February 15, 2007

Freshmen Key to M. Icers’ Success

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After blowing a 3-1 lead to Union on Friday night, the men’s hockey team knew it had to respond. This was a road weekend against two teams in the bottom half of the ECACAHL standings, and coming back with a win on Saturday against Rensselaer was crucial. It seemed that no one knew this more than the freshmen class. The rookies led the way in a 6-1 blowout victory, accounting for four of the team’s goals and six assists.
[img_assist|nid=21412|title=Triple deke.|desc=Freshman forward Tony Romano (8) looks to get past a defender in the Red’s 6-1 victory over Rensselaer last Saturday. Romano is second on the Red in points (19) and tied for first in goals (nine).|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=59]
Freshman Blake Gallagher was impressive in the win, tallying three assists, while classmate Colin Greening paced the Red in the win, putting up two goals and an assist. On a night where anything less than a win would have been a huge disappointment, it was the freshmen who stepped up. Indeed, the class of 2010 has put up numbers not normally associated with freshmen. This year’s freshmen have accounted for 34 percent of the team’s goals and 32 percent of the points, both of which are higher than any other class.

“We have been very happy with them. They aren’t really freshmen anymore; they’ve been through a lot and have really hit their stride in the second half,” said assistant coach Scott Garrow.

Leading the diaper-dandies has been Tony Romano, a sixth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2006, who is currently second on the team in points (19) and tied for first in goals (nine). Not the biggest of players at 5-10, it isn’t too hard to draw a comparison between Romano and current Devils’ superstars Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez, who are also both under six feet. Like the two Devils, Romano is American-born, possessing speed and play-making ability. Romano has dazzled the Lynah Faithful with his talents, demanding respect from opposing defenses.

“We knew that he was gifted player offensively, but what has been most impressive is his willingness to learn,” Garrow said. “He is much improved on defense and away from the puck.”

Romano, however, has not let the early success get to his head, and is focused on working hard and getting better day-by-day.

“I’m pretty happy so far, but I have to keep working and keep trying every game,” Romano said.

Greening, a seventh round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2005, and Gallagher have made significant contributions offensively for the Red this season, registering 14 points each on the season. Justin Milo and Joe Scali, also freshmen forwards, round out an impressive group.

“The forwards fit a little bit of a different mold than traditional Cornell forwards,” said fellow freshman Ben Scrivens, “They are faster, more agile and are very skilled with their hands, and so far they have been playing phenomenally. Gallagher has been a workhorse, and has been unbelievable on face-offs.”

Scrivens, who has split time in net with sophomore Troy Davenport, has had an notable rookie campaign and has come on particularly strong lately, posting a .921 save percentage and a blistering 1.97 goals against average over the last six games. Many believe that Scrivens is well on his way to earning the starting position, and his play certainly warrants a second look.

“He came in unsure of his spot on the team, which can be tough especially when your following someone like Dave [McKee ‘06],” Greening said, “[Sophomore] Troy [Davenport] has done a great job, and Ben is also a dependable goalie. He has really come a long way and has been working very hard, and it shows as he has been playing excellent hockey.”

On defense, freshmen Brendon Nash and Justin Krueger, a 7th round draft pick in 2006, have both been invaluable additions to the Red. Krueger has proven to be a versatile and skilled addition while at 6”3, Nash is a dominating presence and fits the traditional mold of the big, imposing Cornell defenseman.

“He is a really solid defenseman, but is also gifted offensively. He makes very good decisions with the puck, and knows when to jump into the play,” Romano said.

With such a talented group of players, the freshmen will be vital to the continued success of the Red.

“This is a really good group, and we’ve got three more years together. We have to keep building year to year, and hopefully we’ll have even more success in the future,” Scrivens said, “We have a solid group, but its not just us; the sophomores, juniors, seniors and coaching staff have done a great job and really helped us adjust.”

Scrivens pointed to the fact that he and his classmates aren’t just teammates, but are great friends off the ice as well. That can be crucial in making the transition to the college level, but the support of older teammates who have been there before is just as necessary.

“We have had to adapt to the speed of the game, because as much as you hear about it, you can’t really realize the difference until you step in and play. But, we have fed off the senior class and the upperclassmen for both on-ice and off-ice help. They’ve helped with showing us how to balance schoolwork and manage time,” Greening said, “Everyone has a learning curve, and some have adapted more and some less, but now we are all adapted to the system. We are still freshmen, but we aren’t new to the system.”