After a tough upset loss at home to Rensselaer Saturday, more bad news struck No. 3/4 Cornell men’s hockey in the following days.
Junior forward and co-captain Mitch Vanderlaan will miss the remainder of the regular season due to an undisclosed injury, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said at media availability Tuesday. The team has six contests remaining before postseason play.
The injury was sustained toward the end of the first period of Saturday’s game after Vanderlaan blocked a shot, according to Brandon Thomas, a team spokesperson. Vanderlaan played the remainder of the game.
Vanderlaan has played in all of the Red’s 23 games this season, and his 13 assists lead the team. His 26 blocked shots are by far the most among Cornell forwards. Schafer said he hopes to have the captain back for the playoffs.
Schafer also announced that junior defenseman Brendan Smith, who went down after taking an elbow to the head against RPI Saturday, and freshman forward Cam Donaldson, who was injured in Friday’s game against Union and did not play against RPI, will not play this weekend as Cornell takes on No. 7 Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
Cornell hopes to have its fourth-leading points scorer, Jeff Malott, back this weekend, according to Schafer. The sophomore forward has missed four games due to injury.
In Cornell’s last matchup with the Saints, a 6-1 victory in November, it was the Red’s opponent that was experiencing injury woes as Cornell enjoyed good health.
“The tables will be turned on us,” Schafer said. “We’ll be going into that game shorthanded and we’ll need to … overcome the injuries we have.”
Smith’s plus-minus of 19 leads the team, and Schafer called him one of the ECAC’s best “shutdown defensemen.”
Despite being plagued by injuries, the squad, with its sights on an ECAC title and NCAA run, has no time to feel sorry for itself.
“All teams go through this,” Schafer said. “Now we have a ton of guys out and we need to play hard and play smart and understand that we’re not a full roster but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be ready to compete.”
The Red’s depth has been one of its strongest assets thus far. Schafer said he plans to continue confidently playing four lines.
“If we have 12 healthy forwards, we’ll play with 12,” Schafer said. “We’ve got good depth and those guys will step in, whatever role they are, and they’ll do the job.”
“I think those guys know they’re expected to step up and we’re obviously going to hold them to a super high standard like we do for every player,” added junior forward Anthony Angello. “We have a really deep team, so it’s always that next-guy-up mentality.”
Angello has been perhaps the primary beneficiary of Vanderlaan’s passing and playmaking ability, playing on a line with the now-injured captain and freshman Brenden Locke. Angello leads the team with 12 goals.
“It’s tough to hear that [Vanderlaan is] going to be out for a little while, but that’s not going to change the way I think,” Angello said. “Whoever [my new linemate] may be, I’m going to treat him just like I would Mitch, and I’m going to help him get better, and he’s going to help me get better.”
The team has preached the “process” all season long, especially in the midst of success, including ascendance to No. 1 in the country. The process will be on full display as the Red responds to injury.
“It’s out of our control,” said senior forward and alternate captain Jared Fiegl. “We’re going to just focus on what we can control.”
The injury-depleted Red heads to North Country this weekend to take on the Golden Knights Friday and St. Lawrence Saturday, with a chance to clinch a bye in the ECAC playoffs.
Dylan McDevitt ’19 contributed reporting to this story.