By CHRIS MILLS
Cole Bardreau is back. After suffering a neck fracture that ended his season prematurely last January at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, the junior forward and co-captain scored twice in the Red’s Saturday night exhibition game.
Bardreau’s two early goals, coupled with a late pair from junior forward Madison Dias, propelled No. 19 Cornell (0-0, 0-0 ECAC) to a big 7-2 victory over undefeated York (4-0, 4-0 OUA) in front of a Lynah crowd of just over 4,000.
“It feels awesome, especially after that first [goal],” Bardreau said. “It’s been way too long — I think it’s been seven months. It was nice to just get out there in front of the fans and the boys.”
The Red killed several early power play opportunities for the Lions, maintaining a 16-1 shot advantage in the first period. Midway through the first and down 5-on-4 via a two minute charging penalty on junior forward co-captain John McCarron, Cornell responded in a big way.
Dias scooped up a loose puck from a York attacker and funneled it forward to Bardreau, who outpaced the Lions’ defense and scored on the backhand to give the Red a 1-0 lead. The goal was Bardreau’s first for the Red in over half a year.
“I blacked out — I couldn’t tell you what happened,” Bardreau said, laughing. “[I was] so excited. But after that I had been planning on the celebration so it was a good feeling after.”
Minutes later, sophomore forward Teemu Tiitinen scored with an assist from freshman forward Jake Weidner. Bardreau followed up with his second goal of the night on a strong feed from junior forward Joel Lowry, this time on a Red power play, to put Cornell up 3-0 going into the second.
“It was just exciting to see [Cole] get back into the play,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. “He’s got no reservations — he doesn’t think about it. He had to answer all the questions from [the media] throughout the course of the week and leading into the year which is really natural coming off of a major injury like that, but he’s been fully rehabbed.”
The Red continued to smother York throughout the second period. The contest began to get chippy at the end of the first when York’s power forward junior Michael Lombardi took a couple shots at senior forward Justin Mowrey, and the physicality continued throughout the night. The Red was able to respond on several penalty opportunities, including a goal from sophomore forward John Knisely five minutes into the second. Three minutes later, sophomore forward Christian Hilbrich cashed in on another power play and the Red led 5-0 at the end of two, despite committing eight penalties up to that point.
“They were all excited for that physicality to come in and hit — just some bad penalties [from] being over-exuberant about it,” Schafer said. “But our discipline with our sticks and our retaliatory penalties [was] excellent, and that’s something we’ve really made a priority with our guys this year.”
Despite the high volume of penalties against the Lions, Schafer said he was pleased by the Red’s lack of mental errors. He added that he has been emphasizing a tougher stance on penalties this season.
“Something I didn’t do enough last year, especially early, is to bench guys … when they come off of a bad penalty to sit for two, three, four shifts,” Schafer said. “That hurts more than anything, is not playing. [It’s] a short-term sacrifice for a long-term goal.”
With the exception of an interference call, the Red remained penalty free during the third period, in which freshman goalie Mitch Gillam came on in relief of senior goaltender Andy Iles. Cornell relinquished two York goals during the period, but got two back from Dias — including one off a great feed from freshman forward Eric Freschi.
“Second one, it was a great play,” Dias said. “Cycle and a good shift. Temu — give credit to him — it was a good cycle and then Freschi made an unbelievable pass and then it was kind of just there for the net.”
“He’s growing, getting more confidence in himself. He scored goals, killed some penalties for us tonight,” Schafer said of Dias. “That’s where you see the growth of these guys — not just the influx of freshmen but how guys like Madison have grown over the summer.”
When the final buzzer sounded, the Red had outshot York 52-10 to cap a positive early outcome for Schafer’s squad. Schafer indicated that the team’s physical play and contributions from Dias and the freshmen were all factors he would like to see carried into the coming weeks. A big part of the Red’s success this season will also come from a new and improved Bardreau.
“He’s stronger; he’s faster,” Schafer added.
“I think his weight last year was 185 — he’s up to 194 this year. So through that rehab he’s put on more muscle. I think he’s quicker. His mental toughness [and how] just nothing affects him is quite evident coming back from an injury like that.”
“I worked pretty hard this summer and stayed here, skated a lot, was in the weight room with our trainer and it’s been paying off for me,” Bardreau said. “Me being a smaller guy, I think putting on 10-15 pounds will help me in the corners — not get pushed around as much and give me more scoring opportunities [at] the net.”
Photo: Xiaoyue Guo / Sun Staff PhotographerJunior forward and co-captain Cole Bardeau took to the ice and scored for the first time since coming back from a neck injury.