February 11, 2010

It’s Make-or-Break Weekend for Men’s Hockey at Lynah Rink

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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, Cornell (13-6-3, 7-2-2 ECAC Hockey) will square off against the visiting Brown Bears (7-13-3, 5-8-3) in what will be the 110th meeting in this historic rivalry. Tomorrow, a Yale team (14-6-3, 10-4-2) that is tied for first place in ECAC Hockey will come to Ithaca for a 7 p.m. matchup.

“This weekend’s a really big weekend for us. We didn’t have our best weekend last weekend. Brown is a game we must win. We are in the battle for first place with Yale, so Yale is also a must-win. We have to play our way and get pucks deep, forecheck hard, play solid defensively, and capitalize on our chances,” said freshman forward Greg Miller.

The Red, currently ranked No. 6 in the country in USA Today polls, comes into this weekend after a road series with Quinnipiac and Princeton in which the Red earned two points. In the first of the two games, the Red cruised to a 2-0 victory despite being outshot throughout the match. On Saturday, the Red fell into a 5-3 hole and was not able to make a comeback for its second Ivy League loss of the season.

“We have to put it in the past, but we definitely have to learn from it as well. We were not at our best and we have to see what we did wrong in those games and make the adjustments this week … work hard in practice, and get ready for this weekend,” Miller said.

After Saturday’s defeat, the team has gathered several valuable lessons over the weekend that should help it improve for the remainder of the season. Particularly, Miller explained that the squad realized the importance of maintaining its composure when it falls behind.

“We have to play a full hard 60 minutes. Every team will give you their best, so we have to be ready. We weren’t as ready as we should have been. Some mistakes were made in the game that usually [don’t] happen, so we definitely have to stay focused,” Miller said.

The Red’s first opponent this weekend, Brown, is off to a mixed start this season after being picked to finish last in the ECAC. After losing its first six games of the season, the Bears have reeled off a loss to Harvard last weekend, before tying Dartmouth on Saturday. The Red holds a three-game win streak over the Bears, including November’s game in Providence, which Cornell won, 6-0. This year’s edition of Bears is led by sophomore Jake Maclellan, who has 22 points from 9 goals and 13 assists.

“The strength of Brown is that they are a physical team, they work hard, they hit hard, and play tough,” said senior forward Joe Scali.

Tomorrow, Scali and his teammates will be going up against a Yale squad that currently sits atop the ECAC standings with Cornell and Union, and is ranked No. 7 in the USA Today poll. Yale is currently on a two-game unbeaten streak, a stretch in which the Bulldogs posted victories over Dartmouth and Harvard.

Cornell leads the all-time series with Yale, 77-53-5. However, the Bulldogs have swept the last four meetings with the Red, including a 4-2 victory in New Haven last November. This year’s Yale squad has received impressive performances from Broc Little and Sean Backman, who both have 26 points each. With little problem scoring goals, Yale leads the county in scoring offense, averaging more than four goals a game. Yet, the Bulldogs’s goaltenders split the time in the net, with freshman Nick Maricic playing the majority of the time.

After scratching for the past four games due to an undisclosed injury, junior forward Riley Nash will return to the lineup this weekend, with hopes of giving the Red the edge it needs for this weekend’s crucial games. Nash has aided in all aspects of the game, including being able to move the puck effectively, create scoring opportunities, help the powerplay unit, and be beneficial on the penalty kill unit.

Close to wrapping up the remainder of its season, Cornell is hoping to complete a four-point weekend, and secure the top position in the ECAC Hockey conference. It is starting to settle in with the seniors that there are only four games remaining at home.

“As a senior, [a win against Yale] would be huge. We haven’t beat Yale in awhile here. With two teams coming into this environment, with only four games left for me at Lynah and the rest of the seniors, we are coming to this weekend prepared,” Scali said. “This is the most fun place to play in the world. This atmosphere is something I will never experience again. … I don’t know if I could ever match the Lynah intensity.”

Original Author: Jill Mendelsohn