February 16, 2012

M. HOCKEY | Men Play for First-Round Bye

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After earning four points and an Ivy title last weekend, the Red (13-6-6, 10-3-5 ECAC Hockey) looks to secure a bye in the first round of the playoffs this weekend. Cornell is hitting the road to face Clarkson (14-13-5, 8-7-3) on Friday at 7 p.m. and St. Lawrence (12-15-3, 8-9-1) at the same time on Saturday.

Cornell would need to be one of the top four teams in the ECAC in order to earn a bye. With only four games left in the season, the Red is only one point out of first place, where Union currently sits.

There are a variety of scenarios in which the Red would be able to clinch a first-round bye this weekend — the first of which is by claiming a win over Clarkson.

“If you look at the year as a whole we are at the point right now with four games to go where we need to win four,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “That will help us achieve a lot of our goals.”

If Cornell loses on Friday, the team will have to beat St. Lawrence and Clarkson will have to either tie or lose to Colgate. According to Schafer, in preparation for this, the team has been working on the small things in practice this past week.

“We’re at the end of a long year,” he said. “We are definitely tapering our intensity at practice, continuing to work on the little things like refining our special teams and the penalty kills.”

Clarkson is also trying to find a way to get one of those Top-4 coveted spots in the ECAC standings. Coming off a four-game losing streak in early January, the Golden Knights have gone 5-3-1 since Jan. 7. The Red will have to be wary of Clarkson sophomore center Ben Sexton. Not only does he lead his team in points per game, but he also scored two goals against Cornell in the Dec. 30 match up.

That game was the second of three matchups between the Red and the Golden Knights. In the first contest, the defenses prevailed, leaving the game in a 0-0 tie.

Saints’ sophomore left wing Greg Carey — who was named to the All-ECAC Hockey Preseason team — has been on the rise lately, racking up eight points in his last four games, thus earning himself the title of ECAC Player of the Week.

However, both the Golden Knights and the Saints have some Red players to look out for as well. Junior forward Greg Miller has scored five goals in the past five games, and senior forward Sean Collins has tied Miller for the team lead in goals — both have 11 so far.

Another important addition the Red will have this weekend is junior defenseman Braden Birch, who was returning from an injury last weekend.

“It was great getting back in the lineup,” Birch said. “I felt a little rusty just taking that week off, but once I got back in the swing of things it was great.”

According to Birch, the Red will look to take it slow this weekend in its quest for a top seed in the ECAC tournament.

“I think that as a team we need to take it one game at a time,” Birch said. “I think it’s important that as a team we focus on the teams we have this weekend and not really worry about the outcome.”

Original Author: Dani Abada