Giving up a three goal lead, especially in a potential statement game against a top-five opponent, certainly was not the way that Cornell men’s hockey coach Mike Schafer ‘86 drew things up. The Red are off to a quick start to the season, finishing off the second weekend of the season with a 3-1, and as the team looks to square off with conference opponent Colgate in a home-and-home series, Schafer and his team continues to deal with several injuries.
With sophomore forward Dwyer Tschantz out indefinitely, sophomore goalie Hayden Stewart sidelined with mononucleosis and senior center John Knisley not set to return until after Christmas, Schafer will continue to mix and match his lines in order to make the best of a tough situation.
“I don’t know if we’ll have a full complement of forwards, so there will be a lot of moving guys in and around,” Schafer said. “We might play seven defensemen as opposed to our forwards. As I said, with the amount of injuries we have, there is going to be that going on for a long period of time. Guys are trying to prove themselves and getting ice time. We’ll move guys in and out all year round.”
The Red has seen a wide range of contributors so far this season. Freshman and junior forwards Anthony Angello and Jeff Kubiak stand atop the Red’s offensive leadership with six points, three goals and assists a piece. Sophomore and senior defensemen Reece Wilcox are tied for second on the team with four points apiece.
So while the team has been solid on the offensive end, Schafer noted several areas where his team fell flat during Saturday’s game against Quinnipiac.
“In the neutral zone, we gave them the puck way too many times,” Schafer said. “Almost twice as much as we got it from them. Between the blue lines in a critical area. We learned a lot of good things about us. Our power play did a solid job. Our penalty killing was OK. We tried to address that.”
The power play has been one of the Red’s strength so far this season. Cornell currently ranks 12th in the nation in power play conversion percentage, while also ranking 20th in the country in penalty killing. This improvement in the power play stems from a shift in mentality, according to Schafer.
“One of the things we’ve talked about is taking more of a shooting mentality on the power play this year and attacking off of broken plays rather than going to set up and trying to go with something that we’re familiar with,” Schafer said. “A lot of power play goals are scored that way. I think you saw on Friday night, or Saturday night, we kind of set it up and shot it and we captured the rebound.”
“Hunger,” Schafer said, plays a major role in the success of a power play unit.
“It seems kind of stupid, but when you’re on a power play, how fast can you get the puck back out after you shoot it so you can get another shot?” Schafer said. “That hunger is a big part of having a good power play. So we’ve changed that this year and we’ve used multiple people on it and if a guy’s attention wanes and they’re not ready to roll, we just plug someone else in that is ready to roll on the bench.”
So as the team prepares for its conference games this weekend, Schafer said that it is important for his team to keep in mind that there is not a whole lot of time for his team to make an impact.
“This is game 25 left of our schedule. It seems very quick. It’s a quick sprint to Christmas time and you look at it right now and we have seven games left before we get there. I’ve said it before, but I want to get to Christmas and we’ve got a tremendous amount of injuries on our team and in that seven-game span, it’s going to be crucial to our hockey team and how we get through this time,” Schafer said. “We’ve got some things we addressed this week and hopefully, it’ll make us a better hockey team as we go down the stretch.”