There is an advantage to playing in front of the passionate Lynah Faithful at Cornell. But with that advantage comes an added pressure, especially when the results do not please.
The Cornell men’s hockey team will look to get away from that pressure this weekend as the team leaves Ithaca and travels north to face Clarkson (11-10-3, 3-6-3 ECAC) and St. Lawrence (11-11-2, 5-6-1).
Cornell had been spectacular at home this season, winning its last five games before last weekend’s pair of losses to Dartmouth (10-8-1, 7-5) and Harvard (11-4-3, 7-3-3). In its own barn, the Red was shut out by the Big Green, 3-0, and silenced by rival Crimson, 6-2.
Senior forward Teemu Tiitinen said the men are looking to get back to consistency as they get away from the potential pressure of playing at home.
“Getting on the road now, we know we can play that simple hockey, frustrate the other teams and kind of let them come to us,” Tiitinen said. “The next four games are on the road so we can perfect that style.”
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said he agreed that playing the next four on the road could be beneficial for his team.
“Obviously the fans are disappointed we lost, but our guys are disappointed we lost in front of our fans,” Schafer said. “[The players] feel that pressure. So getting on the road a bit will alleviate some of that pressure. We can just play the game and have fun.”
In turn, the lack of pressure may help focus Cornell to clean up its game. There are some technical aspects of the Red’s game that Schafer and the team are looking to fix after last weekend’s disappointing showing. Specifically, the team has been working on winning battles for the puck in the corner, according to Schafer.
“I thought we were really poor at what we call ‘second to the puck,’” Schafer said. “When there is a one-on-one battle, making sure we beat the defender or offensive player to that battle. You see two guys go into the corner and both of them are fighting for possession in the offensive zone. [Second to the puck means] not letting their second guy get there first … if their guy arrives it’s two versus two and if their third guy arrives our guy better be there. And that’s what we were very good at earlier in the year.”
Clarkson, while starting off slow this season, has hit its stride as of late and has climbed to eighth in the ECAC.
“It’s a tough league,” Schafer said. “You look at our next opponent Clarkson, they beat Harvard, 5-1, tied Yale, beat Brown, 5-0. They’re on a roll … They were a long ways down there [in the standings] and now they are going [up].”
In Cornell’s last meeting with Clarkson, the Red handled the Golden Knights, winning 5-2 back in December at Lynah. But Clarkson has been strong at home, notching 11 games at home this season.
“The game against Clarkson was kind of a weird game,” Schafer said. “I thought we were able to put them away in the third period with two quick goals, but they have a good hockey team. They’ve got big strong defensemen, they play extremely hard and they have good special teams. That’s what’s been carrying them as of late, good special teams.”
Cornell’s other opponent for the weekend, St. Lawrence, sits right above Clarkson in the ECAC. The Red also beat St. Lawrence earlier this season with a 2-1 victory on the hill. The Saints have struggled recently, going 1-6 in January thus far.
“St. Lawrence was one of the preseason favorites to be up there,” Schafer said. “They’ve hit a real tough patch in January and they play very well on their rink. … They have eight of their last 12 games at home in the regular season. They have a lot of home games coming up and they’re looking to catch up to everybody.”
The next two games are key for the Red if it wants to keep its chances of winning the conference alive. There is a lot of hockey left to be played, and Cornell cannot afford to fall far behind with Quinnipiac (19-1-5, 10-0-3) and Harvard which are staying steady at the top.
The team is handling its current struggles well, according to senior forward John Knisley.
“There are tons of banners in the rafters [at Lynah] and each team had their own setbacks. No road was ever easy, and that is our mindset right now,” Knisley said.