November 9, 2007

Men’s Hockey Travels To Battle Yale, Brown

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The men’s hockey team will delve into conference competition this weekend without the safety of Lynah Rink, as the Red will travel to face Yale (1-1-2, 0-0-2 ECAC Hockey) tonight and Brown (0-1-2, 0-0-2) tomorrow night. Last weekend, Yale tied with Rensselaer on Friday night, 1-1, and Union on Saturday, 3-3, while Brown skated to a 2-2 standstill against Union on Friday and Rensselaer on Saturday. All four games went to overtime.
Cornell, however, is not interested in a tie or even a split. After losing to Princeton last Friday, 3-2, before topping Quinnipiac, 5-3, in an electric vengeance match on Saturday, the Red is looking for a sweep.
“[We understand] that on the road you’ve got to be more patient,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86, “but going down there, our expectation is not to go out and win and tie but to go out and win both games. With these guys and youth, to come out and see the split on the weekend, a few people might say it was a good rally, but you know what, we lost to Princeton who hadn’t beat us here in 14, 15 years. So our expectations are pretty lofty and pretty high, and the guys are realizing that. They realize that when we go on the road, it’s not to go down and get a win and a tie and split. We have to go back on the road now, and if we want to get ourselves above .500 in the league we need to go 2-0.”
One of the reasons for the Red’s struggles has been penalties. Senior co-captain Raymond Sawada described the Red’s continuing emphasis on cutting down unnecessary penalties.
“We’re really focusing on the discipline,” Sawada said. “If there’s any hooking or slashing or any other types of penalties, we’re doing pushups and getting called out for it. … [The key is] for us to come prepared and have the mindset that we’re going to keep doing things that have been working for us and not play down to their level.”
“It’s something I talked to our team about,” Schafer said. “I don’t expect them to have full discipline at the start of the year, but I do expect them as they play it on the edge, which I want them to play on the edge, to learn how to control that and never go over the edge. There’s got to be progression. … They also got a great lesson on how close we came to giving that game away on Saturday,” Schafer said. “We worked extremely hard to put ourselves in a position [to win], and we had to work extremely hard to persevere and get that win. And now, going on the road, it becomes even more important that we’re very, very disciplined, that we don’t give up opportunities and take away momentum.”
On the other hand, the Red’s power play took the spotlight on Saturday. Cornell’s only two power-play goals on 16 opportunities this season came against Quinnipiac. According to Schafer, the power-­play unit began to show chemistry.
Sawada pointed out patience as the key to the Red’s increased efficiency last weekend. The captain described freshman defenseman Mike Devin as a good example of that approach. The ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week lit up the scoreboard for two goals against Quinnipiac, one of which was on the power play.
“Right now, he’s just doing a great job of keeping it simple,” Sawada said. “If he has the shot, he’s letting it rip at the net. Obviously, it’s showing by his two goals that he had this past weekend. Keeping it simple is really huge on the power play. You don’t need to force anything, and that’s what was really working this past weekend.”
The Red’s power play is coming to life at just the right time, as the team will face tough defenses in this weekend’s opposition. Both Yale and Brown boast premier penalty kill units, shutting down 18-of-19 and 15-of-16 of opponents’ opportunities on the power play, respectively. Both teams also have a solid sophomore netminder as a last line of defense. Yale’s Billy Blase has a .956 save percentage and 1.14 goals against average on the season, with Brown’s Dan Rosen not far behind at .933 and 1.89.
Along with his twin brother Mike, freshman forward Joe Devin is looking forward to the weekend road trip for another reason.
“[It’s] kind of towards our neck of the woods a little bit,” Devin said. “Brown’s only 45 minutes from our house, and Yale’s only two [or] two and a half hours, I think. So there’s going to be quite a few relatives at those games, and I’m really excited. The whole team’s really pumped, especially after the big win Saturday.”