March 7, 2008

Gallagher Leads Power Play Effort as Consistent Playmaker

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Hailing from the municipality of Dartmouth (N.S., not N.H.), sophomore forward Blake Gallagher already has a preexisting tie to the men’s hockey team’s opponent this weekend. After playing in Lynah Rink just a week ago, the Green return to Ithaca from Hanover, N.H., to face the Red in a first-round playoff series this weekend.
There is, however, an even deeper connection to Dartmouth for one of the Red’s resident playmakers. Since Gallagher’s father played college hockey for in-state conference rival St. Lawrence, ECAC Hockey is in the Red forward’s blood.
“It’s kind of nice to go there and play at St. Lawrence and see the old pictures of him on the wall and that kind of thing,” Gallagher said, “but he said he’s a Cornell fan now. He said blood’s thicker than water, so he’s with us now.”
As a freshman, Gallagher was third on the team in assists with 15. Though he had just six points at the start of last month, the forward now has 14 on four goals and 10 assists. He is one of seven Cornell players in double digits for assists.
“Obviously I felt like I had a pretty slow start [this year],” Gallagher said. “I just felt like I wasn’t playing really to my capability, and over the last little while I feel like I’ve played a lot better [and] gained a lot of confidence.”
The center has hit his stride just in time for the postseason — notching seven points in the last seven games.
“If you look over the course of the last 10 games, [Gallagher is] one of the guys that would probably be one of our top-6 scorers,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
One of the Red’s consistent power play performers, Gallagher has developed a strong unit with sophomore Colin Greening and freshman Riley Nash, even on a few occasions filling the role of the playmaker for the two scorers without the man advantage.
“I think he’s becoming more and more comfortable on the power play, down in the area where he plays,” Schafer said. “Knowing when to move the puck, when to hold the puck, I think that’s a skill that takes time to learn. As a freshman, you kind of get rushed, and then, this year, he’s become more and more comfortable as the season’s gone on. He’s made some great plays to people, back door to Colin or into the slot area or wherever it may be, he’s done the job.”
Most recently, Gallagher assisted on Nash’s second period power play tally in the Red’s 6-0 shutout of Dartmouth Friday night.
“We struggled a bit early [in the season] until we kind of got a feel for each other,” Gallagher said. “The group that we’ve got, it kind of seemed that the other [power play] group was kind of hot early, and then our group caught fire and they’ve both been pretty successful lately. … I think we’ve been able to read off each other a lot more lately, kind of have a good feel for where each other are, especially on the power play. … Whether it’s [defenseman Doug] Krantz or Brendon [Nash] in the other spot or [junior Evan] Barlow, we seem to be having a lot more success finding each other.”
Though he has been steady as the third line center, Gallagher has often adjusted to playing with different wings.
“It can be tough sometimes,” he said. “You don’t know who’s going to play, but I usually know early in the week who I’m going to be with, so it’s not something I really worry about. I don’t change my game at all. That really remains the same.”
On the subject of his game, the sophomore said that his father didn’t have that much advice for tailoring his style on the ice to suit the ECAC, since so much time has passed since the elder Gallagher’s playing days. Only the intensity of Cornell hockey has remained constant, especially the extra excitement of the playoffs.
“Times have changed a little bit since my dad was [playing in college],” Gallagher said. “He was here in the late 70s, so it’s a little different. He kind of told me what to expect before I came to Cornell, what the atmosphere was like because he could remember being here back when he played.
So we came to a game, actually when I was 15 was the first time I saw a game here, and [I] was pretty impressed and kind of had my mind set on getting here someday. … I’m excited to start playing some playoff hockey. It’s everyone’s favorite time of year.”