February 13, 2011

Men’s Hockey Rises in ECAC Ranks

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With just six games remaining on the men’s hockey team’s regular season schedule, the Red went into its pair of away matchups with the aim of winning contests and climbing into the top four in the ECAC Hockey league standings. Cornell (12-10-3, 10-6-2 ECAC Hockey) came out of the two games with this goal half fulfilled and a tentative bye in the ECAC playoffs.

Friday night the Red headed to Schenectady, N.Y., the home of No. 9 Union (22-7-3, 14-3-1). The Dutchmen rest at the top in the ECAC standings and have previously beaten Cornell, 5-1, at Lynah Rink in the Red’s only loss since New Years. As the visitors on Friday, Cornell hoped to seek redemption, but instead found repeated unfortunate results; the Dutchmen shut out the Red, 4-0, while Cornell managed just nine shots throughout 60 minutes of play. Union contrastingly posted a very offensive game, sending 36 shots on junior Mike Garman’s goal.

“They’re the best team we’ve played this year,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We knew [the loss] was going to happen based upon the week of practice we had. … [Union] played well as a team; they’re solid defensively. They just kept on coming — they didn’t give us the sniff all night long and they deserved to have the lopsided win.”

The night did feature a similar rowdy third period to that of the home game against Colgate earlier this year, filled with penalties for both squads including a notable disqualification of senior forward Dan Nicholls for instigating a fight with a Union player.

Schafer, who talked to Nicholls after the game about his conduct, conveyed that the forward felt that penalty calls on opposing players’ roughing of Cornell had been lacking, which contributed to Nicholls’ emotions during the game.

“[Nicholls] decided to go after the kid alone and his response was that over the last bunch of games [where] we’ve had kids hurt, nothing seems to happen … there’s no ramifications for that type of play,” Schafer said. “We’ve went from the most disciplined team … to the most penalized team.”

Schafer added that he has been coaching the players to watch out for their teammates, though Nicholls’ method of fighting was not the way he meant; instead, Schafer feels his players should focus on protecting each other from receiving unsuspecting hits.

Cornell regrouped over the night with a quick turnaround before it playing at the rink of No. 8 Rensselaer Saturday afternoon, in an arguably more important game than the previous.

The Engineers (18-8-4, 10-7-1) entered the weekend in a similar position to the Red. Rensselaer came off a seven-game unbeaten streak while Cornell had won or tied   in six straight games. The Engineers lost in a Friday night contest to Dartmouth while the Red fell to the Dutchmen. With both teams eyeing the fourth place spot in the league and rallying through the entirety of regulation play, it was only fitting that the contest continued into an overtime battle for the ‘W’. Eventually, it was an overtime goal by Cornell’s senior co-captain and forward Joe Devin that propelled the Red to the 3-2 victory.

Joe Devin’s goal came during a power-play advantage, with assists from his brother, senior defenseman Mike Devin and senior forward Tyler Roeszler, at 3:32 in the post-regulation period.

“Mike and Tyler Roeszler made a great play up top,” Joe Devin said of his goal. “Mike’s been really good lately about finding me in the slot. He made a perfect pass right there and it luckily went in.”

Earlier in the game, it was Cornell that got on the board first in the opening period with a goal scored by sophomore forward Vince Mihalek, who was not previously in the starting lineup. This goal marked the first career score for Mihalek, who Schafer noted was able to step up in the midst of many injuries on the team.

While Rensselaer retaliated with a power-play goal just two minutes later, junior forward Sean Collins responded in the same amount of time, putting in another for the Red. The first period ended with a 2-1 goal in Cornell’s favor.

The second period witnessed just one goal scored by RPI early on; however, no more changes on the scoreboard occurred for the remainder of regulation play.

Saturday afternoon also featured fewer penalties than on Friday, though there were some interesting calls during overtime, including Collins slamming into Rensselaer’s goalie just 50 seconds into the extra sesion. Schafer maintains that the calls in the game were fair, though; when the Red took penalties it was able to provide stellar penalty kills.

Indeed, Saturday’s game featured much more emotion and energy from the Red as a whole and it was the total team effort that allowed for the success.

“We just had to respond,” Joe Devin said. “[Friday] night it was embarrassing for our hockey team and we knew we had to come back with a great effort like that. A lot of guys stepped up and responded; Vince Mihalek [came] into the lineup and he had a huge goal for us. Sean Collins had a huge goal for us … Andy played unbelievable in net.”

The win brings Cornell to fourth place in the ECAC with 22 points — only one more point that Rensselaer’s 21. If the Red can maintain this position or advance, it will receive a guaranteed spot in the ECAC playoffs. Cornell’s four remaining face-offs will come against Ivy League rivals Harvard, Dartmouth, Brown and Yale before the regular season’s close.

Original Author: Reena Gilani