For an extensive play-by-play of the 2-1 win over Miami, click here.
It would have been easy for Cornell men’s hockey to justify a poor first half of the season: the team suffered injuries to key contributors and faced the challenge of playing so many games on the road. But with a sweep of a historically-good Miami (OH) squad — including a 2-1 win on Saturday — the Red now moves to 7-3-1 on the season.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys,” said a jovial head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Pretty excited where we are. … This team’s been finding a way and it’s great. 7-3-1 after starting 0-2-1? I’ll take it.”
Senior captain and forward Jake Weidner — who scored the game-winner tonight — pointed to the team’s strong record as a sign of its tenacity.
“We’ve been really resilient,” he said. “Guys on the back end have stepped up with some injuries we have.”
Tonight’s win against Miami was the antithesis of Cornell’s season thus far. The Red did not open with its best play of the season, but still was able to start the game’s scoring — something the Red has been able to manage only three times so far this season, going 2-0-1 in those games after tonight.
“I was really proud of the guys the way they came ready to play tonight with the energy and were mentally tough,” Schafer said.
A pass from freshman forward Jeff Malott found a wide open junior defenseman Dan Wedman just inside the blue line. The junior — who missed a couple games due to injury to start the season — sent a wrister past Miami’s Ryan Larkin glove to open the scoring.
As a defensive defenseman, it was only Wedman’s second career goal and the first he scored in front of the Lynah Faithful.
“It was incredible,” Wedman said of his first goal in Ithaca. “It was a great play by Malott to get me the puck and have a lot of time with it and just try to put it on net. Definitely a great experience for sure.”
The rest of the first period saw mostly back-and-forth action, with senior goalie Mitch Gillam and his counterpart Larkin making plenty of impressive stops to keep things the way they were.
But Cornell mollified any worries about starting slow when the team came out in the second period. Just moments after successfully killing a penalty one minute into the period, senior forward Jake Weidner parked himself in front of Larkin and skillfully deflected a shot over Larkin’s shoulder that trickled over the goal line.
Shortly after, Miami’s Karch Bachman darted after a loose puck in the Cornell zone and barreled into Gillam who was trying to play the puck. Cornell fans, and the team, was not happy and Bachman was called for interference. In what was a scary moment for the program, Gillam was slow to get up, but would remain in the game.
“I wish our power play would have buried it. Our power play has to respond in that situation and make it a 3-0 game and make them pay, but we didn’t,” Schafer said. “In pro hockey, that would have been automatically a fight, but this isn’t pro hockey, it’s college hockey … sometimes you have to grin and bear it.”
Miami would get one back on a goal that got reviewed, but it was all the RedHawks’ offense could muster. The Miami power play unit got three opportunities tonight, and the Red’s penalty kill unit killed all three. Playing a man down has been a recent strength for Cornell, which has killed 18 consecutive penalties after tonight.
“I thought our penalty kill was outstanding tonight,” Schafer added. “Better than it was last night. Even though [Miami’s power play] was 0-2 last night, I just thought we exposed ourselves in areas they didn’t take advantage of. Tonight I thought we were much better in that area of the game.”
Perhaps the best player on the ice was one that did not even make it on the scoresheet. Freshman forward Noah Bauld scored on a slick goal in game one against Miami and picked up right where he left off in game two. He had two great chances in on goal, but Larkin was able to get the better of him. Bauld finished with the second most shots on the Red of the night.
While Bauld’s place on the roster could be in question without any injuries, Schafer noted how he, along with other young players, could give guys returning from injury a run for a starting gig.
“[Bauld’s] starting to come along,” Schafer said. “It puts a lot of pressure on the guys who want to get back in the lineup. Those injured guys are probably sitting there going, ‘Man, we’re doing pretty well. I have to get healthy and I have to get my game back in a hurry.’ Competition helps us be more consistent. [Our young] guys push the envelope on making other guys accountable for their performance.”
Now, Cornell has finished its unofficial first half to the season, but there will be over three weeks before the team sees another game at the Florida College Classic. Riding a five-game win streak, the team will look to keep its momentum going in any way it can, even without any games on the immediate horizon.
Part of this plan includes Schafer keeping his team back in Ithaca after players take their final exams in order to to keep the team in shape with additional practices.
“We’re going to practice hard and make sure we don’t lose a beat,” Weidner said. “It’s something that needs to be done especially jumping right back into it right after Christmas.”
“We’re looking to not take our foot off the gas,” Wedman added, “and hopefully come out of this break just as good as we are now.”