Coming off a disappointing split of a two-game series with upstart Wayne State (3-10, 1-1 CHA), No. 13 Cornell (7-3, 4-2 ECACHL) will look to make a statement with two home games against in-state ECACHL rivals. RPI (4-3-4, 1-0-1 ECACHL) and Union (5-3-2, 1-1 ECACHL) will come into town to face the Red on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“We have an opportunity here for a couple more victories. The league and everyone’s seasons are topsy-turvy. You got to get your victories when you can get them, and this is a huge weekend for us,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
[img_assist|nid=20378|title=Cherry picker|desc=Senior Mitch Carefoot (11) looks for the loose puck in front of Wayne State goaltender Will Hooper in the Red’s 5-4 loss on Nov. 25 inside Lynah Rink. (Rob Bonow / Sun Photo Editor)|link=popup|align=right|width=100|height=76]
Cornell, which is currently two points out of first in the ECACHL with two games in hand, will need to put forth a solid effort on special teams this weekend. Currently, the Red is ranked 35th in the nation on the power play, converting at a 16.1 percent clip. The penalty kill unit, however, has been sub-par, and is ranked just 55th in the country. Schafer and the Red know that solid special teams play will be crucial if the Red hope to pick up two wins this weekend.
“Discipline and special teams [are important]. I think our power play is starting to catch some steam, and I was happy with the fact that our penalty kill came back the next night and shut them out, 0-for-7, and didn’t give them very many chances,” Schafer said, “You’ve got to put some numbers up on the power play and shut teams out on the penalty kill. If you do that, you’re going to have some success.”
Indeed, after a disappointing 5-4 loss to Wayne State on Saturday, the Red held the Warriors to 0-for-7 on the power play and added a power play marker of its own en route to a 2-0 victory on Sunday.
As junior defenseman Doug Krantz noted, the Red may have taken the Warriors too lightly. However, the Red can ill afford to do so again against RPI. The Engineers, led by a dynamic, high-scoring trio of forwards, have already faced several prestigious opponents, including Ohio State, Denver and Boston University, and will not be intimidated by the Red.
RPI has played just two ECAC league games this year. Senior Oren Eizenmann, junior Jake Morisette and senior defenseman Dan Luthi have all registered more than ten points on the season, and the Red will be hard pressed to shut them down.
“They have a couple of big offensive guys up front, and they will work hard. Were going to have to get back to playing good, Cornell hockey,” Krantz said, “We need to be more physical, and get back to blocking shots on the penalty kill.”
Junior Topher Scott, who had two assists over the weekend, currently leads the Red in both assists (9) and points (12). In net, sophomore Taylor Davenport, who was pulled on Saturday after a shaky start, rebounded to record his first career shut-out in Sunday’s win. His performance will be a big determinant of the Red’s success this season.
Union comes into the weekend also having played just two ECAC league games thus far, and the Dutchmen know they are in for a challenge against the Red.
“We know coming into the weekend that we have to bring our ‘A’ game against that team,” said Union head coach Nate Leaman, “It’s going to be tough, and we are going to have to play with a lot of poise and composure.”
The Dutchmen are currently in the midst of a three game winning streak, including an upset of then #14 UMass. To keep the streak going into Saturday night’s showdown with the Red, Union will first have to get by Colgate on Friday night. Sophomore T.J. Fox, who played for the same Chicago-area junior team as Topher Scott, leads the Dutchmen with 14 points.
To beat Union, the Red will need to exploit its special-teams advantage; the Dutchmen come in converting a respectable 16.5 percent of its power plays, but are only killing penalties with an 80.7 percent success rate.
Either way, it will be critical for the Red to get off to a good start. Thus far in the season, Cornell is 3-0 when leading after one period, 6-0 when leading after two, and 0-3 when trailing after two.
“Obviously we’ve got to come out of here with two wins,” Krantz said, “This is a huge weekend. We want to head into the break with as much momentum as we can.”
Following this weekend’s games, the Red is off until December 29th, when they will be in Estero, FL for the Florida College Classic.