The men’s hockey team sent 2006 out with a bang by defeating No. 2 New Hampshire, 5-2, on Dec. 29. However, the Red has yet to make any noise in the New Year as the squad is still seeking its first win of 2007.
Cornell (9-6-2, 5-3-2 ECACHL) secured a three-point weekend with a 3-3 tie against Rensselear (6-10-6, 2-5-3) and a 6-0 win over Union (0-10-2, 3-7-0) on Dec. 1 and 2, respectively, before taking a break from league play over the holidays. At the Florida College Classic, junior Ray Sawada paced Cornell with two goals in the win against New Hampshire (17-3-1, 12-1-1 Hockey East) before the Red succumbed to a onslaught of three power-play goals in a 6-3 loss to Maine (14-5-2, 7-5-1 Hockey East) the following night.
The return to Upstate New York wasn’t a happy homecoming for the Red, as Sacred Heart secured a 2-1 victory over Cornell in Lynah Rink on Jan. 6.
“Sacred Heart is a good team and you can’t take anything away from them, but at the same time we have proved to ourselves how well we can and can’t play,” said junior assistant captain Topher Scott. “We just have to get back to work and go out there and execute.”
This inability to convert on scoring chances, particularly on power plays, has been a common theme for the Red in the past few weeks. In a 4-1 road loss to St. Lawrence (11-9-1, 7-2-0) last Friday, Cornell went 0-for-11 on the man advantage. The Saints are currently second in the ECACHL.
Senior Mitch Carefoot was the only player to find the back of the net for Cornell on the weekend, scoring the lone tally against the Saints and adding a power-play goal in a 1-1 tie with Clarkson (13-5-3, 5-2-2) the following night. Carefoot’s goal against the Knights snapped an 0-for-24 streak on power plays for the Red. The tie dropped the two teams into a three-way tie for fourth place in the league with Dartmouth (6-8-2, 5-5-2).
“Our power play has been better the last couple of weeks in practice,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We’ve been doing a really great job of moving the puck around and executing. … The guys are pretty focused, but we’re still in the process of getting our game to 100 percent.”
The Red’s penalty kill has also proven troublesome, as St. Lawrence jumped out to an early lead with two power-play goals in the first period of the matchup against Cornell. With a success rate of 78.4 percent on the penalty kill, the Red ranks last among ECACHL teams in this statistical category.
“We haven’t been executing on our power play and penalty kill,” Sawada said. “Once we get that back together we should hopefully be able to put some wins together.”
Another challenge for Cornell this past weekend was playing with a lineup that was in flux and lacking a number of familiar faces.
Due to what Schafer called a “coaches’ decision,” four freshmen were left in Ithaca while the team traveled north. Tony Romano, who is second on the team with 14 points this season, and classmates Blake Gallagher, Brendon Nash and Justin Milo all sat out the road trip. In addition, senior captain Byron Bitz missed the contest against Clarkson when he fell ill shortly before the game. But with everyone healthy and slated to play this weekend against Yale (8-7-2, 4-2-0) and Brown (7-7-3, 2-4-0), the Red hopes to turn its fortunes around and snap a four-game winless streak — the longest drought for a Cornell squad since a five-game skid during the 1999-2000 campaign.
“It was tough watching the game together and to see the team lose like that,” Gallagher said. “We’re excited to get back after missing [two games]. … We have an extra jump in our step.”
With a difficult road trip behind them, Schafer and his players are looking forward to returning home and taking on the second round of league action with a new focus.
“We have to come ready and focus,” Scott said. “We have to put every pass on the tape, make every shot a good one and just make sure that we are ready for every practice and every game.”