January 30, 2009

Clarkson, St. Lawrence Await On Tough North Country Trip

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After splitting last weekend’s games and dropping one spot in the rankings to No. 4 in the country, the men’s hockey team heads north this weekend to square off against St. Lawrence (12-10-2, 4-6-2 ECAC) and Clarkson (7-13-4, 5-6-1).
The Red (14-2-3, 9-1-2) will be in Canton, N.Y. tonight to take on St. Lawrence at 7 p.m. in Appleton Arena. The Saints have struggled for the most part in ECAC play and are currently ninth in the conference standings. Cornell and St. Lawrence have already met once earlier this season, with the Red registering a 1-0 victory on December 6 at Lynah Rink.
The Red has not come out of Canton with a win since the 2005 season. Since then, the Red is 0-2-1 on the road against the Saints. Despite St. Lawrence’s lackluster record this season, the Red players are expecting tonight’s game to be a tightly fought contest.
“Obviously, [St. Lawrence] is a hard-working team,” said co-captain senior forward Michael Kennedy. “They come with two guys hard on the fore-check and they have an aggressive penalty kill. They are just an aggressive team all-around. They are a team with a lot of energy. They like to play physical and going into that rink, it is a small rink and they know how to play their style of play in that rink. It is always an extremely tough game going in there and playing those guys there.”[img_assist|nid=34588|title=Not the Knights’ Tale|desc=Senior forward Michael Kennedy (18) reaches for the puck in the Red’s 4-1 win over Clarkson on December 5 at Lynah Rink.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Tomorrow, the Red will travel to Potsdam, N.Y. to face off against the Clarkson Golden Knights, a team that is currently riding a four-game win streak. Despite the hot streak, Clarkson remains in the middle of the pack in ECAC Hockey, as the Knights currently sit in seventh in the 12-team conference. The Red also has not won a game at Clarkson since that same 2005 season, also going 0-2-1 in road games in Potsdam since that time.
Clarkson is led by sophomore forward Scott Freeman, who has scored just two goals but has added 18 assists. Senior forward Chris D’Alvise is the team’s leading goal scorer, having potted nine goals on the season. The Red has also played Clarkson already this year, notching a 4-1 victory on December 5. Co-alternate captain Tyler Mugford explained that the team is looking for a similar result on Saturday, but he recognized that this time around, playing at Clarkson, pulling off such a large victory will be a much more difficult task.
“We have to focus on our own game plan,” Mugford said. “Going on the road, it is a tough building to play in, so we have to create our own energy and create our own momentum within the team. It is going to be a good challenge.”
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 noted that seeing two teams on the weekend slate that the Red has competed against already this year makes preparing for the games much easier.
“It allows you to go back and look at the video and see what things were successful and weren’t successful,” Schafer said. “The preparation takes a lot less time, not so much for the team, but from a coaching standpoint because you have seen the opponent, you have them on video, you have your notes and your adjustments from the game already.”
The Red’s struggling record over the last three years in road games against both St. Lawrence and Clarkson is something that could potentially haunt the Red mentally as they prepare for this weekend’s games.
“I don’t know, it is one of those things,” Kennedy said. “Those are two tough teams up there and the rinks are both pretty good atmospheres to play in for the home team. Both teams play really physical. It seems like, going up to both Clarkson and St. Lawrence, that they are always physical games. It definitely takes a toll on you, being on the road anyway, let alone having to play a more physical game than you are used to. So hopefully, we can snap that streak.”
However, Mugford explains that as the players lace up their skates tonight and tomorrow, the last things they will be thinking about are those 0-2-1 records.
“They are tough places to play, especially in one trip, and they both play well at home so it is definitely going to be a tough trip,” Mugford said. “But as to [those records] being in the back of your mind, it is definitely not. For every weekend, having short-term memories is key in hockey. … To be honest, I didn’t even know about our recent struggles there until I was reminded here. It’s not an issue, it’s maybe something fun to write about, but we will just take every game as just another game.”
As Mugford attests, the Red will not be thinking of its recent struggles up north and will not be overly concerned with their opponents’ plans. Instead, the Red will be looking to execute its own game plan and shore up some of the things that the coaches felt caused last Friday’s loss against Yale.
“We are really zeroing in and trying to refine our game and really looking at the details of our forecheck, looking at the details of our offensive play, and looking at the details of how we execute in transition,” Schafer said. “We are trying to become more detail-oriented with our game. Our guys are aware of what they will do but we are really focusing on ourselves.”