Cornell men’s hockey will take the road to face two of the hottest teams in the conference this weekend — all while the Red is riding an eight-game unbeaten streak of its own.
The Red (16-2-1, 10-1-1 ECAC) is coming off a home-and-home sweep of Colgate and will clash with Harvard (9-6-4, 8-3-3) Friday and Dartmouth (8-10-2, 6-6-1) Saturday. The Red can clinch the Ivy League title with a pair of wins.
“They’re going to give us a really good run for our money,” said junior forward Anthony Angello, who has seven goals in his last eight games. “Especially Harvard, playing them on Friday, [after] beating them with two seconds left here at Lynah [Nov. 11], I’m sure they’re itching to play.”
The last time Cornell took on the Crimson and the Green was one of the season’s most exciting weekends and cemented the Red as a serious threat, both in the ECAC and nationally.
Eleven weeks later, up to No. 2 in the country in the USCHO rankings and tied for first in the ECAC, this weekend may be the Red’s toughest test yet.
“We have a tremendous opportunity and tremendous challenge this weekend playing both Dartmouth and Harvard on the road, two teams that are arguably right behind us as far as how hot they are,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
After freshman goaltender Matt Galajda’s pair of 2-0 shutouts of Colgate last weekend, the Red will set out to maintain its national prominence by taking down two squads who spent last weekend sending seemingly unbeatable Clarkson back to earth.
On Friday, Harvard earned a 6-6 tie with the Golden Knights thanks to an extra-attacker goal in the final minute, and Dartmouth downed Clarkson, 3-2, the next day. The two contests ended Clarkson’s streak of ten straight conference victories to start the season.
Harvard is tied with the Red for the country’s longest active unbeaten streak. Both streaks will be tested In Friday’s matchup at “Lynah East,” Harvard’s Bright-Landry Hockey Center, where the Red’s defense — the nation’s best at 1.53 goals allowed per game — will be tasked with slowing down the nation’s leading goal-scorer: junior forward Ryan Donato.
Donato, who will join the U.S. Olympic Team after this weekend, has 20 goals and centers a dangerous line with Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Ty Pelton-Byce, who rank second and third on the team in points, respectively.
“They’re a good team [and] they’ve got a lot of skill up front. So we’ve got to focus on shutting down their top guys and playing well defensively,” Galajda said.
Harvard, whose 1-5-1 November record sent them in a downward spiral, is 7-1-3 in its last 11 and is 4-0-1 in its last five home tilts.
In Hanover, the Red will look to avoid becoming Dartmouth’s next top-five win. The Green downed then-No. 1 Denver in December before beating then-No. 2 Clarkson last weekend.
“Everyone wants to be the big dog and take us down and that’s something that we embrace and take in on a daily basis,” Angello said. “And we’re ready for everyone’s effort because we’re going to bring one heck of [an] effort of our own.”
Along with its No. 2 ranking, Cornell is tied for first in the PairWise rankings, which puts it in position for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. But, as conference opponents heat up, Schafer isn’t worried about this ranking with ten games to play.
“There’s one time of the year when PairWise matters. That’s when they select the teams for the NCAAs,” Schafer said. “They will change so much from now until the end of the year based on other guys’ strength of schedule, other teams getting hot, teams in other leagues going cold.”
Looking to maintain its favorable position for now, the Red will take on Harvard Friday and Dartmouth Saturday. Both games are at 7 p.m.