Coming off an important midweek victory against ECAC-rival Colgate, Cornell men’s hockey will look to make it five straight with a pair of wins over this weekend’s opponent, Miami (OH).
The RedHawks present an intriguing test for Cornell and are a particularly hard team to prepare for, given that over half their roster consists of freshmen — 14 of 26, to be exact. Cornell faced a similar situation against Ohio State last year, whose lineup featured nine newcomers. In that matchup, the Buckeyes were more than the Red could handle, earning an 8-0 win.
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 is not particularly concerned by this lineup, however, saying that, “it’’s really no different than not knowing about a team like Colgate — they all have different guys every year.”
He did acknowledge, though, that preparation will only go so far against a young team like this.
“The players themselves will have to use their instincts when they’re out there on the ice and take their past experiences and apply them to the game,” he continued.
Miami has had an up and down season thus far. The RedHawks are 3-6-4, but have had a relatively tough schedule up to this point. They have either beaten or tied several ranked teams, including Providence, Ohio State and then national No. 1 Denver. Currently. Miami is trying to break a five-game winless streak that includes the two ties against Denver.
In addition to the many freshmen, Miami’s roster features some key veterans as well. Senior forward Anthony Louis leads the team in scoring with nine goals and eight assists so far. Sophomore forward Kiefer Sherwood is next with 15 points on the season. The RedHawks’ goalie is freshmen Ryan Larkin, who has posted a .915 save percentage in his first year.
“We know they’ve got some great players,” Schafer said.
When asked about getting pucks past Larkin, sophomore forward Anthony Angello broke down the offensive gameplan for the weekend.
“[We need to] get pucks on [Larkin], quick and often,” he said, “and put [shots] at his feet, throw a couple maybe up in the top corners of the net and make sure we crash the net and get in his face all night.”
The Redhawks have not played since those two consecutive ties against Denver back on Nov. 18, so they will be very well rested coming into the weekend series.
“They’re a team that hasn’t played in a couple weeks that’ll come out absolutely flying,” Schafer said. “We need to come out on our home ice and be flying ourselves.”
That will be no easy task for Cornell who — come Sunday morning — will have played four games in just one week’s time.
“Four games in seven days is a lot,” Angello said. “We’re taking it one step at a time.”
The Manlius, N.Y., native also knows that playing in front of the Lynah Faithful should give the team the energy it needs.
“They’re going to come in here rested and ready to play with energy and enthusiasm, so we’ll need to use the great home crowd to our advantage,” he said.
Miami is a non-league opponent, so the games’ results will not count toward ECAC standings. That being said, Cornell is not taking the weekend lightly, given the potential implications later in the year on an NCAA tournament bid.
“[These games] are huge,” Schafer said. “If you have aspirations to be in the NCAA tournament, every game is crucial.”
Although Miami is unranked, a weekend sweep could go a long way during the NCAA tournament selection process months down the road.
“Last year, one more point would’ve put us in the tournament, so our guys definitely know that every game is critical for the tournament,” said Schafer.
Cornell has found its groove as of late. The team has three-straight come from behind victories and has won five of six. The Red is doing more than hanging in there without several of its key skaters in the lineup, as forwards Dwyer Tschantz, Jeff Kubiak and Matt Buckles, along with defenseman Ryan Bliss, have all sat out a majority of the season.
That group will have plenty of time to get well, because Cornell will not play again until the Florida College Classic after Christmas following this weekend’s slate of games. The Red wants to end the semester on a high note and make a statement to the rest of the NCAA.
“[We want to show] that we are an offensive team,” Angello said. “[And] that we are not here to mess around. We are here to get the job done.”
Cornell currently leads the all-time series against Miami 3-1. The Red will try to extend that lead Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m. right here at Lynah Rink.