February 25, 2010

M. Hockey to Honor Six Seniors, Former Cornell Greats

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After a split weekend, the No. 9 men’s hockey is looking to rebound as it faces one of its most grueling and emotional weekends –– its final two games of the regular season. With both teams tied for second place in the ECAC standings, Cornell faces off against Union tonight. Tomorrow, Rensselaer comes to town with a determined presence, as the Engineers are vying for a first-round bye for playoffs.

Having played five games in the last eight days, the Red (16-8-3, 13-5-2 ECAC) is in a better position knowing that it has a break from action next week, after securing a first-round bye into the quarterfinals of the ECAC Hockey playoffs. In addition, the Red has secured home ice for its first playoff round, which will definitely abet the squad.

“We feel we have a strong home-ice advantage … playing home in Lynah is definitely an honor and great accomplishment because fans will be here to supports us during playoffs as they have been all year,” said senior defender Brendon Nash.

In addition to the regular games, this weekend’s games will be full of special ceremonies. Tonight, former Cornellians Ken Dryden ’69 and Joe Nieuwendyk will be honored in a pregame ceremony, during which their jerseys will be retired and raised to the rafters. In tomorrow’s game, players from the 1970 National Championship team, which held a perfect record, will be honored for the team’s 40th anniversary.

“The whole weekend will be exciting. Nieuwendyk and Dryden are two big Cornell hockey icons that started a great tradition here. So it will be exciting to see them and show them how much they mean to the Cornell hockey program,” Greening said.

In addition, Saturday is Senior Night, during which the Red will honor its six seniors –– Blake Gallagher, Colin Greening, Justin Krueger, Brendon Nash, Joe Scali and Ben Scrivens.

“It’s personally very important because it’s my last home weekend here. It’s been a great experience the whole time I’ve been here, so I would like to cap it off with a solid weekend,” Brendon Nash said.

Union (8-8-6, 12-4-4 ECAC) has been battling its way throughout the season. Winning five of its last six games, the Dutchmen have also clinched a bye for next weekend. In December, the Red and the Dutchmen skated to a 2-2 tie, with Cornell holding the all-time series advantage.

“They are at the top of the league for a reason … they find ways to win,” Greening said.

Union has been known for its strong forwards, including Mario Valery-Trabucco, who is the leading scorer for the team after netting 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points. Between the pipes, freshman Keith Kinkaid and sophomore Cory Milan share the role. Although Kinkaid is usually played more often, Milan posts better statistics –– a .908 save percentage and a 2.21 goals-against average.

Throughout the week in practice, Cornell has been focusing on consistency and playing solid 60 minutes on both Friday and Saturday nights. The team is only 3-6-2 on Saturday nights, while it holds a 9-2 record in Friday night games.

“Everyone is going to come out and play really hard on Friday, but carrying that over to Saturday is going to be key for our team, to push into playoffs and keep the momentum,” Greening said.

Similar to the Red, the Engineers (17-14-3, 10-8-2 ECAC Hockey) are coming off a split weekend; however, they are still fighting for fourth place in the ECAC standings, which could grant them a bye in the first-round playoffs. During the last matchup in December, the Red won, 2-1, although the Engineers put up a good fight. Chase Polacek leads Rensselaer in scoring, with teammates Brandon Pirri and Jerry D’Amigo close behind. In goal, Allen York has a .907 save percentage and a 2.64 goals-against average, but he missed last weekend’s games because due to an injury.

“They gave us a great game [in December] and I don’t except anything less on Saturday,” Greening said.

This week, junior forward Riley Nash was named ECAC Player of the Week, which no Cornell player has accomplished so far this season. Gallagher leads the Red’s offense with 32 points, while Greening is close behind with 30 points. Nash leads the team in assists with 18. In goal, Scrivens has played the majority of the season, with a .928 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against average.

With Senior Night on Saturday, the Red’s six seniors are coming to terms with graduating and playing in front of friends and family for their last time in a Cornell jersey.

“You look back at freshman year when you are standing there, [tomorrow] night, when we are honoring the seniors, and it seems so far away. Looking back, it has gone by way too fast. Over the years, I have had a great experience here, definitely learned a lot, and improved throughout the four years,” Brendon Nash said. “[In the salute we] honor everyone who has been here throughout the four years and has been a consistent fan of Cornell hockey … it’s definitely an honor to wave back and give an attribute back to them, rather than having them encourage us all the time.”

With all the festivities, the Red is still focused on the two crucial games and snatching a four-point weekend, before it heads into playoff mode.

“I don’t think it is too much to ask for. If we play both nights as well as we can and show what we have learned throughout the year, I think it will be a solid weekend for us across the board … a great way to cap off the regular season before going into playoffs,” Brendon Nash said.

Original Author: Jill Mendelsohn