Hoping to put together a refined lineup prior to the start of the regular season against Alabama-Huntsville on Oct. 27, Cornell men’s hockey walked away from its exhibition weekend with a 7-1 thrashing of Guelph and a disappointing 2-2 tie with the University of Ottawa.
In game one, Cornell overpowered Guelph, scoring thrice in the opening frame and four times in the third period, but head coach Mike Schafer ’86 was not exactly pleased with the effort he saw in the second. The Red outshot Guelph 12-6 in the middle period but still allowed a goal to trickle through.
The third period, though, was a 14-5 shot differential in favor of the Red.
“Second period we kind of took a vacation,” Schafer said, “but [we] came back in the third period and played the kind of hockey that we wanted to play.”
In the second game, the Red saw a late one-goal lead disappear as Ottawa netted the equalizer in the final minute of regulation to tie the game at two. A scoreless overtime period left the Red with a draw to wrap up play before the regular season.
“We just didn’t have that kind of effort and focus that is our expectation as a program. Doesn’t matter who we are playing against,” Schafer said after the tie. “We did a lot of good things this past weekend, but when we judge ourselves we judge ourselves on effort and [competing] and playing as a team and those things were there very sporadically tonight.”
The weekend was full of trial and error, tweaking and fine tuning, tryouts and showcases. For Cornell, seeing which line grouping might work best and getting newcomers their first team play experience was a top priority.
For the 10 freshman — the biggest class on the roster — all who were healthy got to see game action on the ice at Lynah for the first time.
“It was nice to get that out of the way even though it was a preseason game,” said freshman defenseman Alex Green, who had a goal in his Lynah debut against Guelph and an assist against Ottawa. “It was a really surreal feeling and it was great to hear the band going.”
“I still remember my first game at Cornell how nervous I was,” said Schafer, a former Cornell hockey player in his own right. “I thought those guys settled in really quick, played well and had some great contributions.”
The freshman class as a whole did not shy away from the spotlight, as 11 of the team’s 24 points on the weekend came from rookies.
Despite a defensive corps depleted by injuries, four of the team’s seven goals against Guelph were scored by blueliners, a result — and possibly a sign of things to come — of the team’s increased focus on involving defensemen in the offense. Junior Matt Nuttle had two goals against Guelph, including one that opened the scoring on the man-advantage. The defense combined for seven points on the weekend.
The Red also got a chance to put its trio of goalies on display, with senior Hayden Stewart — the only returning netminder — taking the first half of the Guelph game and freshmen Matt Galajda and Austin McGrath splitting the second half. Stewart gave up the lone goal in the contest while also making eight saves, as Galajda and McGrath combined for eight saves in the second half of the game.
In game two, it was Galajda who got the start, with Stewart entering midway through the second period. The former made seven saves while the latter made six and both gave up a goal. Stewart remained in net for the overtime period. McGrath did not enter Sunday’s game.
Schafer said the three goaltenders are all competing for the starting job and will likely split time to start the season.
“That’s the race, all three of them,” Schafer said about the fight for the starting spot after Guelph. “I thought there were some really great saves. Matt Galajda made a great save in the second period on a one timer, made it look simple. All three of them are working hard in practice and we videotape practice every day; we watch every shot and evaluate those guys and keep tracking them.”
Several times throughout the weekend, the Red got a chance to practice its special teams, taking advantage of 10 Guelph penalties to score two power play goals and kill seven penalties of its own.
“We have spent a lot of time on our penalty kill, and I think that kind of showed tonight in the game with great blocked shots,” Schafer said.
Schafer’s team will look to build upon its win over Guelph, both physically and mentally, and use what it learned on exhibition weekend as it drudges toward opening weekend Oct. 27 and 28.
“We have to develop a mentality of winning hockey games and tonight was the first step to do that,” Schafer said after Guelph.