November 14, 2008

Sophomores, veterans, combine for talented, experienced front line

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While this year’s Red offense will be without some significant elements of last year’s offensive firepower due to the graduation of forwards Topher Scott, Ray Sawada and Chris Fontas, Cornell is returning a multitude of experienced and proven forwards who will be relied on for this year’s goal production.
In fact, the Red’s top-2 scorers from last season, Colin Greening and Riley Nash, are once again headlining the squad’s attack as linemates for the second year.
Knowing that opposing teams will focus much of their attention on trying to stop Greening and himself, Nash believes that the duo will be up to the challenge.
“Colin Greening is a terrific winger and we have had some very good chemistry, so if I can use him as much as possible it will take the pressure off of me,” Nash said. “[Greening] was a second-team all-star last year so he also has a big target on his back. I think the more we can work together, I think that will just benefit both of us.”
In addition to Nash and Greening, the Red also returns seniors Michael Kennedy and Evan Barlow, junior Blake Gallagher and sophomore Patrick Kennedy — who all registered double-digit point totals last year.
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 knows that he is fortunate to have such a host of experienced talent up front.
However, Schafer explained that at this point in the year, he is still uncertain as to the exact forward line combinations that he will employ.
“We’re far from really being able to figure out the line makeup,” Schafer said. “We have real good depth with our five lines. There is a lot of competition to get into the lineup right now. You look at our team, and guys that didn’t play that much last year have come back in great shape and with more confidence.”
The Red’s core returning forwards will be joined by rugged forward Derek Punches, who comes to Cornell after transferring from Wayne State. Last year with the Warriors, Punches racked up 10 goals and nine assists.
Punches could complement Tyler Mugford and Joe Scali on Cornell’s checking line, but Schafer explained that Punches is still in the process of seeing where he fits into the Red lineup.
“Punches, like all the other guys, is trying to figure out what his role is,” Schafer said. “We definitely need that kind of line, an energy line or physical line, or a line that you can depend on defensively. Tyler [Mugford] and Joe [Scali] did a great job last year and hopefully someone else will slide in there and will be equally as strong as Chris Fontas was last year.”
Freshmen forwards Sean Collins, Locke Jillson and Jordan Kary will all be vying for playing time and will be looking to make their impact on the ice.
“I think it’s good for the younger guys coming in, knowing that there is a pretty large amount of guys that have had experience in this league and have had experience scoring goals and putting up points,” said co-captain Michael Kennedy.
“It might take the pressure off of them a little bit,” he added. “They can gradually get accustomed to the rigors of college hockey.”