November 1, 2006

Nash Emerges for M. Hockey

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A cursory glance at the NCAA men’s hockey statistics reveals some interesting findings. First, a Cornell player is tied for fourth in the nation in points per game. In light of the Red’s history of prolific goal scorers, that fact is not altogether surprising.
The shock occurs when one observes this player’s position and class year. He is not only a defenseman – who leads all defenseman nationally in scoring — but a rookie as well.
First-year defenseman Brendon Nash has a goal and three assists in his first two games with the Red. For the defenseman, this alacritous rise to prominence was not entirely expected.
[img_assist|nid=19403|title=m hockey|desc=Freshman Brendon Nash looks to pass the puck during the Red’s 5-3 victory over RIT last Saturday.|link=popup|align=right|width=100|height=100]
“I didn’t think it was going to be easy,” Nash said. “I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. Coming up with four points in one weekend is kind of unbelievable.”
Perhaps, but Nash is not a stranger to the score sheet. A native of Kamloops, B.C., Nash honed his offensive skills with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League last season before arriving in Ithaca this year. In 63 games with the Silverbacks, Nash scored nine goals and collected 39 assists in a campaign that led him to an appearance in the 2006 BCHL All-Star Game.
Yet, although Nash’s transition has been seamless thus far, the difference between junior hockey and college hockey cannot be downplayed.
“It’s definitely a faster game,” Nash said. “Everyone is so smart [at the NCAA level]. You can’t make any mistakes.”
Fortunately for the 6-3, 205-pound defenseman, opponents still have plenty to learn when it comes to containing the offensive-minded Nash.
“He has great poise with the puck and great hockey sense,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “As [a player] ages in college you need to be confident in your skills, and he is.”
Nash likens himself to Wade Redden of the Ottawa Senators in terms of playing style — physical, consistent and not afraid to rush the puck up ice if an opportunity presents itself. Against RIT last Saturday, Nash’s first goal in a Cornell uniform occurred when he streaked into the Tigers’ zone and fired a pass into the crease toward classmate Blake Gallagher. The pass deflected off an RIT defenseman and into the net, giving Nash credit for the goal.
Rookie luck? Maybe, but Nash is not one to complain.
“I was getting lucky with a few chances,” he said. “I feel like I am more of a playmaker. I’m not really a pure goal scorer.”
An Applied Economics and Management major, Nash is also adjusting to life in college like every other freshman. Although a spot on a National Hockey League roster is his ultimate aspiration, Nash also envisions himself owning his own sporting goods business one day. For him, the Cornell experience — both on and off the ice — will provide unparalleled preparation for both prospective careers.
“It’s great being a Cornell student,” he said. “[Cornell] has the best combination of academic and athletic possibilities. No other top-20 team has that.”
Like many Cornell students — particularly those on the hockey team — Nash expects the No. 12 Red (2-0-0) to compete for the ECACHL championship this season and eventually earn a berth to the NCAA tournament. What is unclear, however, is how long he will be able to keep pace in the race for the national scoring title.
“I would love to have a crystal ball [with Nash] and predict what is going to happen in the rest of the year,” Schafer said.
Nash hopes to continue his scoring streak this weekend when the Red travels to Brown and Yale for its first league contests of the season.