January 27, 2013

M. HOCKEY | Familiar Turf Not Enough For Red Against Yale, Brown

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Recent roster reconfigurations and a return home to Lynah Rink were not enough to propel the Red to victory this weekend, as the team fell to ECAC rivals Yale and Brown on consecutive nights.

The pair of losses drops Cornell (8-9-2, 4-6-2 ECAC) to eighth in the conference. The No. 18 Red was defeated 3-2 by the No. 7 Bulldogs (12-5-3, 8-4-1) Friday night and lost 3-0 to the Bears (7-9-4, 3-6-4) Saturday evening.

“It’s frustrating and the guys are frustrated,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86, taking responsibility for the weekend’s outcomes. “Some of it is that the players [have] to be accountable for what they do, but I have to be accountable for what I do.”

The Red jumped out to an early lead against Yale before eventually falling in overtime. Sophomore forward Brian Ferlin scored in the first period to give the Red a 1-0 lead, and senior forward John Esposito struck in the second to lead the Red to a 2-1 advantage. Yale’s junior forward Kenny Agostino tied the game early in the third period and freshman forward Stu Wilson crashed the goal two minutes into overtime to allow the Bulldogs to come away with the win.

The following night against Brown, Cornell struggled to put the puck in the net in a 3-0 defeat. The loss was the Red’s first scoreless performance of the season.

“It’s disappointing,” said junior goaltender Andy Iles. “These guys laid it on the line [and] they played with a lot of heart — we did what we wanted to do. It’s really tough because as [the] goalie my job is to keep them in the game and I didn’t do my part tonight. And it hurts … but it’s a team game and we’ll get back at it on Monday.”

The game was scoreless until Iles left the net to clear the puck with 46 seconds remaining in the second period. Before Iles was able to return to the goal, Brown’s Jeff Ryan put the puck in and broke the tie.

“It was one of those plays where, as a goalie, I like to be active, I like to try and help the guys out when I can,” Iles said. “I got behind the net and I didn’t handle it cleanly and at that point, for whatever reason, I … threw it behind me and it ended up in the back of the net.”

Brown’s second goal — off the stick of Matt Lorito — came only seven minutes after the first strike, at the six minute mark in the third period.

“I have a process to the way I approach the games, and those last five minutes of every period and the first five minutes of every period are huge,” Iles said. “I try to keep zeroes up, and the last minute is even more important. That’s a tough way to end the second period.”

Despite being outshot 30-23 by a similar-styled Brown squad, the Red displayed some grit in its defeat.

“We were first on pucks all over the ice tonight,” Iles said. “[The key is] forechecking hard — it’s being smart with the forecheck. When you get their defense retrieving pucks all night you can wear them down and make them tired. That’s something we’re going to have to do. We’re going to have to get pucks deep, [and] we’re going to have to pay the price.”

According to Iles, the Red will have to supplement its offensive drought with more physical play.

“We’re going to have to bang bodies until we start clicking a little bit and our offense starts to explode,” he said. “We’re going to have to muck and grind. And we’re ready for that, we’re prepared for it, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Senior defenseman and tri-captain Braden Birch took some positives away from the disappointing weekend.

“[T]he work ethic [is] there,” Birch said. “We’re so close to being a very strong team, I just think the details are lacking. I think if we all come together as a strong team — [if] everyone buys in — we’re going to come up with some wins. I think we’re just in a rough patch right now.”

Birch said he was also impressed by the improved play of the freshmen.

“Some of [the freshmen] are our hardest working players out there,” he said. “Just on top of my mind — [freshman forward] Teemu [Tiitinen]: he’s working hard, blocking shots. And that’s especially what we need out of freshman guys stepping in the lineup. It’s the small details that really matter, and it really gets the bench going when you’re willing to sacrifice for the team.”

The Red experimented with lineup changes against Yale and Brown, and the team will continue to mix and match substitutions at St. Lawrence and Clarkson this coming weekend.

“I hope this is what kick-starts [the team],” Schafer said. “As a coach you are trying to find the right buttons to push, and hopefully the buttons we push this weekend are successful.”

Original Author: Chris Mills