From Beau Starrett’s through-the-legs back pass to set up Alex’s Rauter’s goal, to Holden Anderson’s blast from the point, several Cornell men’s hockey players impressed over the weekend’s two exhibition games.
Cornell’s 3-1 triumph over UOIT and 8-1 shellacking of Brock showcased a number of players who may be poised to make key contributions this season. In my last few columns, I have not gone into detail on specific performances, so to change it up today, I will solely focus on individual players.
Preseason performances are crucial because opportunities can be scarce for those who don’t impress early on. With the regular season beginning this Friday at Merrimack, preseason efforts will finally be awarded.
Junior forwards Rauter and Trevor Yates are poised to be major contributors this season. Both scored their first Cornell goals last season, with Yates adding a few more tallies, including a key winner against Quinnipiac in the playoffs. This fall, Rauter has already scored several goals, and Yates has one goal and five assists in preseason play to lead all Red skaters. Look for Yates and Rauter to be pivotal for the Red early on.
Freshmen Noah Bauld and Yanni Kaldis also stood out. Bauld was the only freshman to score this weekend, and did so on Saturday against Brock with a nifty deke and backhand shot that went in five-hole. Kaldis, a defenseman, received significant power-play minutes, a privilege that head coach Mike Schafer ’86 rarely extends to freshmen. It is clear that these two will contribute right away in their first season, as Schafer has already indicated he plans to play Yanni in the opener against the Warriors.
It is hard to judge any of Cornell’s goalies after a scrimmage and two exhibitions. All three have received significant game time, although senior Mitch Gillam was the clear opening-night starter. Gillam, junior Hayden Stewart and senior Ryan Coon all made the necessary saves against low-caliber opposition, but the real tests will be in the next few weeks.
With road games against the likes of Harvard and Yale, Cornell fans will see Gillam face a much more strenuous examination of his goaltending skills. Schafer has noted, however, that if Gillam takes his foot off the pedal at any moment, he would not hesitate to give Stewart some ice time. If Gillam begins to waver, look for this battle to ramp up.
Seniors Matt Buckles, Patrick McCarron and Jake Weidner also had average weekends. Buckles scored two easy goals against Brock, but he will be expected to score against tougher opposition.
It was strange to see Weidner only assist once over the weekend, as he has displayed strong playmaking ability in the past. The captain will need to increase his influence for the Red. McCarron is the unquestioned leader of the defense, and like Gillam, dealt ably with the Canadian schools’ offensive efforts. However, he will need to step up starting this weekend.
Slow Start to the Season
Several of Cornell’s players are not off to a great start this year. Eric Freschi — a defensively-focused senior forward — has looked his usual effective self when killing penalties. However, Schafer has often put him on the ice with the top line’s wingers, Mitch Vanderlaan and Anthony Angello.
This seems an odd fit on paper, and indeed it was not very effective this weekend. Of course, Schafer will tinker with his lines throughout the season and in my opinion, he would be more efficiently paired with some of the hard-working freshman wingers, like Bauld or Corey Hoffman.
It is harsh to single out a freshman for criticism in his first exhibition games for Cornell, but Jeff Malott struggled this past weekend. The Lynah Faithful have high expectations for Malott, who comes in with a fantastic resume.
He was a first-line winger for a successful team in Alberta, and has the size of a typical Schaferian power forward. On Friday, he took three penalties, in a game where coach Schafer stressed the importance of staying out of the box. Of course, there is still four years for Malott to reach the expectations of the Faithful, but his first game in Ithaca was hardly an auspicious start.