October 16, 2011

Meet the New Team, Same as the Old Team

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History does not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme — that seemed to be the sentiment for both the men’s and women’s hockey teams at Saturday night’s Red-White game. And that was not necessarily a bad thing.This year’s format was slightly different from years past, with the women’s team intermittently switching out with the men’s. Penalties were served by penalty shots and teams switched between full strength and power play formations throughout the night. The White team took the game with a 7-6 win after an overtime shootout. Of the 13 goals scored in the contest, six came via penalty shot goals. The women’s team was responsible for seven scores on the evening.On the women’s side, it was business as usual for the NCAA runner-up. With only four seniors graduating in May and all of the juniors returning, this year’s team is another shoe-in pick for the Frozen Four. Not only were the ladies able to skate alongside the guys on Saturday, they also beat the Brampton Thunder in a convincing shutout, 6-0, in Friday’s exhibition season opener. The Thunder’s roster had four Olympic gold medalists, who played on the Canadian national team — the same team that senior co-captain Rebecca Johnston was a part of in 2010.Brampton was a worthy opponent and gave a solid read on the team’s ability at this point in the season. Although the Thunder came close to scoring a few times during the game, they did not give much of a fight in their own end because most of the defenders simply crowded in front of their goal. Cornell’s passing game was consistent and accurate all three periods, and the puck eventually found its way to the net. The team’s true test will begin in a month against Boston University and Mercyhurst with early contests against Dartmouth and Harvard at home to follow.During the off-season, the men’s team saw a considerable amount of departures. Five seniors graduated, while Jordan Kary ’11 and Mike Garman ’11 both graduated early and signed with professional teams. In addition, former associate head coach Casey Jones ’90 left for the head coach position with the Clarkson Golden Knights, and former assistant coach Scott Garrow laterally transferred to the Princeton Tigers.Although the men’s team had considerable changes on the ice and behind the bench, defense — a traditional strong suit for the Red — held up very well on Saturday night. Returning defensemen Keir Ross, Sean Whitney, Nick D’Agostino, Braden Birch, Krill Gotovets and Mathieu Brisson all saw considerable ice time last year and worked well together. Goalie Andy Iles, who is likely start most of the games this year, appeared to be performing at a similar level compared to last March as well.Unsurprisingly, the Red’s ability to score is the big question for the upcoming season, in part because Garrow was in charge of the offense and power play. This weekend’s 1-2-2 formation, which didn’t fare so well last year against Yale in Atlantic City, is pretty much the same that we’ve seen under head coach Mike Schafer ’86 over the years. Luckily, Topher Scott ’08, who was a remarkable forward in his own right during his 4 years on East Hill, is taking over these responsibilities. It will be interesting to see what kind of value he could add to the team from his experiences at Miami of Ohio.There was also a lot of new blood on the forward lines, with incoming freshmen such as fifth round draft pick Joel Lowry and fourth round choice Brian Ferlin making impressive displays of their ability to skate with the upperclassmen. Additionally, fifth round pick Philippe Hudon and former U.S. Under-18 team member Cole Bardreau both had impactful presences on the ice.  All seven freshmen forwards saw ice time Saturday, and it would not be surprising to see a few of them on the starting line very soon.Schafer mentioned in an earlier interview that this is the youngest team he has ever coached during his tenure here, which means they will be very skilled in a few years time. However, does it also imply that we are going to see another “rebuilding” year? That’s still too early to tell. Schools like Colgate and Quinnipiac, who have not had very successful records in the past few years, are doing very well so far in pre-ECAC play, and have many returning players. Most pollsters also agree that Union and Yale will probably finish in the top of the ECAC and earn NCAA bids.All in all, Cornell hockey picked up where it left off last March, with some shuffling going around in the rest of the league. Whether that is good or bad (a question more suited for the men’s team than the women’s), is for each of us to decide.

Original Author: Andrew Hu