November 3, 2006

Power, Speed Pace Cornell on Offensive End

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Take one look at the men’s hockey team’s captains and you begin to understand the philosophy that head coach Mike Schafer ’86 is instilling his forwards. Senior captain Byron Bitz, standing at 6-4, 225 pounds, would seem like a physical bruiser. Junior assistant captain Topher Scott would seem like a speedy player at 5-6, 160 pounds. In reality, both players’ abilities have dimensions beyond the superficial.

“When I say blend of size and speed, I just don’t mean size that can’t skate and speed that can’t be physical,” Schafer said. “I think our players all represent that, that they have that kind of mentality that they can contribute in all different ways and they’re not one-dimensional.”

As a team known for its defensive prowess, the Red has a deep bench at forward and lots of versatility and talent to choose from. With the graduation of leading-scorer Matt Moulson ’06, and forwards Daniel Pegoraro ’06, Cam and Chris Abbott ’06, the Red lost 84 points of total offense, including 34 goals. But a younger group of players has stepped up in their place, including five rookies. Six of the Red’s forwards have been drafted by NHL squads, including first-year players Tony Romano (two assists) and starter Colin Greening (one assist).

“I think that forwards are a strength of our hockey team,” Schafer said. “There’s a lot of competition up front not just for playing time and for getting in the lineup, but for playing time on special teams — power play and penalty kill.”

Along with seniors Mark McCutcheon (one assist) and Mitch Carefoot (two goals), and junior Raymond Sawada, Bitz (two points) and Scott (three points) will lead the forwards unit this season. The captains, who were last season’s second- and third-leading scorers, respectively, have found their leadership roles as important as ever with the younger squad that includes a combined 17 freshman and sophomores, but only nine juniors and seniors total.

“I think we’re gelling. Our older guys and our younger guys, we’re really gelling real well as a team,” Scott said. “And, you know, we have confidence to put anybody out there in any different situation, so I think we’re coming along great.”

Rookies Blake Gallagher (one goal), Greening (one goal), Romano and Justin Milo (10 shots) have all logged significant minutes on the ice already. Rookie Joe Scali has been injured, but Schafer believes he will also make an impact when he returns.

“All of them have impressed me,” Schafer said. “Greening’s a big, strong and powerful player. But you know, he’s very skilled. Tony, Blake and Justin, they’ve got great offensive skills, but I think they’ve followed our leadership right off the bat as far as blocking shots and working hard.”

Sophomores Tyler Mugford and Michael Kennedy have scored one goal each already, and will also contribute to the deep rotation.