January 31, 2013

M. ICE HOCKEY | After Losing Three, Red Travels to St. Lawrence, Clarkson

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With a three-game losing streak hanging overhead, the Red prepares to travel to the North Country to take on ECAC rivals St. Lawrence and Clarkson, Friday and Saturday night, respectively.Refusing to allow last Saturday’s 0-3 loss to Brown (7-9-4, 3-6-4 ECAC) create a sour mood in the locker room, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said that the Red (8-9-2, 4-6-2) used the past week to take a break and refocus on where the team is at 20 games into the season.“[The team] took [Monday] off; I think that was important for just to get a chance to regroup and talk about a few things and have them go out and just … have some fun, get on the ice and just get away from everything for a day,” Schafer said. “We kept things pretty short at [Tuesday’s] practice — coming back out with high intensity and tempo.”The Red began the 2012-13 season with a strong run, winning four of its first six contests and tying twice. However, in recent weeks Cornell has hit a rocky patch — losing six of its last seven games. Despite the string of unanticipated losses, the team is looking to head into the contests against St. Lawrence and Clarkson with a clean slate in mind, according to senior defenseman and tri-captain Braden Birch.“I think as a group, we collectively decided that it’s almost like a fresh start [playing away this weekend] — getting some energy back into the program,” he said. “It starts with practice — getting some good practice in, lots of energy, really upbeat. Like I said two days ago, we’re so close to being a strong team. We have so much balance at forward and on defense. I just think it was a rough patch, and we just need to play some good games and score some goals.”Part of turning over a new leaf for the team will include converting more shots on net into goals. Against Yale and Brown over the weekend, the Red recorded 50 shots on goal, yet only managed to skate away with two goals. According to Schafer, the team will need to focus closely on eliminating lost opportunities, especially during power plays, and avoiding penalties. It will also have to approach each game with a renewed intensity and the mindset that the team controls its own destiny every time it skates onto the ice, Schafer said.“We need to go forward … playing with just an undying, unrivaled passion for every loose puck and every possession. That’s the mentality we need to adopt right now,” Schafer said. “We can’t wait for someone to do it for ­us. … You can make excuses for just about anything. We have to change our luck, we have to change our fortune and we have to change how we play as a group of players and coaches.”This weekend will offer the Red the perfect platform to test out its new team mindset, playing against opponents Cornell has historically had the edge over. The Red leads the series against St. Lawrence (11-10-3, 4-5-3), 56-41-7, as well as the series against Clarkson (5-13-6, 4-6-2), 58-49-14. Defeating both teams, 3-1, when the teams met at Lynah in early December, Cornell looks to move to 2-0 for this season against the competitive northern rivals.“[The North Country is] always a tough place to play,” Birch said. “Clarkson and St. Lawrence are historically very hard-working teams — very physical — so it’s always a battle up there for us. This year we played pretty well against them in the series here, so I’m looking forward to playing against them, and it should be a good battle.”The more relaxed mood heading into the weekend road trip could provide the Red the stability it needs to have a weekend of consistent, competitive action in two important conference games.“The guys are much more relaxed,” freshman forward Christian Hilbrich said. “Since Sunday, it’s been a whole new atmosphere. Everyone’s just been relaxed … The leashes are definitely shorter, but [Schafer] is letting the player’s feel comfortable in their own skin and I think that’s really … paid off.”Hilbrich received recognition from Schafer for his noteworthy contributions during last Saturday night’s contest against Brown.“I thought Christian Hilbrich did a tremendous job [versus Brown,]” Schafer said. “I thought he had a big impact all over the place, and I think [freshman] Gavin Stoick, never playing [forward before], had him playing forward for a long period of time had an impact. I would say that the guys who came in the line-up … I thought those two young guys there did a real good job.”Schafer has expanded the depth of his talented roster, substituting younger players into already strong front and back lines. Utilizing every player on the roster is becoming increasingly important as the Red approaches playoff season, especially with sophomore forward Cole Bardreau out for the remainder of the season with a neck injury.“[Playing in the game against Brown] was not something that comes along every day,” Hilbrich said. “It was [Schafer’s] kind of way of saying we’re going to get a fresh start and he needs the whole team to partake in the journey we’re going to have to go on here. We’re going to have to go on a run to make something of the year and make the playoffs.”After this weekend’s trip to the North Country, Cornell will return to Lynah to play Quinnipiac and Princeton on Feb. 8 and 9, respectively.

Original Author: Lauren Ritter