November 3, 2011

M. HOCKEY | Red Hits Road to Open ECAC Play at Yale, Brown

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After a difficult loss on opening night, the men’s hockey team begins conference play against the same opponent that ended its 2010-11 season in dominating fashion. On Friday night at 7:30 p.m., Yale (1-0-1) hosts Cornell (0-1-0) in New Haven, Conn., as the two squads kick-off ECAC Hockey competition in a rematch of last year’s league championship game, which the Bulldogs won in a blowout, 6-0.

The Red returns to the ice on Saturday at 7 p.m. to close out the weekend on the road in a matchup with Brown (1-1-0). Though Cornell dominates the all-time series (68-41-5), the Bears earned victories the last two times the teams met.

While the Red features a considerably younger squad this season — including many new players, who were not a part of the season-ending defeat to Yale — the veterans leading the way say they have not erased the memories of that shutout loss in Atlantic City.

“We owe Yale. They gave it to us pretty well in the championship game,” said junior center Greg Miller. “I know they lost a few key guys [to graduation], and so have we … but they’re always a tough team to play in their barn. It’s our first road weekend with the new club, so we’re hoping to go in there and [play well]. We’ve just got to focus on ourselves.”

Miller, the Red’s point-leader from a season ago, picked up two assists in Cornell’s opening loss to Mercyhurst, 5-4, on Saturday night at Lynah Rink. The offensive effort against the Lakers featured a combination of veterans and rookies, led by two assists from junior defensemen and assistant captain Nick D’Agostino and freshman linemate Joakim Ryan, who earned ECAC Rookie of the Week honors for his two-goal, three-point performance.

“Joakim had a great game on Saturday,” D’Agostino said of his fellow defender. “I really enjoy playing with him — he’s a great puck-mover, and he’s really easy to play with … I thought we played pretty well together on Saturday.  We [created] a lot of scoring chances.”

When asked about the performance of the other freshmen playing in their first home game, D’Agostino pointed to freshman forward John McCarron, who picked up two assists on the evening.

While the Red successfully engineered a comeback in the season opener, scoring three unanswered scores to take the lead, 4-3, at 7:07 in the third period, the team was unable to secure the one-goal edge with time winding down. Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 chalks this problem up to nothing more than early season struggles that the Red must work through in order to avoid future mistakes.

“Two of the goals they scored were on face-offs, where we lose the guy … and it’s just something that the guys who did it probably won’t make that mistake again,” Schafer said. “Those things that happen early in the year, you can look at and say ‘I’ll be shocked if that happens again, ever’ … We’re a lot better team [after practice] Monday than we were on Saturday, and we’ll be better this weekend than we were last weekend.”

The Bulldogs look to defend their ECAC title without the trio of starting forwards and goalie that led the squad to the NCAA tournament; however, Yale returns all-conference first-team forwards Andrew Miller and Brian O’Neill — a duo that combined to score 91 points last season. Junior goalie Jeff Malcolm has surrendered three goals through the team’s two games in his first year as the Bulldogs’ top netminder.

“I don’t think there was a deeper team than Yale in college hockey last year with their three lines that could score,” Schafer said. “Any time you turn over a large amount of guys … it takes a while for people to get in new roles, but I still think Yale’s got one of the best lines in college hockey with Miller and Brian O’Neill.”

Despite holding a 21-win advantage in the all-time series, the Red currently rides an eight-game losing streak against Yale, dating back to Nov. 9, 2007.

The Red will also look to reverse a losing trend from last season on Saturday night against Brown. After winning seven straight over the Bears, Cornell was twice handed one-goal defeats by the same score, 3-2, in the meetings between the two squads in 2010-11.

Sophomore forward Garnet Hathaway, who posted 14 points as a rookie, leads the team with three points entering the weekend matchups with Colgate and Cornell. While the Bears feature a young lineup on offense, senior Mike Clemente returns in net after posting a 3.28 goals-against average last season in 26 starts. This year represents the third consecutive season in which Clemente is serving as Brown’s primary net minder.

“Neither one of those teams is going to change their personalities a whole lot. I think their personnel is going to change,” Schafer said referring to Yale and Brown. “Brown is an extremely hard working team — we had two tough games with them last year.”

The Red was unable to earn the ‘W’ in front of a sold out Lynah Rink on Saturday, and enters conference play with four straight road games on the schedule — a change in atmosphere that Schafer expects to be a factor in how his team plays.

“It’s a tough place to play because there’s not a whole lot of atmosphere, as far as the crowd is concerned,” the head coach said referring to Brown’s Meehan Auditorium. “When you’re used to 4,200 screaming fans and then go play somewhere where its 600 or 1,000, it’s maintaining your focus and enthusiasm to play the game at a high level that will be a challenge.”

Original Author: Evan Rich