For a full recap of the 3-1 win, click here.
“It’s not just another game.”
Head coach Mike Schafer’s ’86 words on an annual tradition paint the scene for this weekend’s tilt against New Hampshire. While practices will consist of similar drills and the team will be on yet another road trip, there is one thing that will be different: the men of Cornell hockey (3-3-1, 3-2-1 ECAC) will be playing in a stadium that has housed the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Ewing and The Rolling Stones.
Instead of a game in front of Lynah Rink’s 4,200-person capacity, the crowd will be more than quadrupled, filled with current, former and future Cornellians.
“When we pull into that rink and the city, we encourage our players to soak it all in and absorb it because for them they only get a chance to do it once a year,” Schafer said. “For some it is the only time they play in that kind of venue. It is important that they enjoy the experience.”
Eight times, Schafer has lead his squad to MSG, while the Red holds a 2-3-2 record. Last year’s game was against BU, where a tie was entered into the official scorebooks, but a thrilling shootout handed the Terriers the Kelley-Harkness Trophy. In the game against BU, all three goal scorers will return for another shot to play on the MSG ice.
At the end of the day, however, Schafer stressed that it is important to appreciate the excitement of the game, but it is also crucial to treat it like any other contest, as it could have postseason implications down the road.
“Everything [gets] as normal as possible once you get inside that locker room,” he said. “[That’s when] your routine takes over and that’s where you manage the emotions. It turns into that gamemode where it is just another game and you really have to focus on what you’re doing.”
This year’s opponent comes in the form of UNH (6-5-2, 4-3-2), a team that has struggled to find consistency. Yet the Wildcats tout the nation’s second highest point getter, as senior Tyler Kelleher trails only Union’s Mike Vecchione for the most points in college hockey. Freshman Patrick Grasso also ranks in the top 10 in the country with 18 points to his name.
UNH also possess a lethal power play unit that currently sits at No. 11 in the nation, with six of Grasso’s 10 goals coming from the man-advantage.
“We will be very aware of those guys,” Schafer said of Kelleher and Grasso. “They have always been a team that has been very good in transition and their special teams, especially the power play.”
While Kelleher and Grasso compose the main cruxes of what the Red needs to focus on, Schafer also noted that returning to the Cornell gameplan will be essential this weekend, after what he characterized a very disappointing start to the 4-2 win over Princeton.
“When it gets to the weekend we’ll be paying attention to those attributes they have, but at the same time bring the strong attributes that we have in our game and attack them in terms of what we do well,” he said.
The game against UNH also kickstarts a hectic week for the Red. Just three days after UNH, the men will travel to Hamilton to take on Colgate, then return to Lynah for a two-game series against Miami (OH). With four games in seven days, Schafer said this slate of games should get his team back into what he called the “game grind.”
The only caveat is that he will not be privy to an ideal amount of players to swap in and out whenever necessary, due to injuries.
Senior forward Jeff Kubiak, sophomore forward Dwyer Tschantz and junior defenseman Ryan Bliss do not seem set to return any time soon. Along with these three comes a newly injured senior forward Matt Buckles, who is not likely to return until Miami at the earliest, according to Schafer.
“UNH has played their 10th home game [on Tuesday], we haven’t even played 10 games total,” Schafer said. “We are a team where guys have done a good job stepping up and playing, and with guys that are hurt we’ll have to continue to do that for quite some time. It will be a lot of fun for our guys to play, the downside of it is that we are pretty banged up with not much depth to roll some guys in and out of it.”
Currently, Cornell and UNH have met each other 26 times in the teams’ histories. With the chance to settle the score, there is no better venue for the contest than a stadium that young hockey and basketball players could only dream to play in.
The puck drops from New York City at 8 p.m. on Saturday.