February 7, 2013

M. HOCKEY | Back at Lynah, Red Hopes to End Five-Game Skid

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Looking to snap a five-game losing streak, the Red will get a kick start against the ECAC’s top team this weekend. Cornell (8-11-2, 4-8-2 ECAC) is returning to Lynah Rink to host No. 2 Quinnipiac (19-3-4, 12-0-2) on Friday and will battle Princeton (7-10-3, 5-6-3) on Saturday.

“It’s going to be great to be home,” said senior defenseman and team tri-captain Nick D’Agostino. “Especially for myself — I only have potentially two weekends [left] here at Lynah. So it’s great to be back here, I love playing in front of this crowd. We feed off the energy, we’ve kind of let down the faithful a little bit, but we’re ready to go and hopefully we can get a couple wins for everybody this weekend.”

A veteran Quinnipiac team is in the midst of a 19-game unbeaten streak, dating back to a 3-2 victory over Colgate on Nov. 9th. That was one day before the Bobcats defeated Cornell 4-1 in the teams’ previous meeting this season.

“They’re having a great year,” D’Agostino said. “They’re a real mature team — they have a lot of seniors on their team. And obviously they’ve bought into the system that they’re playing in and it’s working for them … [There are] a lot of similarities [between] how they play [and] how we play — their penalty kill, their neutral zone — and obviously it’s a team that we can look up to. So this weekend we’re just going to have to compete and work hard and stay out of the penalty box and try to win the special teams battle against them.”

Although the ECAC-leading Bobcats will present a significant challenge for the Red, the atmosphere in the locker room has been filled with anticipation for a high-caliber showdown.

“Quinnipiac is a great team to play. Whether it’s Quinnipiac, Princeton, [or] whoever it may be, they’re all tough opponents right now and it’s a great challenge for us,” said head coach Mike Schafer ‘86. “We’re looking forward to tough opponents right now and it’s a great challenge for us,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We’re looking forward to the game on Friday night. Our guys have been awesome in practice this week on both Monday and Tuesday. They’ve come in and have gotten to work and haven’t pouted — they haven’t felt sorry for themselves. They’ve been ready to go and that kind of attitude, as a coach, makes me really proud of them.”

Despite the rough patch, the players have not hung their heads.

“I think you’d be surprised with the attitude right now in the locker room,” D’Agostino said. “It’s actually pretty positive, pretty upbeat. We feel like we’ve worked pretty hard the last couple weekends and obviously, we haven’t gotten the results we’ve wanted but we do feel like our work ethic … and compete level [are] there.”

Cornell is returning for the penultimate home series of the season after falling in hard-fought losses to St. Lawrence and Clarkson last weekend. The Red has lost eight of the last nine for the first time in Schafer’s 18-year coaching tenure. While trying to reverse the team’s fortune this weekend, Schafer will coach his 599th and 600th career games for the Red.

“We’re going to get back to some old mentalities around here,” Schafer said. “The way is that if [you’re] not scoring goals, then stop them. Our lack of scoring — we’ve put a lot of focus on it over the last few weeks, not capitalizing on our chances — it’s been frustrating our team. Well, now it’s time to stop them — stop them from scoring and frustrate the other team and get ready in transition and capitalize on our opportunities.”

Amid the team’s slump, the Cornell’s NCAA Tournament hopes have taken a hit. With eight regular season games to go, the Red is hoping to build momentum going into the ECAC Tournament in March and make a charge for an automatic bid.

“We haven’t stopped believing in ourselves at all,” D’Agostino said. “We really like our hockey team … Man for man, I’d put us up against anybody in the country … We’re still really confident in ourselves and we know we have the pieces in place to make a run.”

Original Author: Chris Mills