On Saturday night’s 3-0 victory, which followed a 5-1 win over the Alabama-Huntsville the previous evening, Cornell men’s hockey faced the same opponents to conclude a weekend series. Just three minutes and five seconds into the contest, junior defenseman Matt Nuttle opened the scoring, assisted by senior forward Trevor Yates and freshman forward Morgan Barron, off a nice transition sequence from Cornell. Last year and this year, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 has implored his defenders to join the rush in transition, and it pays off when defensemen like Nuttle do what he did on this play.
Cornell’s transition play was impressive throughout the weekend series, as the Red created a slew of breakaway opportunities and odd-man rushes that often resulted in goals. Let’s watch the Nuttle goal in real-time below at the 12-second mark.
Here, let’s break down Nuttle’s goal through a series of screenshots and analyses to see how Cornell turned this transition opportunity into a goal.
Barron starts the play, breaking out of the defensive zone with the puck. Some of Barron’s teammates head for a line change, so he has little support. For UAH, two defensemen are trying to keep up with Barron, while a third skater is close by. Also, notice that Huntsville’s other two skaters are caught far up the ice, still well in their offensive zone. This will be very important later in the play.
Barron uses his speed to get to the outside, evading the UAH left defenseman (circled above). UAH’s Brandon Parker (#20) realizes he needs to slide all the way over to cover Barron. Hans Gorowsky, a UAH forward, is tracking back to help, while Cornell’s Matt Nuttle is the only other player even in the picture.
Barron skates into the offensive zone with the puck, preparing to shoot. Parker has almost made it to Barron but will have no chance of blocking the shot. Cornell’s Yates skates off the bench and right into the play. Gorowsky notices Yates and slides over to cover him, while Nuttle endeavors to join the action.
Barron’s shot is saved by UAH goaltender Jordan Uhelski, but the rebound travels out toward Parker and Barron. Parker ties up Barron, and Gorowsky and Yates converge on the puck. Meanwhile, Cornell’s Anthony Angello followed Yates off the bench and follows in from the left side, while Nuttle skates in from the center. Crucially, no one from UAH has been able to join the play. Because of the forwards getting caught up ice, the line change is still going on and Cornell has four skaters in the offensive zone to UAH’s two defending.
Yates and Gorowsky then converge on the puck; Yates gets control, but Gorowsky turns him away from the net. The lack of UAH defensive support now becomes problematic for the Chargers. With Parker checking Barron behind the net and Gorowsky on Yates, Angello and Nuttle are wide open in great scoring areas. On top of that, there is no one else in UAH blue even close to the play.
Yates swipes the puck (circled) towards his teammates, and it heads toward Nuttle, albeit slightly behind him. Uhelski slides toward the center of the net, recognizing the new threat. Finally, a UAH player appears in the picture near the blue line, but he would be too little, too late.
Nuttle nearly drops to one knee to corral Yates’ pass. With Yates and Gorowsky, as well as Parker and Barron, out of the play, Nuttle has the option of a clear shot at Uhelski or a pass to Anthony Angello. Choosing the shot, Nuttle rifles the puck high over Uhelski’s glove.
The sequence resulted in the first score of the game for Cornell. Nuttle’s first goal of the season, with assists to Yates and Barron, happened in those eight screenshots, taking up only seven seconds of real time. Cornell was able to capitalize on this transition opportunity, aided by Barron’s deft skating, Yates’ passing ability and Nuttle’s shooting. UAH’s slow tracking back on defense and lengthy line change also played a major role in this goal.
Nuttle’s willingness to join the rush presented Yates with a passing option and played a key role in the goal. Schafer would be delighted that this coaching instruction worked out so well against UAH this past weekend, and in future weeks, the Lynah Faithful will get a closer look at whether it works against more talented ECAC opposition.