Cameron Pollack | Sun Senior Photographer

Union has knocked Cornell out of the playoffs in the last two seasons

March 2, 2016

Cornell Men’s Hockey Gears Up for First Round Playoff Clash Against Union

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For the men’s hockey team, the past is in the past, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t sting.

“For us four seniors it’s in the back of our mind,” said forward John Knisley about being bounced out by Union the past two playoffs. “Us four have had some history with Union in our time here and we’re right back at it again. We’ll try to get some revenge for past years.”

What’s different this year compared to last is that the Red (13-9-7, 8-8-6 ECAC) was unable to defeat the Dutchmen (13-12-9, 6-10-6) this year in their two meetings prior to the playoffs. Last year, Cornell won both matchups with Union in the regular season.

The last loss to the Dutchmen came in a 5-1 defeat this past weekend. The two tied earlier in the season, but in that game two late Union goals in the third had the Red see their lead dwindle. Cornell hopes to change the downward trend starting this Friday in Lynah.

“There’s familiarity with breaking down video and know who their personnel is,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86 about being well-acquainted with Union. “Probably neither team is going to change a whole lot in one week. They’re a good hockey team and we have to work a heck of a lot harder this time than the last that we played them.”

Additionally, these playoffs mark the last collegiate playoffs for the four seniors, who were just honored this past weekend during the Senior Night ceremony. Their leadership is one of the most invaluable resources that’s not on the stat sheet, Schafer said.

“They’ll help the younger guys just by playing their game,” Schafer said. “They’ve been a great group, always supportive of the underclass underneath them. They all lead in their own different ways. They’re tremendous young men and care deeply about their teammates and Cornell hockey.”

What has been the story as of late, however, is the stellar showings by the younger core. This week, freshman forward Anthony Angello, who tallied two goals and an assist in the tie with RPI, has been named as the ECAC Rookie of the Week for the second time this season.

“We’re looking to everybody, not just [the freshmen],” Schafer said. “They have had a solid year, but I saw for the first time on Saturday night that we started getting back to offensive scoring chances from multiple lines. We’re a team that needs three lines at least going offensively to create scoring chances.”

While it is true that every new year of playoffs brings about a clean slate, the Red is well aware of its history with the Dutchmen.

“You hear about it from the older guys and what they went through last year,” said freshman defenseman Alec McCrea,who tallied three points in the RPI game. “Hearing the older guys get passionate about the rivalry that there is makes us younger guys buy into that and feel the same way towards it.”

It is true that Cornell started red-hot this year, only losing in regulation once in its first 15 games, but as of late, along with the seven-game winless drought, their flame has somewhat cooled off. That hasn’t bothered the team, though.

“The team is feeling good,” McCrea said. “We’re excited and happy with the way we’re playing now. Obviously, every season is going to have some adversity, but I thought we overcame it pretty well. The way we battled back and stuck together just shows the type of team we are and how resilient we are.”

Knisley stated that there’s no reason that Cornell won’t be able to return to its early season success.

“We had a good stretch to open the season, so why can’t we do it now?” Knisley added. “We have gone through a period of success and a period of failure. We stayed closed together. We have some good confidence in the room and excited to get after it.”

That confidence has some players anxious to get the playoffs underway as soon as possible.

“It’s only Tuesday, but I just cannot wait until the weekend comes,” McCrea said. “Lynah is going to be rocking and to have home-ice advantage is a special feeling. I’m looking forward to it.”