Patrick McCarron stepped up to the half-boards, gathered the puck, and sent a pass towards the center of the ice. The puck went through a Yale skater’s legs and past a lunging Eric Freschi. Entering the right circle, the puck suddenly met Mitch Vanderlaan’s stick. The sophomore forward launched a screaming one-time slapshot into the top half of the net, scoring his second of three goals on the afternoon. Vanderlaan’s hat trick proved the difference in a 6-3 Cornell win to cap off a four-point weekend.
Many players impressed in the Red’s road sweep. Obviously, Vanderlaan deserves praise for his hat trick, as he became the first Cornell player to score three goals in one game since Tyler Roeszler ’11 did against Colgate in January 2011. Yet, several other Cornell forwards stood out. Sophomore Beau Starrett batted a rebound past Brown’s Gavin Nieto on Friday night, and junior Alex Rauter sniped a shot top-shelf in each game last weekend. Both players only scored once in the entirety of last season, and Cornell fans should expect more contributions from them this year.
Freshman Connor Murphy scored his first collegiate goal when his shot from the high slot took an odd bounce off a Brown skate, and fellow newcomer Noah Bauld recorded two assists, his first collegiate points. In front of their own fans this weekend, these forwards will hope to continue their strong starts this year.
The Lynah Faithful will hope that Cornell’s road sweep of Yale and Brown will kickstart a strong stretch of play this fall. This was the second straight year that Cornell recorded three or more points on the Yale-Brown road trip. Cornell has now concluded the season-opening five-game road swing with two wins, a draw and two losses, which is impressive given the quality of the opposition. (The Red faced four Ivy League foes as well as Hockey East opponent Merrimack.) Sitting in fifth in ECAC Hockey out of 12 teams, the Red could be poised for an assault on the top of the standings if the squad can string together some wins.
This weekend, Cornell must continue to build positive momentum. Friday’s home game with Quinnipiac presents the chance for Cornell to claim an impressive victory against a vaunted foe. The Bobcats are ranked fourth and sixth in the national polls and finished as national runners-up last time around. A win for the Red would likely earn the squad a place in the national polls next week.
That said, Cornell skaters will have other motivations, too. There’s bad blood between the teams after their three-game ECAC quarterfinals series last year that the Bobcats won in Hamden, Conn. Plus, Quinnipiac has defeated the Red in each of the last two games between the two at Lynah Rink, both overtime heartbreakers. The teams are also markedly different in their style of play, as Quinnipiac’s offensive focus and high-scoring games are a natural foil to Cornell’s decades-old, defense-first philosophy. Simply put, Friday night’s game will feature a clash of cultures and promises to entertain.
Cornell faces an entirely different test on Saturday versus Princeton. The orange-and-black squad from New Jersey provides a test of the Red’s mental focus. If Cornell sticks to its game plan and puts in the usual effort on Saturday night, after a draining game against Quinnipiac, the Red should win. After all, Princeton typically finishes last in the ECAC and is the only one of the 60 Division I schools for college hockey that has not won a game yet this season. Yet, the Tigers should improve on last season, as they feature senior goaltender Colton Phinney and talented forwards Max Veronneau, Eric Robinson and Ryan Kuffner. They have the potential to cause an upset in Lynah if Cornell puts in a lackluster effort.
This is a crucial weekend of the season for Cornell. These two games are the team’s only ECAC hockey games in Lynah Rink before January. Quinnipiac is ranked in the national top 10, and Princeton represents a chance for an Ivy League win. A strong showing this weekend will give the Red momentum going into next week’s Frozen Apple game at Madison Square Garden versus the New Hampshire Wildcats. Following that, the Red has two home games against non-conference foe Miami of Ohio before a break for exams. Cornell men’s hockey needs to make a statement this weekend in front of the Lynah Faithful.