November 26, 2007

Shots differential hurts men’s hockey, shows defensive mistakes

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NEW YORK — For one moment Saturday night, the scoreboard said it all. Less than halfway through the first period in the men’s hockey team’s contest with Boston University at Madison Square Garden, the shot counter read “B.U. 8, Cornell 0.” While Cornell would eventually put up 28 shots on goal, this early statistic was emblematic of the Red’s defensive struggles. The defense, which had been solid in recent weeks, found difficulty in limiting B.U.’s offense, leading to the final outcome, 6-3, for the Terriers.
“ Ithought [the defense] struggled,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86 “The defense, just like the forwards, got caught up ice. They didn’t make adjustments to what Boston University was doing early on in the game and got themselves out of position and got themselves watching the puck. So they didn’t struggle mightily, but early on, when you give up that many shots, you know something is wrong.”
Overall on the night, B.U. outshot Cornell, 42-28, and the difference was even more pronounced in the first and second periods, in which the Terriers peppered sophomore Ben Scrivens with shots. In these two periods, B.U. held the edge, 32-18. This ability to get off such a high number of shots on goal enabled the Terriers to take a 4-1 lead into the second intermission.
“I think we were jacked up to play and we had our legs,” said B.U. head coach Jack Parker. “I think Cornell was coming at us with a forecheck that helped us. We stretched them pretty good. We had some long passes and we got them caught in the other zone. We were making some plays to center ice. It wasn’t just the dump then go forecheck them. I think a lot of it had to do with that.”
In recent games, even when Cornell gave up a high number of shots, the defense forced most of those shots to come from the outside. On Saturday night, though, B.U. was able to get numerous good looks at the goal.
On B.U.’s first tally, for example, freshman Nick Bonino was behind the net, and slipped past senior co-alternate captain Doug Krantz and wrapped around the goal in order to get a clear passing lane. Fellow freshman Joe Pereira was able to get past the Cornell defense and found his way right in front of the net, where he received the pass from Bonino and was able to put the puck past Scrivens..
The Cornell defense corps was also hurt by the absence of sophomore Justin Krueger, who was not able to play due to a game disqualification he received at the end of last weekend’s win at Dartmouth. Kruger, along with classmate Joe Scali, got into a skirmish with two Green players, causing the game disqualification for Saturday’s contest. The Red missed Krueger, who has been solid all season.
“It’s really unfortunate that [Kruger] didn’t play tonight,” Schafer said. “He has been probably one of our best defensemen. Not having him, Joe Scali and [senior] Chris Fontas, the three of those guys have been pretty regulars for us, and we took a hit. But if those guys had showed up, I don’t think it would have made a difference if they were playing or not. It’s a team game and you have to overcome the injuries and suspensions that we had coming into tonight’s game.”
One piece of good news for Cornell’s blue-liners was the return of sophomore Brendon Nash. Nash, who was named to the preseason All-ECAC Hockey team, had been sidelined all year with an injury. Nash, at 6-3 and 205 pounds, is a hulking presence and a major boost to the unit. The blue-liner made an immediate impact last night, and even recorded his first point on the year, assisting on junior Jared Seminoff’s third-period goal.
“I have been practicing for a while,” Nash said. “It’s been comfortable in practice, but playing especially here is definitely a different experience. I think game by game, it will get better.”
“First game after a serious injury, coming back in this type of environment, it’s nervous enough, let alone getting over what he went through mentally, and I think he cleared a big mental hurdle tonight,” Schafer said. “He had a big impact on the game. I thought it was a good first game for him.”