They did what was expected of them. Against non-conference opponent Alabama-Huntsville, Cornell men’s hockey completed the sweep Saturday night with a 3-0 shutout at home to open the season 2-0 for the fourth time in the last six years, earning freshman goalie Matt Galajda his first collegiate shutout in his second career start.
With Saturday’s win, after Friday’s season-opening 5-1 handling of the Chargers, the Red sent UAH packing this weekend, as expected, but with room to improve in this young season.
“We came out for a pregame skate this morning … and we said, ‘this is not the kind of team we are,’” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “[We were] far from perfect, but that was a better game for us tonight than what we played last night.”
Adversity came early when junior Alec McCrea was whistled for tripping less than a minute into Saturday night’s contest. Nevertheless, the Red stayed focused and did not skip a beat in fighting back.
Right off the heels of a successful penalty kill by Cornell, junior defenseman Matt Nuttle buried a goal in front of the net off the counter-attack for his first on the season, set up by senior alternate captain and forward Trevor Yates.
“Killing off a penalty is always huge momentum,” Yates said. “And we were able to get a lucky bounce and capitalize. It was a good momentum swing and it benefited us greatly.”
The Red entered the first intermission up on the Chargers, 1-0, just as it did the night before. But unlike Friday night, when UAH outshot Cornell, 16-7, in the opening frame, Cornell outshot its opponent Saturday, 7-4, to start the game despite going on the penalty kill twice in the opening period.
It was a buffet of penalties on Saturday night, with eight in the second period alone.
“[The officials] called the game a little bit different tonight,” Schafer said. “You have to adjust for that.”
Cornell eventually got its money’s worth on the slew of special teams opportunities.
With time expiring in its third power play of the evening, the Red notched the first man-advantage score of the game. Sophomore defenseman Yanni Kaldis lasered one down to the right side of the net where Yates was waiting to punch it in.
Cornell held onto its two-goal lead until four minutes remained in what was a quiet third period.
Yates later struck again to seal the deal, sneaking the puck past opposing goalie Jordan Uhelski for his team’s third goal and his third on the year. Kaldis provided Yates with the assist, yet again.
“Yanni is a great player, really smart with the puck [and] always thinking offense,” Yates said. “We just connected this past weekend on the power play and we are looking to keep going. If he keeps passing me the puck, I’ll keep shooting.”
Yates thrives on the power play, with 11 of his 15 goals since the beginning of last season having come with a man advantage.
“Great game by Trevor on the power play,” Schafer said. “He led our team in power play goals last year … [and] he’s off to a great start this season.”
As a team, Cornell struggled to keep itself out of the penalty box, recording eight penalties. While these miscues could be afforded against UAH, the Red will look to cut down on penalties as it heads into conference play, facing tougher opponents.
“The area I am really disappointed on is our penalties,” Schafer said. “It’s early [in the] season, but we need to shore that up. We can’t be taking penalties off of faceoffs, can’t be taking penalties in the offensive zone.”
Still, freshman goaltender Matt Galajda repeated his strong performance from the night before, holding down the fort despite the seven penalty kills his team endured. The rookie finished with 11 saves and his first career shutout in his second career start.
“I told Matt we screwed up last night giving up the goal late,” Schafer said. “Didn’t do it tonight.”
Schafer’s team totaled 17 blocked shots on the night after breaking out pucks made of sponge during the morning skate to get his players more acclimated to the intensity of the flying rubber.
“Our guys blocked shots [tonight]; it was a totally different story [with] the power play and five-on-five,” Schafer added.
Up next for the Red are a pair of road tilts against ECAC foes Quinnipiac and Princeton to kick off conference play.