October 13, 2006

M. Hockey Plays Annual Game

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A week ago, the men’s hockey team was not sure where it would play its first home game of the 2006-07 season, let alone who would be the starting goaltender. Now — with the last-minute approval of the Ithaca Fire Department — it’s clear the Red will stage the Red-White game tonight in the newly renovated Lynah Rink. The only uncertainties that remain are those concerning the team itself.

No. 14 Cornell returns to the ice for its annual intersquad matchup tonight in the Red’s first official day of the season. Having lost a staggering total of 12 letter-winners from last year’s squad, the team opens this season with a few more roster questions than in years past.

Fortunately for head coach Mike Schafer ’86 and the rest of the coaching staff, the Red-White game is an opportunity to evaluate the cohesiveness of this season’s lineup.

“The Red-White game will be interesting to see where we stand and see what some guys have to offer,” Schafer said. “It’s exciting from the standpoint of seeing what we have and how we are going to use it.”

The last time the Red was in the news was after the mind-boggling finish to the 2006 NCAA quarterfinal against Wisconsin. The triple-overtime, 1-0 loss marked both the longest game in Cornell history and the final game for many of the Red’s most distinguished players. In the months following the defeat, goaltender David McKee ’07, forward Matt Moulson ’06 and defensemen Ryan O’Byrne ’07 and Sasha Pokulok ’08 all signed contracts with NHL franchises.

“With guys like Moulson, O’Byrne and McKee — you’re not going to replace them right away,” senior captain Byron Bitz said. “After losing those guys we just have to work that much harder.”

However, with every departure comes a new recruit, and Cornell fans will get their first glimpse of the Red’s freshman class at tonight’s game. Forwards Blake Gallagher, Colin Greening, Justin Milo, Tony Romano and Joe Scali join defensemen Justin Krueger and Brendon Nash as Cornell’s newest skaters. Goaltender Ben Scrivens is the final piece of a talented rookie corps.

At the same time, the freshmen of years past will be looking to step forward and assume leadership roles with the team. Seniors Mitch Carefoot, Mark McCutcheon, Dan Glover and Evan Salmela join Bitz as the elder statesmen in the Cornell locker room. Junior forward Topher Scott — who finished second on the team last season in points with 28 — was named the Red’s assistant captain.

For the battle-tested upperclassmen, the value of a live, officiated game is not to be understated.

“[The game] is one of the big things for us to kick the season off,” Carefoot said. “It’s a sanctioned event. We’ve been going at it for a while in the off-season, but with [referees] we will need to be a little more disciplined.”

Despite the ambiguities inherent in the opening of any new season, the expectations for Cornell remain the same. The Red has not been to the Frozen Four since 2003 — a lengthy drought by the standards in Ithaca.

“Our goals this year are the same as every year,” said junior Ray Sawada, who broke out last season with 20 points. “We’re looking to win the ECACs and go to the NCAAs.”

The march to St Louis begins, in many ways, tonight at Lynah. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m.