With just three weeks remaining in the regular season, the men’s hockey team is hoping to get momentum on its side heading into the ECACHL playoffs. This weekend’s opponents offer a chance for Cornell to find a winning spark, as the Red will face the two squads tied for last place in the league when it faces Union tonight and Rensselaer tomorrow evening.
“We’ve been through some tough times recently,” said assistant coach Scott Garrow. “But with four games on the road and two at home, it’s a chance for us to get on a roll going into the playoffs.”
[img_assist|nid=21250|title=Stare him down.|desc=Junior assistant captain Topher Scott focuses on scoring a goal in a 5-1 victory over then-No. 8 Clarkson last Friday. The Red will take on ECACHL foes Union and Rensselaer this weekend.|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=73]
Cornell (11-9-3, 7-6-3 ECACHL) established its first winning streak of 2007 last Friday night with a 5-1 win over then-No. 8 Clarkson before stumbling back into the loss column with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of St. Lawrence, the league’s first-place squad. Both Union (6-10-0, 13-13-2) and Rensselaer (4-8-4, 8-13-7) will be looking to bounce back after being swept by Harvard and Dartmouth at home last weekend.
“We’re excited to get back on the road,” said assistant captain Topher Scott. “Every point, every game right now is crucial.”
Despite its status at the low end of the league standings, Union has reached a new level of success for its program this year by scoring a school-record 39 power-play goals through 28 games. The 18.8 percent success rate outpaces the Red’s own, which is just 13.5 percent out of 192 power plays.
The two squads are more equally matched on the penalty kill, with Cornell holding opponents scoreless on 79.1 percent of man-advantage opportunities and Union notching an 80.8 percent success rate on the penalty kill.
“On the power play, we are continuing to search for the combinations that will produce goals,” Garrow said. “We get a lot of chances but now it’s time to really produce. At this point, it doesn’t matter what our power-play and penalty-killing percentage is. It’s time to get those both back on track to win hockey games.”
T.J. Fox paces the Dutchmen on the season with 12 goals and 20 assists, but was neutralized when Union suffered a 6-0 loss at Lynah Rink on Dec. 2. On the other end of the ice, junior Justin Mrazek has been the go-to player for Union, allowing 3.02 goals per game and earning a .905 save percentage.
Cornell will hope to play the role of spoiler tomorrow night, as it arrives at Rensselaer’s Houston Fieldhouse for the Engineers’ annual “White-Out” night. The two teams settled for a 3-3 tie in their last meeting on Dec. 1.
Jake Luthi will lead the attack against the Red, as he leads the home team with 23 points on the year. Two netminders have split time between the pipes for Rensselaer, with Jordan Alford edging teammate Mathias Lange’s statistics with a 2.99 goals against average and a .896 save percentage. Lange has accumulated a 3.37 goals against average and a .884 save percentage. The Engineers have been having their own troubles on special teams, scoring on just 29-of-188 power play chances and killing off 157-of-198 penalties.
“We had a very tight game with RPI [at Lynah] earlier,” Garrow said. “Whenever you go on the road in this league it can be tough to win hockey games.”
The Red is anxious for a chance to rebound from the loss to St. Lawrence and begin a push towards the playoffs.
“The effort is always there,” said freshman goalie Ben Scrivens. “If we keep going on the path we are on we will win more games than we lose the rest of the way.”
Scrivens played all 120 minutes in net last weekend for the Red, allowing three goals on 50 shots. Senior forward Mitch Carefoot was also a steady presence for Cornell, scoring a goal and adding three assists in the two games to extend his points streak to eight consecutive games.
From what he’s seen in practice this week, Garrow is confident the Red will be ready to play when the team takes the ice tonight.
“We’re really getting after it in practice consistently in the sense of really executing,” he said. “Hopefully that translates to the games.”