January 28, 2008

Greening's Two Goals Propel Cornell

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In the men’s hockey team’s home contest with Yale Saturday night, two scoreless periods sandwiched one explosive period when all four goals of the game were scored. Sophomore co-alternate captain Colin Greening notched two goals on the night to spark a Cornell comeback, though overtime wasn’t enough to break the 2-2 tie.
Cornell (9-7-3, 7-4-1 ECAC Hockey) is now tied with Quinnipiac for the No. 3 spot in the conference after getting two points on Friday and one from the tie with Yale (9-7-4, 5-4-4). Despite the rowdy crowd, this was the third consecutive 2-2 tie when Yale has visited Lynah.
“[It was] a step in the right direction for us as a hockey team,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We came back fairly focused [in the second game of the weekend] as a team and worked really hard in a tough game. The guys are a little disappointed in just getting a point, but it’s a step in the right direction for being a little more focused on Saturdays.”
The team wanted to stay focused after beating Brown, 4-1, the night before. Yale had a similar problem. The night before their meeting with the Red, the Bulldogs had thumped Colgate, 6-1. From the opening faceoff, Yale carried over that scoring-minded attitude to Saturday night, outshooting Cornell 10-6 in the first period and ending up with a 28-17 shot advantage.
“It doesn’t really change how you prepare for the game,” said sophomore defenseman Brendon Nash. “We don’t play the same as Colgate. We just try to stick to our gameplan, and we knew we could shut [Yale] down for sure, definitely not let in six goals. We knew we could take it to them [at] their end.”
A particular trio of Cornell forwards got the job done on offense Saturday night. The starting line of Greening, junior Evan Barlow and freshman Riley Nash were on the ice for all of the Red’s scoring Saturday night. Having Brendon Nash back in the starting lineup after missing last week’s games also made a difference, as the elder Nash brother assisted on both goals.
“I thought Brendon played his best two games of the year this weekend, moving his feet and making plays,” Schafer said. “It’s just a welcome addition to have him back playing that way and being such an influence in the course of the game, both defensively and offensively.”
“I just decided to go back to trying to prepare like I used to, try to keep it simple like last year,” Nash said. “Coming back after a knee injury, you’ve just got to simplify everything. I felt I was able to do that this weekend.”
The Bulldogs were charging hard on offense from the beginning, but sophomore netminder Ben Scrivens kept the Red in the game with 26 saves to Yale’s Billy Blase’s 15, including four stops on four Yale attempts in overtime.
The checking line of sophomore Joe Scali, junior Tyler Mugford and senior Chris Fontas also distinguished itself, described by Schafer as “probably our best line all weekend.”
“That’s the way they play,” Schafer said, “with a lot of energy, knowing their job … They drew some penalties this weekend, created some scoring chances and played that role with an awful lot of pride, and obviously all of those guys kill penalties too.”
Several times, Scali and Mugford wrestled with the Bulldogs behind the Yale goal and created scoring opportunities or drew penalties, though the Red couldn’t capitalize. With 45 seconds left in the first and Cornell on the power play, for example, Yale freshman Denny Kearney stole the puck to kill the Red’s drive.
After an uneventful first period, the two teams made up for lost time in the second. Though the Red successfully killed two penalties in the period, continuing the unit’s stellar play, Yale scored at the 5:17 mark when the puck ricocheted off Matt Nelson’s body past Scrivens.
That was enough motivation for the Red. Three minutes later, the home team responded with a goal of its own. Junior forward Evan Barlow skated down the right and sent a perfect pass to Greening, who was streaking down the center toward the goal
“Evan made a great play,” Greening said. “He brought it into the zone. He cut back a little bit, just showed a lot of patience and poise and saw me coming in and just fed it to me.”
Cornell’s good fortune continued 14:21 into the period, when Greening got his second score of the game on a man-advantage play with Riley and Brendon Nash. Brendon Nash got a shot off from the point, and Greening drove it home from his position right near the net to give Cornell its first lead of the game.
“We’ve been working on that in power play in practice for quite a while now,” Greening said. “ … I don’t mind playing there [in front of the net]. I get to screen the goalie. I get to be a pest in front of them, so it suits me well.”
The Red went 1-for-5 on the power play against Yale’s strong penalty killing unit.
“We made some good strides [on the power play],” Greening said. “I think we had a little trouble breaking into the zone, but we’ve had trouble with that in the past. …We got the goal on the power play, but besides that [we need to] capitalize more on our chances, and I think that’s something we need to keep working on and stress more in practice.”
In the final minutes of the action-packed period, however, the Bulldogs’ Matthew Thomey made it a 2-2 tie going into the final stanza.
“We got the 2-1 lead and then made probably three mental mistakes on the same goal,” Schafer said. “To give it up with that lead in the second period was pretty frustrating.”
The majority of the third period was then a “stalemate,” according to Schafer. Both teams started to pick up the pace halfway through, however, and Barlow in particular continually created shots. A charging call on Yale with 8:04 left to play was a golden opportunity for the Red that fell short.
“We didn’t get the job done with the power play in the third,” Schafer said. “We had an opportunity with the power play … but we didn’t get the job done when the game was on the line, and that’s what a good power play’s got to do for you.”
After five minutes of overtime, those missed opportunities resulted in a standoff.
“Three [points] is definitely not what we wanted,” Greening said. “We wanted four. This was a big weekend for us. It was our chance to kind of climb up the ladder, get back up into contention for first place. Right now everyone realizes that we had a good weekend but we didn’t get the result we wanted, which was four points.”