October 26, 2007

M. Icers Start Season at RIT

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The last time that RIT played at Blue Cross Arena was Oct. 25, 1986, which also happens to be the same exact day that Boston’s Bill Buckner famously let the ball roll through his legs during the 1986 World Series against the Mets. With the Red Sox back in the Fall Classic, it’s only appropriate that RIT play again at the arena, as it faces off tomorrow night against the men’s hockey team in Cornell’s first regular-season contest of the year. The Blue Cross Arena, which holds over 11,000 people, is the normal home of the Rochester Americans, the AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres.
“Obviously it’s an American League rink; I think the lines are a little bit different,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Honestly, we have a couple of [games in large arenas] this year. Our guys are used to playing in Florida, it’s a 9,000 seat [arena]. … The guys get used to it pretty quick.”
The Red’s regular-season debut comes after two exhibition contests last weekend. On Friday, Cornell skated to a 0-0 tie a 0-0 tie with Trois-Rivieres. Sunday, the team bounced back to beat the University of Ottawa, 8-0. Even though the games were exhibitions, it was the first time the Red has recorded back-to-back shutouts since 2005, and the first time in the same weekend since 1967.
“When you play, you want to play for keeps, and I thought we did that this weekend,” Schafer said. “It’s a poor showing for your team if they go on the ice and consider it an exhibition and they didn’t go fully. … If they went 90 percent, I would have been extremely disappointed. I didn’t see that, and I think that’s a good characteristic we have this year, is that back-to-back exhibition games and there was no letdown from one night to the next.”
Despite not playing a single regular-season game yet, Cornell is still ranked No. 18 in the USCHO/CSTV poll. Out of the 20 teams ranked in the poll, the Red is the only team that has not played a game yet. In fact, RIT (0-2) has already played two games, losing 6-5 to Colgate and 5-3 to Bowling Green.
“It’s nice to have a couple of games under your belt, but it’s something we can’t worry about,” said senior co-captain Topher Scott. “It’s something [RIT has] done, and it’s not under our control, so you just have to go out there and do what we know how to do, come out and play our game, which is all we have to worry about.”
Despite not allowing a goal last weekend, Cornell’s defense will nonetheless have to deal with RIT’s balanced offense attack, led by seniors Matt Smith and Simon Lambert, who tied for the team lead in goals last year with 17. Lambert was also second on the squad last year with 25 assists and 42 points.
So far this year, Smith and Lambert both have three points apiece in the two games, tying them for the team lead with sophomore Al Mazur. Mazur, a defenseman, was named the Atlantic Hockey Association Rookie of the Year last season after notching 30 points.
In goal, sophomore Louis Menard returns for his second season after being named the Atlantic Hockey Association Regular Season Goaltender of the Year as a freshman. So far this season, the sophomore has recorded a 5.62 goals against average and a .845 save percentage.
Cornell will try to repeat the outcome of last year’s contest with RIT, when the Red won, 5-3, helped by Scott’s three-point performance. The Red’s offense caused the Tigers to pull Menard in the third period after giving up the five goals.
“We played them last year and they gave us a good game, so we’ve got to build off last weekend and be even better and keep that same mindset of, you know, pounding the other team … and playing Cornell hockey,” Scott said.
Tomorrow’s game will also be the first opportunity for the eight freshmen on the squad to make their official debuts.
“The first regular season game should be unreal,” said freshman Dan Nichols. “We got a taste of what it’s like to play at Lynah Rink, which was nice, this past weekend, and hopefully we’ll carry it into this weekend. I’m not sure what it’s going to be like playing on the road, playing outside of Lynah, but I’m definitely excited for it.”