February 4, 2010

No. 5 Men’s Hockey Hits the Road

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Following an electrifying, four-point weekend sweep, the men’s hockey team (12-5-3, 9-2-2 ECAC) heads on the road this weekend to face Quinnipiac tonight, in a nationally televised game, before continuing to Princeton on Saturday night.

“We have to get four points [this weekend], so we can stay ahead in the standings. We have to work hard and show what we’ve got, what we can do and how far we can go,” said freshman John Esposito.

The Red’s most recent four-point weekend before last weekend was an opening pair of games back in November; the team aims to repeat these results by focusing on playing smart hockey and reducing the number of turnovers in a game. In addition, Cornell is currently ranked No. 5 in both the USA Today and USCHO national polls.

After an upsetting 3-2 loss to the Bobcats (13-11-2, 7-7-0) at home last semester, Cornell is really looking to alter the situation this time around. Suffering a midseason slump, Quinnipiac has not won a game since Dec. 12. Despite the struggles, the Bobcats have proved to be a talented team and a tough opponent for the Red. In Nov., Quinnipiac did a very solid job of playing defensively and killing its penalties, so Cornell will have to read the plays more accurately tonight. Four of the Bobcats top scorers are seniors, including Brandon Wang, who leads the team with 28 points from 14 goals. In goal the majority of the time, sophomore Dan Clarke posts a .909 save percentage.

With Friday’s game being nationally televised on CBS College Sports, the Red has to go back to the drawing boards to alter its game plan. Televised games contain media timeouts, which take away from the excitement and momentum of the game, and usually cause professional teams to only have three lines, compared to the four in college hockey.

Tomorrow, Cornell heads to Princeton for what promises to be an interesting matchup, as both teams have split their previous two meetings this season. The Red won 5-2 at home in Nov., before the Tigers notched a 3-2 victory in the consolation game of the Florida College Classic just a month later.

“You always have to throw records and streaks out the window because the season is so short that everyone is constantly competing to try and win that next game. We will be ready for them,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.

Even though the Tigers started its season slowly, they are currently on a three-game winning streak –– momentum the Red would like to remove. Throughout practice this week, Cornell has really focused on specific tactics that Princeton continues to utilize, and counterattacks for them. Specifically, the Tigers love to apply pressure to the Red by trying to outman its players and prevent them from having ample time to move the puck. Aware of this, Cornell knows it must play a quicker game to prevent being outmaneuvered.

“If you go into a corner, as a forward, you realize there will be two guys right on you, so it’s being aware to move the puck as quick as you can to a space so your teammate can skate onto it,” Greening said.

After sitting out last weekend’s games, junior forward Riley Nash will be a scratch in this weekend’s games because of an injury. Interestingly, only two players –– Greening and freshman Greg Miller –– have been in the lineup for all of their career games here.

“Every weekend’s a grind. There are bumps and bruises on the majority of the guys, and it is [a matter of] both getting healthy and staying mentally fresh, physically making sure that we are fresh, and totally ready to go [today] and [tomorrow],” Schafer said.

With only a few weeks left in the season, the Red is using each practice to build up its confidence and capitalize on scoring opportunities.

“Being first place in the ECAC, you kind of have a target on your back … it relates to being sharp for the next few weeks. It really starts in practice because good practice habits lead to good game habits,” Greening said.

Original Author: Jill Mendelsohn