Jeff Kubiak’s overtime winner against undefeated Providence. Mitch Gillam’s sprawling glove save that took away a Boston University goal at Madison Square Garden. Matt Buckles’ series-ending goal against Union College. Cornell men’s hockey had a number of memorable moments last season. As the 2016-2017 campaign is about to begin, hockey fans can look forward to many more glorious goals, stunning saves and crushing checks. Cornell men’s hockey fans everywhere are hoping that this year will bring a return to the glory days, so let’s count down the top 10 reasons to be optimistic about the season ahead.
10. Media Predictions
Cornell has been selected fifth and sixth in the ECAC media and coaches poll, respectively. Given the Red’s eighth-place finish last season, it is nice to see that both the media and coaches think Cornell will rebound from the slightly disappointing regular season last time around.
9. Lynah Rink Improvements
Over the summer, Cornell athletics has repaired the roof of Lynah Rink to help Cornell hockey’s 60-year-old arena last for many more seasons. While no one would call Lynah the most modern rink in the country, its trademark old-school charm makes it one of the best rinks in the conference.
8. Major Changes Around the ECAC
Two of Cornell’s conference rivals made notable changes in the offseason. Colgate has a new rink — the Class of ’65 Arena. Saint Lawrence’s head coach, Greg Carvel, left to take the vacant position at Massachusetts and former Clarkson boss Mark Morris was hired to replace Carvel.
7. The Freshman Class
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 brought in a smaller, forward-heavy class of five players. Corey Hoffman, Jeff Malott, Yanni Kaldis, Noah Bauld and Connor Murphy make up Cornell Hockey’s Class of 2020. All promise to contribute over the next four years.
6. Strong Non-Conference Schedule
Cornell’s seven-game non-conference schedule is highlighted by the Frozen Apple at Madison Square Garden, against New Hampshire. Elsewhere, Cornell hosts perennial power Miami of Ohio for a two-game set, has two separate one-game trips to Merrimack College and makes its annual trip to Florida for the Florida College Hockey Classic.
5. Strength in Defense
Year after year, Cornell hockey has one of the strongest defenses in the country, and this year promises to be no different. Mitch Gillam returns as one of the nation’s best goalies, and last year’s blueline group remains intact, with the exception of Reece Willcox ‘16.
4. Anthony Angello
The sophomore led Cornell with 11 goals as a freshman, not counting four more in a preseason rout of Laurentian. He should be a major factor this season on the right wing of Cornell’s top line.
3. Talented Senior Class
Cornell’s senior class is a deep and experienced unit. From forwards Matt Buckles, Jeff Kubiak and Jake Weidner, to defensemen Patrick McCarron and Holden Anderson, this class will be keen to make their mark in their last season in a Cornell uniform.
2. The JAM Line
Right at the beginning of last season, the line of Angello, Jeff Kubiak and Mitch Vanderlaan emerged as the reliable scoring group for the Red. Their ascendancy was all the more remarkable given that Vanderlaan and Angello were freshmen and Kubiak had scored just two career goals in two prior seasons in Ithaca. The unit was quickly termed “the JAM line” after the initials of their first names, and they all return for this season. Expect Coach Schafer to play them together at the start of the year to see if they can recapture the magic of last season.
1. Mitch Gillam
Cornell’s talented goalkeeper is poised for an outstanding senior campaign. Gillam’s excellent Cornell career so far features eight shutouts and a .926 save percentage. Expect him to start most of Cornell’s games, lending a few occasional starts to junior Hayden Stewart to prepare for life after Gillam’s graduation.