By JOON LEE
Scoring goals certainly did not evade the Cornell men’s hockey team over the course of the group’s first regular season games last week, tallying seven against the Purple Eagles. But as the team prepares to kick off their ECAC schedule against Princeton and Quinnipiac this weekend, the Red faces a much tougher competition this weekend.
The Tigers come into Lynah Rink with a 1-1 record, coming off a victory against Maine. The Red won both games against the Tigers, who went 4-23-3 in 2014-15, last season. Cornell will face one of its toughest challenges in the early parts of the season on Saturday when the No. 4 Bobcats arrive on the hill on Saturday.
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 has some history with the Bobcats; the Red head coach called Quinnipiac head coach Rand Peckhold a “fucking classless asshole” after Bobcats center Matthew Peca hit Cole Bardreau ’15, who suffered a near career-ending broken neck in 2013, from behind. The ECAC suspended Schafer for one game for the incident.
The conference games will provide the first real test in finding out whether or not the team’s offensive outburst during the first weekend of the season can carry over for the remainder of the season.
“There was poise with the puck offensively coming into the zone and I was pleased with our net presence, being around the front of the net and I think of all of the goals that we scored the previous weekend, guys were stopping at the net, staying at the net,” Schafer said. “I’m happy with that and the offensive habits that the guys are executing right now and on any given night, things can go in, things can not go in, but your offensive habits can remain the same.”
What does not concern Schafer is the ranking of the team’s coming to Ithaca this weekend.
“I don’t even know where they are ranked,” Schafer said about Quinnipiac. “Our guys just now that Quinnipiac is a good hockey team from what we’ve seen on video. Princeton is a much improved hockey team, so we’ve talked about this a great deal throughout the fall and going into the season is that every game, every season, it doesn’t matter.”
The Red, however, faces the task of playing one of the top teams in the country without one of their captains. Senior John Knisley, Schafer announced, will be out until “after Christmas” after undergoing surgery for an undisclosed injury suffered during the team’s season opener against Niagara. In addition, sophomore goaltender Hayden Stewart, who was poised to split playing time with junior Mitch Gillam, is out indefinitely as he fights mononucleosis.
So as the team moves forward without two key contributors, Schafer said that his team has a lot to improve.
“I think the pace of the game, the details of the system from what we’re doing in our defensive zone, what we’re doing in the neutral zone, the power play, the penalty kill, there isn’t a thing that we’re not working on,” Schafer said. “It takes a long, long time to establish habits and habits in all different zones.”
The Bobcats come in with a strong offensive unit, with forward Travis St. Denis and Sam Anas both tied for 24th among all players in NCAA hockey with eight points. St. Denis ranks fourth in the country in goals scored with six. The Bobcats also bring in goalie Michael Garteig, who is ranked eighth in the country in save percentage. As a team, Quinnipiac is tied for fifth with 4.5 goals per game and ranked fifth in team defense with 1.33 goals allowed per game.
“Traditionally, [Quinnipiac] plays hard, we play hard and they’ve had the better of us the last couple of years,” Schafer said. “Last year, it wasn’t a lack of the games being close. They’ve capitalized on their chances and we haven’t and Princeton, it’s the second year for Ron Fogarty and their staff there and they’re a much improved hockey team and they understand what he wants a lot more, it goes back to it. Two good hockey teams.”