In the third period of Cornell’s Saturday evening clash with rival Colgate in Hamilton, N.Y., Cornell freshman forward Kyle Betts gathered the puck behind the Colgate net, and wrapped around to the side of the cage to find Colgate goaltender Colton Point in position. In a split second, Betts saw he had time and space in front of the net, and skated towards it. Point was forced to slide to his right, which opened up the five-hole, where Betts alertly slipped the puck, threading the needle to score a crucial insurance goal for Cornell. Betts’ tally sealed a second 2-0 win against Colgate in as many nights.
Betts now has five goals on the season, and is one of the unsung heroes of this talented Cornell men’s hockey team. Among his class, Morgan Barron has gathered the plaudits for an early-season surge of offensive production, while Alex Green has excelled on the blue line and Matthew Galajda ranks among the nation’s goaltending leaders. As a result, Betts’ play has gone under the radar.
Entering this season, the center position seemed to be a weakness for Cornell. The Red only returned two specialist centers in seniors Jared Fiegl and Trevor Yates. Betts has filled this need, slotting in as a reliable checking-line centerman. His line has excelled at keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard. He may have to face another challenge in the coming weeks, as sophomore linemate Jeff Malott suffered an injury in the first period against Saturday’s tilt at Colgate and did not return. The Red has few healthy replacement players available if Malott were to miss considerable time, which could affect the team’s results at this crucial stretch of the season.
After not allowing a single goal last weekend against Colgate behind two Galajda shutouts, Cornell heads on the perennially tricky road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend. On Friday night, the Red will take on Harvard. Despite Cornell’s newly anointed ranking of second in the nation and Harvard’s lack of a ranking, this game will not be a cakewalk for the Red. Harvard has been on the upswing lately and their talented junior forward Ryan Donato is averaging over a goal per game. The Red needed a last-second winner from Alec McCrea to top Harvard at Lynah Rink in November, and they may need similar heroics to beat the Crimson in their barn. This game is perhaps the hardest regular-season test left for Cornell, save for their road rematch with No. 3/2 Clarkson.
On Saturday, the Red will head to Hanover and go toe-to-toe with the Green. Cornell defeated Dartmouth at Lynah earlier this year by a score of 3-0, but the Green will like their chances of pulling the upset. Dartmouth has twice defeated top-5 teams in the nation this season. Despite their comparably low ranking, Dartmouth has defeated then-No. 1 Denver and then-No. 2 Clarkson on the road, and now they have the opportunity to defeat No. 2/4 Cornell in front of their home fans. No matter the result against Harvard, if Cornell puts in a tired performance against Dartmouth, the Red could become the latest Goliath to fall victim to the Dartmouth hockey team.
Cornell had an impressive set of results over winter break, and still has just one defeat on the season. However, more challenges await, both from the injury to Jeff Malott and this weekend’s tough road tests in New England. Betts, Green, Galajda, and others will shoulder the burden of defending against these talented offenses. As the ECAC season enters the home stretch, Cornell will try to keep the wins coming against these Ivy League opponents.