After nearly four weeks without action, an eager Cornell men’s hockey team is gearing up to take on its first opponent since the holiday break with non-conference opponent Canisius coming to Lynah Rink this Saturday.
Despite no recent games, the squad had a relatively short break from the ice. Cornell came back as a group in Ithaca the night after Christmas, spending only seven days away from the rink as a team.
“[We’re] busy trying to get their legs back underneath them and get them going,” head coach Mike Schafer ‘86 said of the focus now reconvening as a group. “But at the same time, we’re trying to take our time and not do too much because of that conditioning factor, knowing that they’ve been off for a little bit and if we try to do too much they won’t have enough for the game on Saturday.”
For the first time in 18 years, Cornell (10-2, 5-1 ECAC) comes back from the winter break to the friendly confines of Lynah instead of spending time down south hunting for the Ned Harkness Cup at the Florida College Hockey Classic.
Logistical and financial complications were behind the tournament’s disappearance this year, and while the tournament is not expected to return in 2018, a potential revival down the road has not yet been ruled out.
“It’s obviously a little bit different,” Schafer said. “The Florida tour brought a lot of energy as far as being down there and being in the sunshine. [But] at the same time we’ll have a good crowd [at Lynah]. It seems like there’s a lot of buzz from the people in town to come to the game, [so] we’re hoping that even with the students gone we get a good crowd for Saturday.”
Junior defender Alec McCrea added that while the team will miss the atmosphere of the Florida Classic, returning just to Lynah has been beneficial practice-wise in preparing for the second half of the season after a blazing 10-2 first half of the campaign.
“This year it’s nice because we get a couple of more practices un under our belt,” he said. “When we went to Florida we had just that one practice, but this year we get to have a full week of practice before we play the game. It’s nice to come back to our home arena, too.”
The matchup Saturday will be the Red’s final non-conference opponent of the year, and it comes against a No. 20 Golden Griffins squad (10-5-1, 10-4) that headed into its winter break with a weekend sweep over then-No. 20 Niagara, which gave the Red a fit earlier in the year.
“For our guys, we’re going to have our hands full,” Schafer said. “[But] we just want to play our game, play hard, play fast and be disciplined ad get back to the habits that gave us success in the first half.”
While Cornell has its sights set on an overall successful second half of the season and inherently a deep run in the playoffs, the team has harped all year long that it can’t look too far ahead.
And as the Red inches closer to the most crucial part of its schedule with every weekend after this one consisting of back-to-back conference games, Canisius presents another formidable opponent as the finale in the Red’s already-competitive non-conference schedule. Fourth in the country in both power play percentage and goals per game, the Golden Griffins will put the nation’s second-best goals per game team to the test immediately after a break.
“What’s most important is just taking it a game at a time. That’s what we focused on before Christmas and it gave us some success,” McCrea said. “Looking forward, we know what we need to improve on, we know what we want to work on [and] we need to come with that mentality of getting better.”
Action from Lynah Rink Saturday gets underway at an earlier 4 p.m.