November 2, 2007

Men’s Hockey Relies on Youth Movement

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In the 1988 film Young Guns, a group of young ruffian gunmen in the old west become deputized in order to fight injustice and corruption. While brandishing sticks instead of rifles, the men’s hockey team can find solace in a similar youth movement. 16 of the 25 players currently on the roster are either freshmen or sophomores.
The transition started at the beginning of last season, as a bumper crop of freshmen played crucial roles throughout the 2006 season. Colin Greening, for example, led the squad in goals last year with 11.
Helping Greening at forward were Blake Gallagher, who notched 15 assists and Joe Scali, who played an important role on the penalty kill even though he only saw action in 12 games. Brendon Nash and Justin Krueger helped to anchor the defense and Ben Scrivens finished the year with three wins, a 2.30 goals against average and a .911 save percentage while splitting time in goal with junior Troy Davenport. The two have also split time so far this season.
“Coming from last year, we had eight freshmen coming in last year and we were thrown into the thick of things pretty quick,” Greening said. “That’s something that coach preaches. For a team to be successful, you have to have your seniors to freshmen all on the same page, all firing within the system, knowing what their roles are.”
This year, the sophomores are still young guns, but will be expected to play even bigger roles. This time, though, there is another strong freshman class coming in to help. The current freshmen are led by Riley Nash, Brendon’s younger brother, who was a first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2007 NHL Draft. He was only the second player in school history to be drafted in the first round, joining former defenseman Sasha Pokoluk ’08. So far this year, Nash has been centering a line with Greening and co-captain Raymond Sawada.
“From the time the freshmen stepped on the ice, we’ve all had that great feeling of ‘this is something special coming up,’” said senior co-captain Raymond Sawada.
Joining the younger Nash in the rookie class is a litany of players with sibling connections to Cornell, including twins Mike and Joe Devin. The twins have already gotten their names onto the stat-sheet, as Joe scored his first career regular-season goal and Mike notched an assist in last weekend’s season-opening 4-1 loss to RIT. Fellow freshman Patrick Kennedy also joins his older brother, junior Michael Kennedy, on the squad. The two Kennedys have even been playing on the same line so far, along with junior Evan Barlow. In addition, Jacob Johnston has two sisters currently playing for the women’s hockey team.
“The talent of the freshmen comes in different shapes and forms,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
Continuing on the theme of players with connections to the Red, Jordan Berk and Tyler Roeszler both had fathers who played for Cornell. Rounding out the class is Dan Nicholls, who has no school connection, but has already established his physical presence on the squad.
“We have a large freshmen class,” Nicholls said. “We have eight freshmen, which is going to be great down the road. … As far as roles go, there is a good spread. We have three defensemen, five forwards this year.”