November 4, 2010

Men’s Hockey Opens ECAC Play

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The concept of consecutive home losses was something completely foreign to just about every upperclassman on the men’s hockey team until last weekend when that very notion reared its head into Lynah Rink in a disappointing beginning to the 2010-11 season. However, with the opening of ECAC play this weekend comes a renewed sense of opportunity for a Cornell team looking to start fresh in its first road series of the year. Conference play will begin tonight when the Red (0-2-0) takes on St. Lawrence (0-4-3) at 7 p.m. in Canton, N.Y. The weekend action in North Country concludes tomorrow evening when Cornell and Clarkson (4-2-1) face-off at 7 p.m.

“Our guys understand it’s league competition,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Our goal every year is obviously to try to win a league championship. … In my 15 years we’ve only won three league championships, but the most important prize is a tournament championship — that’s the critical one. For us we want to obviously get in the top four in our league, so every [ECAC game] counts.”

This weekend will likely provide a strong indication of how well this young Cornell team can bounce back from defeat. Despite entering tonight’s action without a win, it seems as though the Red is in good spirits as it looks to get back on the right track.

“[The team] is feeling surprisingly well,” said sophomore defenseman Nick D’Agostino. “I can’t remember the last time we got swept at home here, but the guys are taking it with a grain of salt. U.N.H. and R.I.T. were two good teams coming in here, and we made progress from Friday to Saturday. We’re excited to play some ECAC action.”

While the Saints enter tonight’s game winless on the season, it is important to note the result from their last game against Clarkson — a 2-1 overtime loss on Halloween at the hands of the Golden Knights. Senior forward Sean Flanagan is St. Lawrence’s top producer on offense, already tallying six points in the team’s first seven games. Much like the Red, the Saints are sporting a young team anchored by two star freshmen — goaltender Matt Weninger and forward Greg Carey. However, the team has had difficulty piecing things together for 60 minutes, averaging just 1.86 goals per game.

Playing against a team like St. Lawrence that already has seven games under its belt may be a cause for concern for any Ivy League school due to the strict regulations on when the Ancient Eight can begin play.

“It shouldn’t be on our mind because whether a team hasn’t played or has played three weekends, all we can control is ourselves. Obviously you would like to have a little more than a week of preparation … but that’s part of being an Ivy League team,” D’Agostino said.

After starting off the season with a few blowout losses, Clarkson has regained its composure and now boasts a record of 2-0-1 in its last three contests. The Golden Knights are led on offense by freshman Matt Zarbo and senior Brandon DeFazio, with both forwards notching five points apiece on the early season. Junior Paul Karpowich has been nearly lights-out in net to the tune of a .935 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against average.

While his head coach showed some concern about having to play non-Ivy ECAC opponents so early in the schedule, senior captain Patrick Kennedy maintained that the trip to the North Country could actually hold a few benefits for the team after a disappointing opening weekend.

“It’s going to be different heading up there this early, but I think it’s going to be a challenging weekend. “We’re looking forward to … getting back on the horse and getting our first win of the year here,” Kennedy said.

While it is a guarantee that the Red will have to make this unusually timed journey up north for non-Ivy ECAC play, Schafer still remains uncertain as to who will be starting in net for Cornell in either game. After seeing mixed results from junior Mike Garman and freshman Andy Iles during the team’s opening weekend, it’s anyone’s guess as to which netminder will earn the starting spot this evening.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about as a coaching staff,” Schafer said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if [each] of them start, but we haven’t made any announcement — not even to [the players] yet.”

Original Author: Evan Rich