November 21, 2008

Crimson, Green Come to Lynah

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Tonight and tomorrow, Lynah Rink will host what could be two of the most crucial home games for the Red this year. Tonight, the Red (2-0-2, 2-0-2 ECACH Hockey) will square off against the visiting Harvard Crimson (4-2-1, 4-2-1) in what will be the 129th meeting in this bitter historic rivalry. Tomorrow, a Dartmouth team (4-2-0, 4-1) that is tied for second in ECAC Hockey will come to Ithaca for a 7 p.m. matchup.
The Red, currently ranked No. 14 in the country, comes into this weekend after a home-and-home series with Colgate in which the Red earned three points out of a possible four. In the first of the two games, the Red cruised to a 4-1 victory in fine fashion, going 3-for-6 with the man advantage. On Saturday, the Red fell into a 2-0 hole, but rallied late for a 2-2 draw. In the tie, Cornell’s power play went sour, failing to score on 10 opportunities with the man advantage.[img_assist|nid=33797|title=Seen it all|desc=Co-captain Michael Kennedy (18) evades a Colgate player at Lynah Rink. The senior has experienced the heated Cornell-Harvard rivalry, which will be revived this weekend when Harvard comes to Lynah.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 believes that his team gathered several valuable lessons over the weekend that should help them improve for the remainder of the season. Particularly, Schafer explained that his players realized the importance of maintaining their composure when they fall behind.
“There was a lesson to learn that when you get down by a couple of goals, you have to play together,” Schafer said. “I think they understand that now, and that’s what was causing some of our problems. When we … face that situation again, we have to stay inside the team concept and work together. We learned that lesson by not losing two points so that was good.”
While the Red was frustrated with its power play on Saturday, no significant adjustments will be made to the special teams unit for this weekend.
“I don’t know if there are too many things that we will go about changing about the power play,” said junior defenseman Brendon Nash. “We were getting some good shots, some good looks, we just have to have a little more finish around the net and make sure that we are taking shots when we have the opportunity to. We just have to keep the puck moving, make sure that everyone is doing their part and not holding on or trying to make a play right away or gripping the stick too tightly.”
Tonight, Nash and his teammates will be going up against a Harvard squad that currently sits atop the ECAC standings with nine points in seven games and is ranked No. 18 in the USCHO national poll. Harvard is currently on a three-game unbeaten streak, a stretch in which the Crimson posted victories over Clarkson and St. Lawrence and played to a 3-3 tie against Brown.
Cornell leads the all-time series with Harvard 64-57-7. However, Harvard swept the two regular season meetings last year and knocked the Red out of last season’s playoffs in the ECAC Hockey semi-finals. This year, the Crimson is without some of its stalwarts of last season, including 2007-08 ECAC Goaltender of the Year Kyle Richter and last year’s team scoring leader Mike Taylor.
However, this year’s Crimson squad has received impressive performances from sophomore forwards Pier-Olivier Michaud and Matt McCollem, who each have two goals and five points to start the year. Harvard is backstopped by freshman goaltender Matt Hoyle who has posted a stellar 1.69 GAA and .938 save percentage.
“This league is pretty balanced and even though [Harvard] did lose some big guys, they were still able to fill those holes,” Nash said. “Every night the puck could go in for any team and you just have to come prepared and ready to play every night.”
The Red players know that they will have to cope with unparalleled crowd noise and excitement during the Harvard game. Senior co-captain Michael Kennedy explained that it can sometimes be difficult to maintain your focus in the midst of the raucous atmosphere that surrounds the Cornell-Harvard rivalry.
“It’s definitely tough,” Kennedy said. “It is a challenge. In this rink, guys tend to force things and get up tight because they try to put on a show for the crowd. Guys are already up for the game and the crowd will be into it. It’s one of the biggest games of the year. It is definitely a mental challenge and something that each individual will have to handle on their own. … You just have to block it out and there’s really only one thing that you have to focus on and that is getting the win.”
“The high glass really blocks [the crowd] out so we are able to focus a little bit,” Nash joked. “It gets in your ear but you’re out there for a reason.”
The Red’s other opponent this weekend, Dartmouth, is off to a hot start this season after being picked to finish 11th in the ECAC. After losing its first two games of the season, the Green has reeled off four straight conference wins.
Last year, Dartmouth amassed a 12-16-1 overall record to tie for last in ECAC Hockey. This year’s edition of the Green is led by sophomore forward Adam Estoclet, who has three goals and 10 points in six games. As well, Dartmouth is getting a hefty dose of offense from its blue-line, as sophomore defenseman Joe Stejskal has scored six goals on the year, including five on the power play.
“I don’t know what they are doing differently [this year], but I guess they are probably playing more as a team and able to string things together,” Nash said. “They definitely had some good players last year and they filled those holes with lots of good players so we will be expecting a good game [tomorrow] night too.”