February 28, 2010

Six Senior Moments

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In the spirit of Saturday’s celebration of Senior Night, we want to pause and reflect on some defining moments for each member of the current senior class.

With a team high 17 goals and 34 points this season, Blake Gallagher established himself as one of Cornell’s best playmakers and finishers. Yet, his contributions extend beyond this, as he takes almost every important faceoff. Though Gallagher recorded several two-goal games this season, arguably his most important goal came in the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal against Northeastern last year. With Cornell trailing by two goals late in the second period, Colin Greening collected the puck behind Northeastern’s net and fed a wide-open Gallagher in the slot. His goal propelled a Cornell comeback, which culminated with a game winner from Evan Barlow ’09 in the final minute of the game.

Two-year captain Colin Greening is the most dominant forward we’ve seen this season. After Greening plays a few seasons in the NHL, we’re sure that he’ll have plenty of great memories and heroic plays. But it will be tough to top his performance in last year’s ECAC Hockey semifinal against Princeton. Greening earned an assist on Riley Nash’s goal to tie the game with 25 seconds remaining, and then beat Zane Kalemba for the game winner after 30 minutes of scoreless overtime. The win essentially secured an at-large NCAA bid for the Red, and brought Cornell to the ECAC championship game for the first time since 2006.

Unlike Greening, who led the team in goals in each of his first three seasons, defenseman Justin Krueger’s name does not often appear on the score sheet. Still, Krueger has become a reliable defenseman for the Red, appearing in 130 games and helping to anchor one of the top defenses in the nation. His +15 rating is second-best on the team this season.

Krueger played a part in Joe Scali’s defining moment (see below), but his biggest game came two months earlier, against Colgate at Lynah Rink. Cornell trailed, 1-0, late in the second period, but scored four times in 21 minutes to pull out a 4-2 win. Krueger earned assists on three of those goals, including Gallagher’s game-winning powerplay goal with 5:11 remaining in the game.

Cornell’s best offensive defender, Brendon Nash is seemingly always on the ice. That’s because whether Cornell is on the powerplay, penalty kill, protecting a lead late in the game, or looking for an equalizer, Nash gets the call. Nash is on pace to lead all defensemen in scoring for the third straight season while he has skated on the top defensive pairing for almost his entire career.

It’s no surprise, then, that Nash’s top contributions came on two powerplays. In the midst of a slump during February of 2009, Cornell played host to Quinnipiac and surrendered an early first-period goal. Minutes later, Nash responded with a powerplay goal, taking a pass from brother Riley. In overtime, Nash calmly set up Barlow’s game winning goal to give Cornell a much-needed victory.

As a defensive forward, Joe Scali is not the type of player who scores highlight-quality goals, but his hard work around the boards and on the penalty kill has made him invaluable. Moreover, few players have improved their skating as much in four years as Scali has.

Playing in January against the University of New Hampshire, Scali’s scrappiness helped create what has become known to Cornell hockey fans as “the shift.” With the puck deep in the UNH zone, Scali tired out the UNH defensemen by skating back and forth along the boards. Inspired by Scali’s play, and with the help of textbook-quality cycling, Cornell would maintain possession in the zone for more than two minutes before Riley Nash tipped a shot from Justin Krueger for Cornell’s fourth goal. To cap off a great night, Scali added an empty-net goal later in the game.

Honorable mention: Despite (or perhaps because of) free drinks all night, Scali did a great job playing the cowbell at Dunbar’s on Saturday.

Ben Scrivens holds the Cornell records for games played in goal and saves, and sits second in career shutouts and third in career goals against average.

Scrivens has plenty of impressive shutouts, including against North Dakota earlier this season and Massachusetts as a sophomore (45 saves). In Scrivens’ junior year, he opened the ECAC season with back-to-back shutouts of Princeton and Quinnipiac, the first time Cornell had accomplished the feat since the spring of 2005. In making all 68 saves, Scrivens set the tone for Cornell’s 13-1-3 start to its season. The weekend also marked the first time in Cornell hockey history that the team scored just one goal on a road trip yet received 3 points.

Honorable mention: When Cornell was in the midst of a particularly lengthy penalty kill at Colgate in November 2008, Scrivens grabbed a Colgate forward in the crease and dragged him down, WWE style. The result? Matching minors and a much-needed whistle for the Cornell defense.

These six seniors have provided immense excitement throughout their time on East Hill. We think we speak for everyone in thanking them for their dedication and efforts on and off the ice.

Original Author: Elie Bilmes