For an extensive play-by-play with highlights of the game against Yale, see our live blog here.
Before the first puck drop of the season against Merrimack, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 laid out a firm goal for his offense: more secondary scoring.
Just under half of the team’s scoring last season was contained to four forwards, which is not a bad thing as long as the wins are flowing. But towards the end of the season, a hole within the forward lines led the team into a long winless skid.
So far this season, the team has its usual suspects scoring — sophomore forwards Mitch Vanderlaan and Anthony Angello sit among the top goal scorers — but the forwards beyond the first line were the difference makers against Brown.
The four scorers during Friday’s convincing 4-2 win over Brown had only five combined goals in their careers entering the night. That number became nine by the time the final buzzer rang.
“We are getting offensive contributions from a bunch of people and we need that to continue,” Schafer said.
On the other hand, the 6-3 win over Yale on Saturday came from the Red’s regular goal scorers. The win was powered by Vanderlaan’s first career hat trick, the first for Cornell since former Red center Tyler Roeszler ’11 notched one against Colgate in 2011.
“It’s been a while, so I’ve heard,” Vanderlaan said. “It was fun, a good team effort tonight. Big win for us, so excited to keep moving forward with it.”
While the team is happy to see some of its leading scorers finding the scoresheet on a consistent basis, the emergence of scoring depth has made Cornell’s offense a two-headed threat in just five games.
Sophomore forward Beau Starrett and junior forward Alex Rauter have already surpassed last year’s individual goal totals in just five games, although Starrett was sidelined for a majority of last year’s campaign. Rauter’s linemate, junior Trevor Yates, has already scored a third of the goals he scored last year with goals at Harvard and Yale this season.
“We need all four lines rolling,” Starrett said. “I think that’s going to take us far this year — if we can have all 12 forwards, all six defensemen contributing in the goals column. [Senior goalie] Mitch [Gillam] will stop the pucks, so if we can keep the goals in the other team’s net then it will take us a long ways this year.”
It was also a tale of two games this weekend in terms of special teams play. Against Brown, Cornell was handed eight power plays — four in the first period — but came up empty-handed on every man-advantage opportunity.
Against Yale, Cornell’s fate was on the opposite end of the scoresheet. Nine penalties were committed by the men in Red, which was something Schafer was wary about against Yale’s potent power play prowess.
Schafer called Yale’s power play unit “dangerous,” especially with the ever-looming threat of Yale’s captain and Chicago Blackhawks prospect John Hayden, who scored twice on Saturday.
Coming into Saturday, the Bulldogs managed to score on a quarter of power play opportunities and were granted nine chances against the Red. Thankfully for Schafer’s squad, the penalty kill unit came up huge and killed eight of nine power plays, helped in part to an astounding 28 blocked shots.
“As a group we really committed to blocking shots tonight,” Vanderlaan said following Yale. “I know I have to do it just like everybody else has to get down and do it as well. You have to be proud of both sides of the puck today.”
The two wins come at a huge time for the Red, both physically and mentally. Dropping both these games would have meant a winless road trip to the travel-heavy start of the season.
Especially considering the injuries, Schafer said he was proud of his team’s performance this past weekend.
“It was huge, huge for us to get those wins,” he said. “We haven’t played a home game yet this year — five straight road games [to open the season] for the first time in history. [Going] 2-2-1 — .500 on the road — with all the injuries we’ve had is quite an accomplishment.”
Now when the team takes the ice to prepare for the upcoming weekend’s slate of games, there will be one key difference: Lynah Rink.
With roughly 1,800 miles traveled now in the rearview, the men of Cornell hockey will finally get a chance to play at home in front of the Lynah Faithful. Despite a strong showing of Cornell support on the road, it will be a welcome break to make the short walk over to Lynah instead of Hanover, Providence or North Andover.
“We’ve been on the bus a lot,” Schafer joked. “We’re excited to play in front of our Lynah Faithful fans and we’re all fired up for Friday night.”