After four straight road games and fighting off injuries, No. 14/15 Cornell men’s hockey (6-1-2, 4-1-1 ECAC) returns to Lynah Rink this weekend for a pair of games against No. 13/13 St. Lawrence (8-3-2, 3-1-1 ECAC) and Clarkson (7-4-2, 0-3-2 ECAC). The Red was able to maintain its success on the road and will look to finish strong against two ECAC opponents before the Christmas break.
St. Lawrence, while only ranked sixth in the ECAC below Cornell, is an extremely tough opponent and could very well be the statement win the team has been looking for. The Red has a good record and has a couple of ties against high quality squads, but they have not chalked up a win over a tough opponent, like St. Lawrence, thus far.
“St. Lawrence is a very deep hockey team,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. The Saints have 10 players with at least six points in their 13 games. Despite this depth, St. Lawrence’s power play has struggled with only a 7.6 percent efficiency. However, the Saints’ penalty kill ranks third in the country, stopping teams about 92 percent when down a man.
Clarkson’s record and placing — tied for last in the ECAC — is also deceiving. The Golden Knights handed Quinnipiac, whom the Red lost in overtime to, their first non-win of the season as Clarkson tied the Bobcats on Nov. 2.
“Clarkson has good size, is a solid team and well coached,” Schafer said. “Their record in the league doesn’t show it but have had some outstanding wins outside the league and we know they are a formidable opponent.”
Clarkson began its season 5-1 yet has slowed down since with only four goals in five league games. The Golden Knights are hungry for their first ECAC win and to climb up the standings.
One of the roadblocks Cornell has faced for most of this season is a large number of injuries on the squad. Players have been sidelined for periods of time such as senior captain John Knisley, sophomore Dwyer Tschantz, freshmen Beau Starrett, Luc Lalor and Chad Otterman, and now sophomore Jared Fiegl, among others.
“We are trying to survive right now,” Schafer said. “With the amount of injuries we have had, Jared Fiegl will be out this week … we will probably play eight, nine defensemen this weekend. [We have] an unbelieveable amount of forwards that are hurt right now. But this team is really mentally tough.”
As a result, the Red has seen players stepping in and playing positions they are not used to playing. Junior Holden Anderson has been playing up as a forward despite playing defense throughout his career. Anderson isn’t just filling in at forward, he’s succeeding at a high level.
“When you got guys like Holden, who can step up from playing [defense] never really having played forward in his life and play as well as he is playing right now, it shows the depth of our hockey team and the commitment,” said sophomore Trevor Yates.
“Holden Anderson [scored] a huge goal at Madison Square Garden as a defenseman playing forward,” Schafer said. “The guys who are playing right now are doing a tremendous job, they keep plugging away.”
Schafer and the Red are not using this as an excuse though. Cornell looks to come out and put the puck in the net and win each night, regardless of the personnel.
“Our mentality is that we are a team this year,” Yates said. “We have four lines that have got to be going every night; it’s not going to just be one line. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing forward or defense, you have to work as hard as you can.”
It is hard to stay mentally tough when a team experiences key losses due to injuries. However, the Red has managed to develop a mental toughness to withstand these obstacles.
The team’s mental toughness is “something coach has tried to instill in us ever since preseason and before preseason,” according to sophomore Dan Wedman.
“We have had 6:30 workouts and we have been grinding though that together. In practice every day we try to focus on the little details, and that really helps. In practice every day we try to focus on the little details. … It’s really important to stay mentally tough.”