January 23, 2009

Yale Brings League’s Best Offense to Lynah Rink

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“At this point in the season, playing as well as we are, anything less than four points isn’t really good enough,” said men’s hockey junior netminder Ben Scrivens, “especially playing two Ivy League teams, which could definitely help our chances for an Ivy League title this year.”
This is the attitude of the men’s hockey team going into this weekend, as Cornell (13-1-3, 8-0-2 ECAC Hockey) prepares to host two teams that would seem less than threatening to the No. 3 team in the nation: Yale (11-5-1, 6-3-1) tonight and Brown (1-12-4, 1-6-3) tomorrow night.
On a 10-game unbeaten streak after last weekend’s sweep at Union and Rensselaer, the Red is looking to defend its home rink in front of the Red’s student fans who have returned to Ithaca after the break.
“We haven’t been at home with our full contingent of students back yet since December,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Having the students back in town brings that little extra jump that our players are looking for.”
Though Yale has not notched an outright victory over Cornell since 2001, the Red has been unable to beat the Bulldogs at Lynah Rink in several years with three 2-2 ties in as many years. [img_assist|nid=34346|title=Kennedy in the spotlight|desc=The crowd watches as senior forward Michael Kennedy sizes up his options.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
While Cornell leads the conference and the country in scoring defense, allowing only seven goals in 10 games, Yale has the league’s best scoring offense — No. 12 in Division I men’s hockey with 3.40 goals per game.
“We’ve faced St. Cloud and St. Lawrence that got up and down the ice and North Dakota [that was a scoring team too], and we’ve faced a lot of teams that have had a hot offense coming into the game,” Schafer said. “I think that it’s important that we focus on ourselves and play our game and find out what they have compared to us.”
Brown, on the other hand, is at or near the bottom of the Ivy League in both offense and defense. This season has been as dismal for the one-win Bears as it has been successful for the Red.
Nevertheless, Cornell is not completely dismissing its second opponent. Brown has converted on 16.4 percent of its power play opportunities, good for third in the conference.
“[Brown] may not be having a good year statistically,” said senior co-captain Michael Kennedy, “but when teams come into this rink, I think they bring another level with them, and they seem to find their game and energy, so we’re expecting two really tough games.”
At least one Yale player turns up the intensity when the pressure is on — sophomore forward Broc Little is the leading short-handed goal scorer in the nation (0.29 SHG/game). The Bulldogs have a proven scorer in Little, who is the second highest scorer in the conference with 10 goals and nine assists.
Yale’s lineup also includes one of the top freshmen in ECAC Hockey; forward Brian O’Neill has had seven goals in 10 games, two of them game-winners.
The Red’s biggest goal is not to go backwards, but continue to improve on the team’s success so far.
“We’re trying to refine our game,” Schafer said. “We’re trying to even the drills. We’re trying to work them to perfection, being very detail-oriented as far as what we’re trying to execute in practice. … We don’t want even our drills in practice to get loosened up and not have any hesitancy but [we want] high-pace, high-tempo but [with] execution. I always find that when we do that, it carries over into games.”
“Once you start to see success sometimes you get a little too comfortable and start to find a few bad habits,” Scrivens added. “[We are] just trying to make sure [we’re] doing the things that brought [us] success in the first half of the season here, so guys on the ice are playing good defense, blocking shots. … Our forwards are moving their feet, playing their systems well. For myself, it’s just controlling rebounds, making sure I’m staying out and challenging all shots. [We’re] keeping it simple, sticking to the basics, and doing all the stuff we’ve had success with this year.”