January 29, 2012

M. HOCKEY | Stopping Smith Proves Difficult Task for Cornell Defense

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If the Red learned anything from this weekend’s back-to-back contests against Colgate, it is that the Raiders are good in transition. Not only did the Red’s regional rival thrive on the neutral zone regroup and the breakout in Friday and Saturday’s wins against Cornell, but the Raiders simultaneously transitioned from an underdog in a losing skid to a unit capable of bringing down the league leader.

Before Friday night, Cornell (11-5-4, 8-2-3 ECAC Hockey) had not lost to Colgate (13-9-3, 7-5-1) in the previous 11 meetings of the two teams, and the Raiders had accumulated a six-game losing skid compared to the Red’s seven-game undefeated streak. The Red fell to its opponents in a  2-1 loss on Friday at home after a scoreless third period, and then botched a 3-1 lead in Hamilton, N.Y., giving up four goals in the final frame for a 5-3 loss.

“[Colgate] played with passion,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “They looked like a team that was trying to get out of an 0-5-1 slide.”

Friday’s game was qualitatively the least effective hockey the Cornell squad has displayed this season, earning just one shot on goal in the third period. The game started with a shorthanded goal by Colgate’s sophomore center Chris Wagner when junior defenseman and alternate captain Nick D’Agostnio failed to play the pass on a odd man rush.

By the end of the first period, both teams were rushing the net with surgical strikes, then hustling back to play defense on the other’s transition. At the 17:16 mark, the freshman Raider winger Joe Wilson cut right while crashing the net and one-timed a pass from junior center Kurtis Bartiff in the corner. The puck escaped sophomore net minder Andy Iles, making the score 2-0 Colgate.

The Red’s freshman defenseman Joakim Ryan successfully retaliated in the second with a pass from D’Agostino, but the Cornell squad was never able to close the gap.

“We didn’t execute the game plan,” D’Agostino said with glassy eyes after the game. “We talked about what we needed to do between the second and third period and we just didn’t do it.”

Schafer agreed that his team’s performance this past weekend was not consistent with how it has been the rest of the season.

“For the first time this year I don’t doubt that they wanted to win in the third, it’s just that we didn’t play as a team,” he said. “We had two or three guys wide open in the slot with five minutes to go in the game and we just didn’t show any poise.”

Freshman winger John McCarron decked senior forward Austin Smith on open ice in the third, but overall, the Red could not put enough bodies on Colgate to slow down the acceleration of the Raider forwards. Cornell pulled Iles for a six-on-four power play advantage with 16.9 seconds left, but it was too late.

Original Author: Rob Moore