November 10, 2008

Stellar Goaltending Leads to Three-point Weekend

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PRINCETON, N.J. — Balanced team play, solid defense and a well-placed shot by senior forward Tyler Mugford helped the men’s hockey team to a successful, three-point opening weekend of conference play on the road. The Red knocked off defending ECAC Hockey and Ivy League champ Princeton, 1-0, on Friday before battling to a scoreless tie against Quinnipiac on Saturday.
The Red (1-0-1, 1-0-1 ECAC) started off its 4 p.m. matchup with the Tigers (2-1, 1-1) with plenty of energy and enthusiasm in its first meaningful game of the season, but struggled in the first period with maintaining consistent, mistake-free play. Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said that excitement and nerves probably contributed to the occasionally hectic atmosphere on the ice.
[img_assist|nid=33437|title=Against the boards|desc=Senior Tyler Mugford (21) scored the Red’s lone goal over the weekend. It came against Princeton.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“I didn’t think we played with much poise early on,” he said. “First game, you’re going to have guys that are a little antsy and a little anxious, and I thought they were. But they rallied and played a solid game.”
The Red’s only real chance to score in the first period was derailed when the Princeton defense descended on sophomore forward Riley Nash — who had a look with Princeton goalie Zane Kalemba ever so slightly out of position — and knocked the puck away before Nash could get a shot off.
The first penalty of the game came on a holding call against sophomore forward Dan Nicholls at 5:57 in the first, but Cornell’s penalty kill line, which was a strength for the team throughout the game, only allowed one shot by the Tigers’ man-advantage squad.
The beginning of the second period saw Princeton back on the power play after a holding call against senior defenseman Jared Seminoff with 28 seconds left in the first period. The Tigers nearly capitalized on the man advantage twice, but a quick reaction from senior forward Michael Kennedy and a stick save from junior goalie Ben Scrivens kept the game scoreless.
Scrivens totaled 43 saves in the game, just short of his career-high of 45, many of which were in an unorthodox fashion. But however they might have looked, his saves did the job, and Scrivens posted his first shutout of the season.
“Ben played really well,” Seminoff said. “For all his acrobatics back there, he played really well. … A shutout in the first game, that’s pretty solid.”
Twenty of Scrivens’ saves came in the decisive third period. They ranged from run-of-the-mill shot blocks to last-ditch efforts with Scrivens scrambling to get anything in the puck’s way.
“When I watch the video I’m going to think to myself, ‘What were you thinking there?’” Scrivens said. “Pucks are coming pretty fast so you just kind of get your body in front of it as fast as you can. Probably not going to see too many of those; coach will probably have a little talk with me about staying calm in the net.”
But Scrivens was calm when it mattered most, especially during a 5-on-3 Tiger advantage in the first 41 seconds of the third period. Kennedy, Seminoff and junior defender Justin Krueger were all solid on the penalty kill, and Scrivens made a clutch save with 14 seconds left to thwart one of Princeton’s best chances of the game and ultimately hand the momentum back to the visitors.
“[During the break] we just went through the basics of our 5-on-3 system and talked about how big it would be to kill that off and get the momentum back on our side,” Mugford said. “I thought the guys did a great job of 5-on-3, with a huge shot block and got out of the zone quick and Scrivens picked that one up so there really wasn’t much of a threat there.”
Mugford notched the lone goal of the weekend — a high wrist shot to Kalemba’s glove side following a nice pass from Seminoff.
“At first I’m thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this shot off, get it on net. You’re not going to score if you don’t get it on net,’” Mugford said. “And then he gave me a little bit of room up top so I just put it in the best place possible and I got lucky.”
Schafer spoke earlier in the week about the importance of avoiding a purely defensive mindset on the penalty kill, and Mugford apparently took his words to heart. The senior scored just one goal last season, but this year will be lookin to capitalize on any scoring chances he might get, even during the man disadvantage.
“We like to focus on defense but not completely forget about the offensive side of the game,” Mugford said. “I think we did a pretty good job of doing that tonight, as a whole team.”
Defense also dominated the Red’s game against Quinnipiac (2-3-1, 0-1-1), but neither team’s offense was able to break through and find the net. The Bobcats’ rookie goalie Nick Pisellini made 23 saves and recorded his first career shutout, while Scrivens made 25 saves for his second shutout of the weekend.
The contest’s 38 total penalty minutes during the game — 14 against the Red —made for plenty of interesting matchups, but both teams’ penalty kill units and goalies were solid. Quinnipiac stopped the Red’s two best scoring chances — a 5-on-3 advantage in overtime and a free shot awarded to senior forward Evan Barlow after he was tripped in the second period.
Despite the missed opportunities for the Red against Quinnipiac, it was largely a successful first weekend for the team because of the win over last year’s league champions, No. 9 Princeton.
“It wouldn’t matter who we played, we were going to come out and send a message to the rest of the league that we have as good a shot as any [at winning the league title],” Scrivens said. “I guess it was just luck of the draw that we ended up playing the first-ranked team in the coaches’ poll. But polls are rarely right at the end of the season.”