If Cornell men’s hockey was looking for a quiet series to enter the strenuous exam and game break period on East Hill, it certainly did not get its wish this past weekend in Ohio.
The Red (10-2, 5-1 ECAC) recorded a disappointing 2-1 loss Friday to Miami (OH) (7-7-2, 2-3-1) but rebounded to earn a series split with the Redhawks thanks to a 4-0 win Saturday. With the weekend split, Cornell ends the de facto first half of the 2017-18 season with impressive 10-2 record overall.
“We can’t be afraid to lose even though we’ve been successful,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said after his team’s blanking of the Redhawks Saturday, which came after yielding just 13 shots to Miami in the Friday loss.
In the game one loss, the Redhawks converted on both their power play opportunities, which proved enough in a 2-1 game the Red controlled otherwise. Cornell itself had four chances on the man-advantage, failing to convert on any.
“We missed our chances, they scored on their chances,” Schafer said of his team’s play Friday night. “Our power play let us down, and they capitalized on the couple chances they got on the power play. That was the difference in the game. Hockey’s like that.”
It was a bruising affair between the two teams, starting with a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty on Miami’s Grant Hutton just 6:33 into the night. That was only to be one-upped by a second-period scrap between Cornell freshman forward Morgan Barron and Miami’s Willie Knierim. Both skaters, too, earned game misconducts and an early trip to the showers.
After the early lead off the stick of senior forward Alex Rauter, Cornell spent over 10 minutes on the power play the rest of the night with nothing to show for it.
But on Saturday, Cornell’s special teams eradicated the demons of the night prior to lead the way to the bounce-back series-splitting win.
“We had chances to win [Friday.] We lost the power play battle,” Schafer said. “[Saturday], we won the power play battle.”
In the win, Cornell sprinted to a 3-0 lead thanks to power play goals from junior forward Anthony Angello and senior forward Trevor Yates. Freshman forward Kyle Betts added his first collegiate tally to increase the Red’s first-period lead to three just 35 seconds after Yates.
Freshman goaltender Matt Galajda, whose hot start to the season has quickly cooled in recent weeks, was pulled in favor of senior Hayden Stewart before the third period of Friday’s loss. Stewart earned the starting nod Saturday, recording his third career shutout in his first start of the season.
“Matt was giving up some goals I didn’t particularly like,” Schafer said. “But part of it is about Hayden. He’s worked hard. He’s healthy. … Part of it is rewarding him for his hard work.”
It was the first game of the 2017-18 season in which the freshman Galajda — who holds a 2.08 goals against average in 11 games — was not the starter. Stewart made 26 saves in the shutout.
“He played awesome,” Schafer added of Stewart’s play Saturday night. “He did a great job, made some big saves and was strong down low.”
Now facing the impending challenge of exams, Cornell can do so with confidence, knowing it has been able to muster an impressive and surprising 10-2 overall record to begin the year. The Red enters a four-week break from action currently sitting in third place in the ECAC, with Union, tied for first with Clarkson, having two conference games in hand. Cornell also sits fifth in the all-important Pairwise rankings, which has a large impact on NCAA tournament selection down the road.
“We’re looking forward to the break,” Schafer admitted. “We have 10 freshmen, and they’re tired. I think they’ve done a great job, but I’ve looked at them at times and they’ve seemed mentally and physically fatigued at points.”
After the month-long break, the Red resumes gameplay against Canisius on Dec. 30 at home in its final non-conference game before 16 ECAC contests to end the regular season.