Currently sitting at fourth place in the ECACHL standings, the men’s hockey team will have a great opportunity to move up the ladder this weekend with two conference home games. The stakes will be high, as No. 17 St. Lawrence (14-10-2, 10-3-1 ECACHL) and No. 8 Clarkson (16-6-4, 8-3-3), currently in first and second place, respectively, in the ECACHL will do battle with the No. 20 Red (10-8-3, 6-5-3).
“We’ve got a chance with two teams coming in that are above us; it’s going to be huge,” said junior defenseman Doug Krantz, “Every year, right around this time, we really get our systems going. Once everyone gets it figured out, we can come in and play good Cornell hockey.”
The Red, who snapped a seven-game winless skid last weekend, will face two teams on winning streaks. Clarkson, who faces the Red today, is an impressive 10-1-3 in its last 14 games. St. Lawrence will come into Lynah on Saturday having capped off a stand out month in January, going 5-1-1. Cornell, however, relishes the chance to make a move up the standings.
[img_assist|nid=21094|title=Everyone loves Raymond|desc=Junior forward Raymond Sawada (12) makes a move towards the goal in Cornell’s 2-1 win over Colgate on Jan. 27. The Red will host Clarkson and St. Lawrence this weekend.|link=popup|align=right|width=100|height=72]
“It’s a great opportunity,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We got rewarded on Saturday night with a good win, and we will try to carry that into this weekend knowing that were facing two very good hockey teams.”
Clarkson will come into Ithaca as a familiar foe; the Red and the Knights have faced each other 14 times over the last four seasons, with Cornell holding a 9-3-2 edge in those games, including a 1-1 tie back on Jan. 13. This time, though, the Knights will be the favorite. With the nation’s eighth-ranked offense and junior goalie David Leggio playing solidly between the pipes, Clarkson is on the rise. Leggio owns a 2.10 goals against average and an equally impressive .931 save percentage. Head coach George Roll has his special teams playing at a high level, as his penalty kill ranks fourth in the nation, while his power play is 11th.
On offense, the Knights boast several dangerous forwards, including junior Nick Dodge, who leads the team with 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists), and was named the CSTV National Player of the Month for December. Backing up Dodge is a trio of fellow juniors in Steve Zalweski, Shawn Weller and David Cayer. The Knight’s deep offense features six skaters with over 20 points. To pull out the victory, the Red defense will have to neutralize Clarkson’s multiple threats.
“We know a lot of their tendencies,” Krantz said. “They have skilled forwards and they try and beat you one-on-one. They have certain plays that they like to run a lot down low, so basically we just have to come in focused mentally and hopefully shut them down.”
There will be no rest for the weary this weekend, as St. Lawrence, which currently stands just two points ahead of Clarkson, will pose another stern challenge, according to Schafer.
“Both teams play very well on special teams; both teams have great forwards in transition and get up the ice well,” Schafer said. “They both have some good defenseman that can move the puck well and help on the power play and jump into transition. So they have a lot of similarities in that sense.”
Senior Kyle Rank leads the team in scoring with 21 points, and should to be a major player tomorrow night. Back on Jan. 6, the Saints scored three goals in the first 15 minutes en route to a 4-1 win over the Red, with Rank tallying two goals and an assist in the win. Special teams figured prominently in that game, as the Red went 0-11 on the power play, while the Saints put home two power play markers to go along with a short-handed goal.
While St. Lawrence seems to have found its goalie in freshman Alex Petizian, who has posted solid numbers since earning the starting position — a 2.34 goals against average and a .917 save percentage — the Red would love for one of its two goalies to claim the starting spot.
“With [sophomore] Troy [Davenport] and [freshman] Ben [Scrivens], we want one of them to establish themselves as No. 1, and until that clearly happens we will see more of a rotation,” Schafer said. “They are both competing hard for it, and it will make them both better goaltenders.”
In the meantime, however, Cornell players are confident that whichever goalie is between the pipes, the team can pull out the victory.
“We’ve got two guys right now that can play at the top of NCAA hockey and one of those guys needs to step up and take that first spot,” Krantz said. “But as a defenseman, I’m confident with either Ben or Troy in net, knowing that they are going to give us a good solid effort and a chance to win.”
For the Red to come out of the weekend with a pair of victories, it will take solid goaltending and timely offense, something Cornell has been lacking at times this season. Junior assistant captain Topher Scott leads the team with 20 points, and is excited by the opportunity.
“We don’t see this as the end of a losing streak, we see it as the start of a winning streak,” Scott said. “We’ve got two great teams coming in this weekend, and we’re just excited to get out there and get the train rolling.”
Prior to the start of tomorrow night’s game, Cornell will honor Joe Nieuwendyk ’87, a gold-medal winner and potential NHL hall-of-famer, for his multitude of achievements throughout his career at Cornell and professionally. Schafer knows that Nieuwendyk — an all-American in 1986 and 1987 — holds a special place in Cornell athletic lore and has been an outstanding ambassador of the game and of Cornell.
“We will honor him for the outstanding career that he’s had. He could be the best athlete ever to come through for Cornell,” Schafer said.