During its impressive 9-1 start, Cornell men’s hockey hasn’t seen much action outside the friendly confines of Lynah Rink. As his team gets set for just its third road game of the season, however, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 is encouraging his skaters to treat the matchups with Miami (OH) like any other game.
“Playing good road hockey means you just amp up your discipline. You don’t want to go on the road and be undisciplined,” Schafer said. “You want to play simple hockey, which we’ve done at home and on the road so far this year.”
The Red will face off against the Redhawks in Oxford, Ohio, this Friday and Saturday, before a four-week hiatus.
“They’re a good hockey team,” Schafer said of Miami. “They’re very prideful, and they pride themselves on work ethic and togetherness, and so do we.”
The weekend series will be the Red’s last two games before a long break for final exams and winter break, which means a strong effort will be important. The team will not take the ice again until Dec. 30.
“We have five days before we go on break, and we wanted to have a couple great days of preparation here. We’re going on the road, we’re bussing out nine hours,” Schafer said. “They face the same issues a lot of other students are facing: papers at the end of the semester, trying to get ready for finals … but we want them to totally zone in here for five more days.”
Dealing with the struggles of academic life at Cornell for the first time aside, the Red’s 10 freshmen will have the chance to match up against a similarly young Redhawk team that features 19 underclassmen.
But youth is not a liability for Cornell, according to Schafer. All his skaters can match up with opponents, and their presence gives the team that much more depth.
“It makes it easier when you have depth. You don’t have to protect … a line or a D-pair,” Schafer said. “You have confidence that anybody at any time can play against the other team’s top line, so as a coach that makes it a lot easier, but it also allows everybody to play at all times on the road.”
In the team’s two-game series at Lynah last season, the Red swept a pair of tightly contested one-goal games. Cornell will now look to take a lead in the all time series with the Redhawks, currently tied 3-3. This will be the first matchup hosted by Miami.
While the Red continues to add to its win total, the team’s penalty kill, dominant at the beginning of the season, has come crashing back to earth in its last few games. It will be put to the test again at Miami, a team that boasts junior defenseman Grant Hutton and his six power play goals on the season thus far.
The series will be a clash of two teams that pride themselves on effort, Schafer said.
“They work extremely hard in the offensive zone, they work extremely hard in the defensive zone,” he said. “They’ll push people out of the zone and try to catch you in transition.”
Freshman goaltender Matt Galajda will look to return to his early-season dominance, after allowing 11 combined goals in this last three games.
Schafer said his netminder has gone through the growing pains that come with being a freshman, but praised Galajda for making key saves late in the BU game and finding ways to win.”
“9-1, you can’t ask for much better than that,” Schafer said.
Like in past weeks, the Red will have to avoid getting caught up with the pressure of national recognition. Now unanimously picked in the top five, Schafer said the rankings do not matter to him or his team.
“The polls are only a measuring stick of where you are in the present. And we’re not playing in the present, we’re playing in the future,” Schafer said. “If you stay still in the tracks you’re going to get run over.”
Cornell will be without forwards Cam Donaldson and Jared Fiegl, both battling injuries.
The games are set for 7:35 p.m. Friday and 7:05 p.m. Saturday, both at Miami’s Cady Arena.