Going through a losing skid is never easy, especially when that skid includes losses to rivals at home. But that hasn’t put a dent in the Red’s confidence going into a crucial weekend, according to associate head coach Ben Syer.
“From a physical standpoint I think our guys are pretty fresh,” Syer said. “It does take a little bit of a toll on you when you lose some heartbreakers like that. But [head coach Mike Schafer ’86] has talked about this all year long. We have a great group of guys in that locker room and they showed up to work yesterday with smiles on their faces, ready to get after it.”
Along with coaches, players remain confident in their game. According to junior forward Jake Weidner, it is the little things here and there that will turn the skid around.
“The feeling in the room is that we are still confident in what we can do and accomplish,” Weidner said. “We haven’t lost our effort nor will to win. We are giving ourselves opportunities to win and unfortunately for us it hasn’t worked out lately.”
After a disappointing weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard, the Red had a chance to bounce back against lesser opponents in Clarkson and St. Lawrence, but dropped both games in overtime losses.
“A couple minor breakdowns this past weekend and some pucks in the back of the net,” Syer said. “Friday night was an unfortunate bounce with the puck going in off our own player. I thought on Saturday we rebounded really well. … We’re close, and you can’t fault the guys for competing and wanting it.”
The weekend’s first game, which will be broadcasted on SportsNet New York, comes against the No. 1 Quinnipiac (20-1-5, 11-0-3 ECAC), who the Red (11-7-3, 6-6-2) lost to earlier in the season, 5-4, in overtime. In that meeting, the Red had the opportunity to pull off the upset, leading four to one at midway through the second period. In the end, Quinnipiac’s high power, fast-paced offense was too much for the Red to hold its lead.
“I think we just have to stick to our gameplan and worry about ourselves,” said junior goalie Mitch Gillam. “If we play our game and use our systems I think we are one of the best teams in the country. We need to use our size and get on Quinnipiac.”
The biggest threat in the Bobcat lineup is first liner Sam Anas, who has recorded 17 goals and 15 assists, leading the team with 32 points. He recorded five points in the team’s last three games and is heating up at the worst possible moment for the Red.
“We will be well aware of [Anas],” Syer said. “[Quinnipiac] works so hard, and they are tenacious. They have a great offense and it comes from their work ethic. At the end of the day we have to be willing not just to match their work ethic, but to supersede it.”
Syer, who served as an associate head coach for Quinnipiac for 12 years, also noted how it can get nostalgic whenever he sees the Bobcats on the schedule.
One of the few players who has remained consistently reliable for the Red has been Gillam. This past weekend, Gillam kept the Red competitive against Clarkson and St. Lawrence, totaling an impressive 66 saves on 70 shots in two games.
“The more shots you get the more you feel in the game,” Gillam said. “We’ve been coming out pretty strong I feel. Even though we are giving up more shots I feel pretty confident in the way I’m playing.”
One of the biggest problems the Red has faced through this tough skid has been, undoubtedly, scoring. Seven goals in the past six games, including being shut out twice, is not an ideal situation to be in.
The second game on the weekend comes against a struggling Princeton team (5-14-2, 3-9-2), who has only been able to muster one win in its last nine games. If Cornell is not able to pull off the upset on the Bobcats, Princeton could be the perfect opportunity to get the momentum back with only league play left on tap.
Schafer was not available for comment after taking a puck to the head during practice, according to Syer, but he has remained involved with the team and should be good to go by this weekend.