October 20, 2008

Men’s icers tie Under-18 National Team after only one day of practice

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Saturday night, the stands at Lynah Rink filled up to see the men’s hockey team in action for the first time this year, as the Red played to a 3-3 tie against the U.S. National Under-18 Team. The exhibition was the earliest one scheduled by an Ivy League team.
Though the Red offense overmatched Team USA by a mile statistically — holding the shooting edge, 32-16 — the youngsters from across the country still managed to pace the scoring on Saturday. Cornell held the lead for only 31 seconds in the contest.
The exhibition game was a demonstration of action and reaction — with most of the reacting coming from the Red. Head coach Mike Schafer ’86, however, attributed any “bad habits” of the Red to one fact alone: the squad had only had one official practice before Saturday’s contest.
[img_assist|nid=32775|title=Iceberg ahead|desc=Senior forward Tyler Mugford (left) charges into the U.S U-18 team’s goalie during the Red’s 3-3 tie Saturday night. Mugford scored Cornell’s last goal, giving the Red the lead for a brief period.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“When I was a freshman, we had three weeks of practice and all kinds of time to prepare,” said Schafer, the former Red defenseman. “These guys as freshmen have had only one practice and they’re in a game. … We’re just really proud of our guys. [It’s hard to adjust so quickly to] all the nuances of power play and penalty kill. … Nothing was planned tonight, after one practice.”
With such a quick turnaround, the Red took some time to get used to the ice. With three power play opportunities to open the game, the host team tried to slow down the tempo and set up on offense but was unable to generate any urgency in all three first period chances. The game was scorless going into the first intermission.
While the Red had outshot the Red, White and Blue in the first period, 7-3, Cornell saw increased pressure from Team USA in the second, with the home team’s shot edge dropping to one, 11-10, and the teenagers grabbing an early lead.
Rushing on the Cornell goal, Team USA forward David Valek took a pass from Kevin Lynch and pushed the puck past Red junior goaltender Ben Scrivens to get visitors on the board first at the 11:45 mark.
Freshman Mike Garman immediately replaced starting sophomore goaltender Ben Scrivens in the net, though Schafer stressed that the coaching staff just wanted to get both goalies playing time in the exhibition.
“We knew that we wanted to [get Garman in],” Schafer said. “It was just unfortunate that it happened after the goal. We wanted to get in two guys tonight.”
Less than two minutes later, however, the Red’s power play finally came together — with sophomore Riley Nash continuing his winning ways as the Red’s second leading scorer last season. Quickly passing the puck around in the Team USA zone, junior Blake Gallagher passed to classmate Brendon Nash, who passed to his younger brother waiting on the right side to slot the puck past the goalie.
The remainder of the period grew more and more physical after that. With the roughest stretch being the last two minutes of the period, a broken stick fell in front of the Team USA goal in the final minute and the period culminated in the biggest penalty call of the contest.
The Team USA bench almost cleared after time expired — defenseman Brendon Nash was whistled for hitting from behind as the buzzer sounded. Nash was also charged with a game misconduct and had to leave the ice for good.
Just under four minutes into the third with the Team USA power play still going on, Jeremy Morin’s shot from the left penalty circle ricocheted off the right post past Garman to regain the lead.
“[Our players] took care of the puck, then halfway through the second we started getting cute with it and it kind of cost us some of the tempo,” Schafer said. “But then we got back into it in the third and started taking care of the puck.”
The Cornell offense went into overdrive in the third, outshooting the U-18 team 13-3 and getting key production from one of its younger members. Not so far removed from the ages of their opponents, sophomore forwards Riley Nash and Tyler Roeszler kept Cornell in the game with their tallies in the second and third period, respectively.
The Red responded to Morin’s goal at the 7:36 mark, when Roeszler took a pass from senior Evan Barlow and scooped it in from the slot to even it up at 2-2 in one fell swoop. After his playing time was limited last year due to injuries, Roeszler had not yet scored a goal for Cornell.
Though it looked like the Red ran into some bad luck when senior co-alternate captain Jared Seminoff was called for goaltender interference, Cornell took the lead for the first time 11 seconds later with a shorthanded goal from fellow senior co-alternate captain Tyler Mugford, who moved to center this year on the checking line to replace Chris Fontas ‘08.
“I just kind of blacked out a little bit,” Mugford said. “We were at the faceoff and [sophomore Mike] Devin gave it to [senior co-captain Michael] Kennedy [who got it to me].”
Unfortunately for the home team, the rest of the Red blacked out as well following Mugford’s goal. Only 31 seconds later, Chris Brown came out of nowhere to tip in another shot by Morin for Team USA’s second power play tally of the day.
The 3-3 tie carried through to the end, as the U-18s held the puck behind their goal to run out regulation, and the five-minute overtime period made no difference.
Though Schafer was impressed with the Red’s play with so little practice time, he was most disappointed with the team’s “discipline” — especially Nash’s game misconduct at the end of the second period.
“[Nash] deserved the five-minute major,” Schafer said. “He’s definitely a big part of our power play and our five-on-five [so his absence made a difference in the game], but it also gave the chance to some other guys to play.”
Schafer was also impressed with the performances of the freshmen, especially forward Locke Jillson. The Texan forward joined junior co-captain Colin Greening and Riley Nash in Cornell’s starting line.
“High School University,” as the Lynah bleacher residents called Team USA early in the second period, was 3-2 against Division 1 teams going into Saturday night’s game.
“They’re really skilled,” Seminoff said. “They’re the best kids in their age group.”
“Those kids have been together for a year and a half, and [head coach] Ron Rolston does a good job of coaching them,” Schafer added. “So it’s a great way for us to kick things off.”