March 21, 2012

M. HOCKEY | Red Looks to Claw Past No. 2 Wolverines in First Round of NCAA Tourney

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On Friday at 8 p.m., the Red (18-8-7) will face No. 2 Michigan (24-12-4) in Green Bay, Wis., in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“They are obviously a good hockey team, the second rated team in the country,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “They are solid in all areas of the game; their special teams [are strong], they are good offensively, solid defensively. There is a lot of individual talent on their hockey team.”Cornell was slated as the No. 4 seed. The Wolverines — who made it to the national title game last year — lost eight seniors this past year, but remain a force to be reckoned with.“You have to go in with confidence and I think we had a good year,” said senior defenseman and captain Keir Ross. “We are not worried about the seeding. I think we feel good about it, and we’re really excited for the weekend to get kicked off.”Cornell and Michigan have not met on the ice since 1997, when Schafer was only in his second year as head coach. The game, played in Ann Arbor, ended in a 3-3 tie. Schafer said he is focusing on the present and preparing his team for the upcoming game.“If you give them time and space they are going to make plays,” he said of the Wolverines. “All good teams are like that, but they are definitely known for having those skilled forwards who get up and down the ice and make plays in transition, and you have to do a good job staying above them.”He added that, for the Red to win, the team must make big plays when the opportunity arises.“This time of year you can’t squander opportunities,” Schafer said. “When we get our chances against Michigan we have to capitalize on them.”Denver and Ferris State will be competing in the other regional semifinal. The victors on both sides will compete Saturday afternoon for a spot in the Frozen Four. However, according to freshman forward John McCarron, the team is concentrating on what it needs to do on Friday to be successful against the Wolverines.“I think it’s just going to be our team defense,” he said. “We have to stay disciplined, our offense comes from our good defense. If we are getting hounded all night in our own zone, we’re not going to be able to put the puck in the net.”The opponent is especially significant for McCarron, who is a Michigan native.“Growing up, I was always idolizing Michigan and Michigan State,” he said. “[It is] such a big rivalry, just being able to play against a team like that and hopefully beat them is just bittersweet.”Falling to Harvard, 6-1, at the ECAC Hockey Championship semifinals almost cost the Red its spot in the NCAA tournament. However, Cornell rebounded with a 3-0 victory over Colgate in the consolation game the next day to secure the trip to Green Bay.“Friday night I think was a little bit of a stun for us, [Harvard got] two quick goals there,” McCarron said. “I don’t think we played our best. Obviously we learned from it and turned it around pretty quick, which was good for us on Saturday night to get that huge win and get into the tournament.This will be the Red’s 19th appearance in the NCAA tournament and its seventh in the past 11 years. The four seniors on the Cornell hockey team will be playing in their third trip to the tournament.“We recognize they are a good team, but at the same time, we are going in there feeling confident,” Ross said. “We have had our ups an downs this year. We could have been a couple games away from being a higher seed … we’re not worried about the seeding; we are just going to control what we can control from this point on.”

Original Author: Dani Abada