February 29, 2008

M. Hockey Looks to Capture Bye

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Senior Night. A historic rivalry. Playoff seeding.
All three of these factors will come together tomorrow in what should prove to be a wild night at Lynah Rink. The men’s hockey team will say goodbye to a beloved senior class — Chris Fontas, co-alternate captain Doug Krantz and co-captains Raymond Sawada and Topher Scott — while simultaneously hoping to receive a first-round bye and a chance to be at home in two weeks for the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals. All that stands in Cornell’s way this weekend is Dartmouth and Harvard.
“I think it’s pretty easy to realize that, with how close the standings are and with how much of a battle it’s been all year, that the week off is huge,” Krantz said. “I can remember a couple of years ago being injured, [the bye week] was a chance to get everybody healthy and rest up. Other teams, they’re going out there and battling just as hard as they have been all year, so it’s good to get a chance to sit back and relax a little bit and focus on two weeks ahead.”
Cornell currently sits tied with Union for fourth place in the league after splitting road contests last weekend with Quinnipiac and Princeton. The top-4 teams in ECAC Hockey receive a first-round bye and home ice for the quarterfinals. Even though the Dutchmen own the tiebreaker over the Red, Cornell still controls its own destiny and will be assured a top-4 spot with two wins this weekend.
“For us to come back now, we’ve given ourselves … the opportunity that we control our own destiny with home ice here,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Two wins allows us to have home ice and have that week bye, and that’s going to be really huge for us.”
In order to accomplish that, though, Cornell will have to go through Dartmouth tonight. The Green has struggled this year, and has not won a league road game since Nov. 2, but the team does have a few significant non-conference wins, including B.U. and New Hampshire, the No. 5 team in the country.
Dartmouth is led by a pair of seniors, Nick Johnson and J.T. Wyman. Johnson leads the team with 24 assists and 32 points, while Wyman leads the squad with 15 goals. In net, senior Mike Devine has recorded a 2.91 goals against average and a .914 save percentage on the season.
“We can’t look past anybody,” Scott said. “We know the parity that there is in this league, and that anybody can beat anybody on any given night, so given all the hype about Saturday night’s game, we’ve got to take care of business Friday. … Once we get the job done on Friday, then we’ll focus on Saturday.”
Earlier in the season, Cornell topped Dartmouth, 4-1. In that game, freshman Dan Nicholls netted two goals and Sawada and junior Evan Barlow each added a goal apiece to lead the Red.
Tomorrow, Cornell hosts No. 20 Harvard in the last game of the regular season. The Crimson has won its last four games, causing Harvard to slip into the national rankings.
The Crimson boasts a stingy defense, led by its sophomore goaltender, Kyle Richter. Richter has a 2.20 goals against average and a .923 save percentage this season. Classmate Alex Biega, who was named to the preseason All-ECAC Hockey team by the media, leads the defensive corps.
Cornell will also have to stop another star sophomore, Doug Rogers. Rogers leads Harvard with 10 goals, 14 assists and 24 points. Seniors Mike Taylor and Jon Pelle have also recorded 22 and 20 points, respectively.
“We’ve got to come and play our game,” Scott said. “I know our sophomore year the senior night was against Harvard. It was a big game for the standings and [we] came out a little jumpy. So we’ve got to make sure we come in ready and focused on the job at hand.”
In the two teams’ last meeting, Harvard beat Cornell, 2-1. In that game, the Crimson got goals from Pelle and junior Brian McCafferty, while sophomore Blake Gallagher netted the only score for the Red.