule average of 1.22 goals per game thus far. Much of the defensive credit belongs to sophomore goaltender David McKee, who has posted a .945 save percentage — third nationally — in addition to recording two shutouts. Cornell has not allowed more than two goals in a single game this season, the longest streak of its kind since 1965-66.
The Bulldogs hope to bite through the Red’s defensive skin tonight when the puck drops at 7 p.m. Yale is led in scoring by sophomore Brad Hills, a feisty forward out of Olds, Alberta who has picked up ten points this season (two goals, eight assists). Junior Christian Jensen has lit the lamp for Yale on six occasions, including two against the Tigers last weekend. The Bulldogs are still looking for a definite answer in goal, but the recent play of sophomore Matt Modelski (1-1, 4.35 GAA) against the Tigers (a career-high 36 saves) may have earned him the starting job against Cornell tonight.
Princeton’s offense is anchored by a trio of nationally-ranked snipers — forwards Dustin Sproat, Luc Paquin and Grant Goeckner-Zoeller all are averaging 1.50 points per game.
Paquin, a defenseman, is tops in the country in assists with an average of 1.33 per game.
Goeckner-Zoeller, a bruising lefty out of Los Angeles, Calif., will put pressure on the Red’s defenseman attempting to break out of the zone.
However, for the Red, as always, no special attention will be given to the players on the other end of the ice.
“If we play our best, it doesn’t matter who we play,” Sawada said. “We’re going to beat them.”
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor