March 17, 2006
With each Cornell player boasting a playoff beard on their chins, last year’s kings of the ECACHL hope their reign and facial hair will continue to grow after this week, as the Red looks to defend its conference title in Albany, N.Y., starting tonight at the Pepsi Arena. Its first opponent comes in the form of No. 2 Colgate (20-11-6).
The Cornell-Colgate game will be the second of two semifinal games – with the first being No. 1 Dartmouth taking on No. 4 Harvard. Although it is by no means a surprise that the No. 3 Red finds itself in the Final Four of the league tourney, it had to survive the two longest games ever to be played at Lynah Rink last weekend, eventually sweeping No. 9 Clarkson in a pair of double-overtime contests last Friday and Saturday nights. Senior Matt Moulson, who was named to the All-ECACHL second team yesterday, scored his 17th goal of the season to cap an intense weekend.
“We know how difficult it is to get there, especially [since] the league has been the deepest and strongest as it has been for many years,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. “Our games against Clarkson demonstrated this – they played tremendous hockey over here in the last two games in our rink.”
Schafer and his squad were boosted by the return of junior defensemen Ryan O’Byrne, who was named to the third team all-league squad, and sophomores Sasha Pokulok and Doug Krantz, who were all out in previous weeks due to injury. For the first time in several games, the Red was not forced to put forwards on defense.
“Over the month and a half, we’ve been able to withstand a lot of adversity within our hockey team with injuries and getting guys back this [past] weekend was great,” Schafer said. “We know we need to be at full strength to be able to compete at Albany.”
The returning players also boosted the Red in other areas, including the penalty kill, which shut down all of Clarkson’s 15 power plays over the weekend, including a key five-minute major during the end of the first, and beginning of the second overtime where the Golden Knights also had a 5-on-3 advantage at one point. Cornell’s 88 percent success rate on the penalty kill now puts them tied for second nationally in that category.
“We’ve been doing a lot of research on video and focused on taking away from the advantages of [the other] team,” said senior forward Daniel Pegoraro. “Everyone is on board and everyone is really focusing in.”
Cornell (20-7-4) will need to be focused against Colgate, which is coming off a three-game home series against Quinnipiac. The Bobcats gave the Raiders a stern test from the get-go, taking Game 1 at Starr Rink, 3-0, before Colgate bounced back to take 5-3 and 4-0 decisions and book its third consecutive trip to Albany.
“We had a great battle with Quinnipiac,” said Colgate head coach Don Vaughan. “Obviously on Friday night, they took it to us pretty good and we ended up going three games against them. It was a great series and it was something that we expected – we didn’t think it would be anything other than that.”
Cornell swept the season series in early February against Colgate, but the Red proceeded to end its regular season with a 2-3-1 record, finishing a point behind co-champions Dartmouth and Colgate. Vaughan and Schafer both downplay the teams’ recent history and expect an intense battle tonight.
“I think when you get to this point in the season, I don’t think the guys are looking at it, ‘Who won what game and when it was during the season.’ You throw it out the window and you know it’s going to be a battle and that’s where your focus has to be,” Vaughan said.
The Cornell penalty kill will have to again be on form for the Red, as Colgate boasts some of the top forwards in the league. Kyle Wilson, who tallied a pair of goals during the Raiders’ 3-2 loss to the Red in Hamilton, N.Y., earlier this season, leads his team in points with 39 off 22 goals and 17 assists, while Tyler Burton, Marc Fulton, Jesse Winchester and Jon Smyth have combined for 57 goals and 81 assists this season. Mark Dekanich has arguably been the best netminder in the league, and has stopped 92.3 percent of shots faced – the highest in the ECACHL.
“I think we played some of our better hockey against Colgate,” Pegoraro said. “It will be a good challenge for us, they are gifted offensively, they roll with four strong lines and they have guys [we need] to key in on who will challenge us defensively.”
Vaughan indicated earlier this week that his team would be prepared to face the physical challenge that comes from playing a team like Cornell.
“Mike’s teams are very stingy defensively. You’re not going to get a whole lot of opportunities so you need to capitalize on your chances when you get them,” he said. “I think his teams are big and strong and they want to play in the offensive zone and when we played them this year, we were prepared to do that and I’m sure we’ll have to be prepared again to do that in this game.”
Because of its relatively strong postseason credentials in its PairWise ranking, Cornell, unlike Colgate or Dartmouth, does not necessarily need the automatic NCAA berth which comes with winning the ECACHL tournament to qualify. However, according to Schafer, this is a dangerous mindset to possess.
“You’re not sitting there saying, ‘Geez, if we win one, we’re going to clinch this thing
March 17, 2006
Spanish explorer Hernando de Sota came to the area now known as Bradenton, Fla., searching for El Dorado – the lost city of gold. The baseball team would settle for a couple of wins against quality competition during its seven-game Spring Break voyage.
With just six games under its belt this season, the Red (2-4) is looking forward to this trip as a chance to sort out some the remaining questions in its lineup and sharpen its skills.
“It’s very important to get in as many games as we can to answer some questions about the team, but even more importantly for the guys to get in their rhythm to get in their game mode as well,” said head coach Tom Ford.
Cornell will open its stay in Florida’s Manatee County with a doubleheader tomorrow, facing Eastern Kentucky in Game 1, and Bradley in Game 2. Tomorrow’s opener will be the first meeting between the Red and Eastern Kentucky (7-7), which is hitting .287 as a team while giving up on average 5.05 earned runs a game to opponents.
“They’re very athletic from what we understand and what I’ve followed in the past years,” Ford said. “We’ve never played them before, but I know they’re going to be very good.”
Bradley boasts a 6-7 record. The Braves’ batters have combined for a team average of .254 at the plate this year and opposing pitchers are holding Bradley to just 4.38 runs per game.
After its doubleheader, the Red will then square off against a Vermont team on Sunday, which returns 15 letter-winners from its 2005 squad, which went 29-19. The Catamounts finished second in the America East standings and conference championship, but are winless in their first six games with a team ERA of 9.29.
Cornell will close out the rest of its Spring Break with four games against two Big Ten opponents, playing Ohio State (6-4) on Monday and Tuesday and doing battle with Illinois (4-6) on Thursday and Friday. The Red faced both squads for the first time during last year’s Spring Break trip to Bradenton and was outscored 45-to-8 while dropping four games to the Buckeyes and Illini last spring.
“They’re both very good clubs, they have some very good arms on their pitching staff and guys that can swing it,” Ford said.
While Ford would love to come away from Spring Break with a winning record, his primary focus for the week will be answering his remaining lineup questions and improving the consistency of his team’s performance. Specifically, Ford hopes to have his starting rotation set by the time his team returns home from Bradenton – just in time for the Red’s April 1 Ivy opener against Dartmouth.
“We’re still at the point that we feel there are those six guys or so that are going to get the bulk of the innings, but we’re still not quite sure about where each will pitch,” Ford said.
“But we should know by the end of the spring trip. It’ll be a tough week for us but we’re certainly looking forward to it.”
Archived article by Paul Testa Sun Assistant Sports Editor