As Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead once sang, “what a long, strange trip it’s been.” The No. 5 men’s hockey team knows exactly what he means.
After a pair of road wins against conference foes Yale and Brown, and a 4-3 come-from-behind win at Harvard, the squad thought it was sitting pretty. That would all change the next night in Hanover, N.H., however.
That night, the Red lost 6-1 to a previously winless Dartmouth team in a game that saw junior goaltender David McKee, a Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist last season, benched for the first time in his career after allowing five goals by the 4:09 mark in the second period.
“Every team has got to face adversity and a bump in the road, and a situation that embarrasses them and maybe changes them,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “And that, hopefully for us, was at Dartmouth.”
Now, the team is determined to prove that last Saturday’s game was a fluke as it plays host to Union tonight and Rensselaer tomorrow at Lynah Rink. The puck will drop for both games at 7 p.m. McKee agrees with the fact that last weekend was a speed bump for the Red, and is just happy that the team will finally be skating on its own ice again.
“It’s definitely good to be home,” he said. “It was a long trip.”
Now, Cornell will try to erase the memories of last Saturday, as its focus shifts to the Dutchmen and the Engineers, who despite slow starts, swept games at home last weekend against Princeton and Quinnipiac.
“They’re two good teams. As you can see, even though Dartmouth was 0-4 [going into last Saturday’s game], they were a great team. You never really know what to expect out of a team in this league,” McKee said. “Every team is going to come in and play us their best game, so we are prepared and we’re going to be ready for them.”
Union started the season just 3-4-1, with its problems coming on the road, where the team is just 1-3-0. The Dutchmen’s four losses have come in pairs – on the road against Colorado College and Air Force by a combined 15-3 margin and in the team’s opening ECACHL weekend at St. Lawrence (6-2) and Clarkson (4-1).
However, the team has since regrouped, handing the Tigers a 6-2 thumping and shutting out Quinnipiac, 2-0.
The streak has been sparked in part by Josh Coyle and rookie Augie DiMarzo, as each tallied three points last weekend – Coyle on two goals and an assist and DiMarzo on a goal and two assists. Coyle leads the Dutchmen in points with 15 on seven goals and eight assists.
Union has also gotten quality play in net, as senior netminder Kris Mayotte stopped 28 shots in each game last weekend, recording his first shutout of the season.
The Engineers have mirrored the play of the Dutchmen in a sense, as they are just 1-3-1 away from home this season. However, their resume seems more impressive when taking into account a four-game winning streak, which included wins over Hockey East powers Boston University and Northeastern.
This past weekend, the team bounced back from a tie and a loss against Clarkson and St. Lawrence, respectively, in its first ECACHL weekend to defeat the Bobcats, 4-2, and the Tigers, 4-1.
Leading the way for Rensselaer in the two wins, not surprisingly, was its points leaders – forwards Kevin Croxton, who had a goal and two assists, Oren Eizenman, who notched a goal and three assists, and Jonathan Ornelas, who scored three goals.
“I expect [out of Union and Rensselaer] the same thing we’ve expected in the first four games,” Schafer said. “Teams that are desperate to win, and that want to win [are dangerous]. [After] giving up six goals [against Dartmouth, teams are sensing that] there’s blood in the water.”
Regardless of its opponents, though, Schafer noted that at this junction in the season, with six games under his team’s belt, including the brutal one against the Green, that the coaches have evaluated where the team is at and have made changes going into this weekend’s slate.
“There will be line changes and there will be guys out of the lineup,” he said. “There’s been a six-game segment right here and a lot of guys have had an opportunity to prove themselves, and some guys have played themselves into the lineup and some guys have played themselves out of the lineup. … There’s a certain level of performance that you’ve got to expect.”
Schafer even noted that the mainstays in the lineup need to step up their games.
“[Senior captain] Matt Moulson’s line [with junior] Byron Bitz [and sophomore] Ray Sawada haven’t gotten an even-strength goal. That’s unacceptable,” Schafer said. “There’s a difference between playing well and producing.”
Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Sports Editor