Like the start of every season, the many unrecognizable faces at Lynah this weekend made me feel like a stranger at times to this familiar building on East Hill. Luckily the touch of her wooden benches and the sounds of her echoing walls brought back a distinctively refreshing excitement that is instantly recognizable to any Faithful.It’s time for Cornell hockey!This exhibition weekend showcased the potential that the men’s team could have on both ends of the spectrum in the upcoming season. On one hand, a second- and third-period breakdown of the offensive lines on Friday night against Guelph painted an image of a very talented, yet inexperienced team that does not have the stamina to play 60 minutes on the collegiate level. On the other, fans saw a well-prepared group on Saturday that limited a worthy opponent to 12 shots for the entire night, and put up 36 of its own in a 5-1 blowout win. It is not clear which team we’ll see more this year, but these games reaffirmed preseason discussions that the Red has the potential to earn a first week bye in March and become a force to be reckoned with in the postseason.Much of the offensive power that was lacking from the previous year came from the incredibly talented freshman class. Cole Bardreau, who will have NHL draft eligibility in the upcoming year and is a top contender for an early pick, was the undisputed star this weekend. He scored two goals, provided solid defensive coverage on numerous situations and outskated most players on both sides of the ice.However, the team’s success is not dependent on the performance of individual players, and other members of the team contributed greatly to this weekend’s performance as well. A close contender for MVP this weekend was junior John Esposito, who also scored two goals and is one of the fastest skaters on the team. Senior assistant captain Sean Collins and sophomore Armand de Swardt both created numerous scoring opportunities and recorded two and three assists, respectively. Senior captain Keir Ross and junior assistant captain Nick D’Agostino also made key plays, proving that the duo remains just as valuable as last year.It was clear that the captains’ contribution to this weekend’s success extended to preseason practice as well. Freshmen Brian Ferlin, Joel Lowry, Joakim Ryan and John McCarron looked very comfortable playing with the upperclassmen. The other new players — Madison Dias, Jacob MacDonald, Kevin Cole and Vincenzo Marozzi — made appearances on the ice and also looked promising.There were some questions about sophomore goaltender Andy Iles’ abilities as a dependable starter based on his showing against Guelph, but those doubts were softened by his shutout performance during the first period and a half he played against Carleton. Although he only faced seven shots on Saturday, Iles demonstrated more poise and tried to resist the temptation to go outside the crease on certain breakaway situations. Based on what we’ve seen so far, goaltending is the big question for the Red. There is no doubt that Iles has the potential to develop into a very dependable gatekeeper in a year or two, but the success or failure of this season could very well rest on how well he can hold up this weakest link.Saturday’s game against Carleton also provided a preseason benchmark for Cornell, as this Ontarian team has faced some common opponents in weeks past. A brief glance at the Ravens’ schedule reveals that they have tied Colgate, 3-3, defeated St. Lawrence, 5-2, and beat Waterloo, 6-2, who recently upset Yale, 2-1, in its season-opening exhibition in New Haven, Conn.However, fans should view the Carleton win with a grain of salt because the Ravens had to travel from Ottawa on Friday night after facing an in-conference Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East opponent, which is a more important game to them than our exhibition. Additionally, although Waterloo lost to Carleton earlier this month, the Warriors have defeated the rest of their OUA opponents this season and currently sit atop their conference with a 4-1 record.Just to throw more comparisons into the mix and make things even more confusing, Carleton defeated Guelph, 6-0, yet it was evident that Cornell had more trouble keeping up with the Gryphons than the Ravens. Guelph also lost 9-4 on Saturday to Princeton, one of the lowest-ranked ECAC teams in preseason polls, so the exhibition numbers might prove somewhat useless in evaluating actual performance for this season.Looking forward, Saturday’s showdown against Mercyhurst is a must-win for the men’s team if it doesn’t want to squander its NCAA at-large bid chances. The Lakers will enter Lynah having played Nebraska-Omaha, Alaska-Fairbanks, RIT, three very-likely TUC teams and unranked Alaska-Anchorage. This will provide a much-needed boost under the common opponents comparison in the pairwise rankings. A mark in the loss column will be a major setback, unless the Red somehow defeats both the Boston Terriers and the Colorado Tigers later this season — two very experienced opponents.For those of us who still knack college hockey and don’t have the patience to wait, I suggest making the quick trip to Hamilton for the women’s game against Colgate on Tuesday.
Original Author: Andrew Hu