Read all about the upcoming Cornell men’s hockey season in The Sun’s 2018-19 Men’s Hockey Preview Supplement.
The first-ever freshman Hobey Baker Award finalist and an all-ECAC first-team selection a season ago, sophomore Matt Galajda is back with a year of college hockey under his belt, primed to anchor a stellar Cornell defense once more.
Galajda doesn’t want to change much and has no reason to: he posted a 1.51 goals against average and recorded nine shutouts last season — both best in the country. His .939 save percentage was third-best.
“Playing simple, playing poised, being confident in my play,” the sophomore said as his keys to the upcoming year. “I think if I do that I’ll have a successful season.”
After a superb rookie campaign is it even possible for Galajda to be better? Statistically, likely not — but that might not be a bad thing, according to head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
“Can he put up the same goals against?” Schafer asked. “That’s not in our control and that’s not in his control. I’ve seen goaltenders make that mistake where they want to beat a tremendous statistical year.”
Schafer pointed to David McKee ’06 as an example of a goalie who had trouble following up a stellar season. McKee posted a 1.24 GAA in 2004-05 but then a 2.08 mark in 2005-06. A thinner, faster and stronger Galajda just needs to focus on winning games, according to Schafer.
“I spent a lot of the summer on nutrition and off-ice training,” Galajda added. “Being a little thinner — a little leaner — definitely always helps.”
Even one of the country’s best goaltenders needs a solid backup — vying for the No. 2 role are sophomore Austin McGrath and freshman Nate McDonald. Neither have ever appeared in a game at the Division I level.
“Austin has had a good summer, I think he’s got more confidence this year than he had last year, and Nate’s had a solid camp so far too,” Schafer said. “Both those guys seem to have done a good job of challenging right now. … Obviously, you need one of them to step forward, and both those guys will get that opportunity.”
After jumping onto the national scene as a freshman, the pressure is undoubtedly on Galajda to be great yet again. But his teammates are confident in the soft-spoken goaltender to be successful.
“Matty is very mature for his age and he’s mature with all the success he had,” said senior defenseman and alternate captain Alec McCrea. “He knows how to handle everything, he knows how much pressure’s on him, but at the same time he knows what makes him successful and that’s working hard and staying true to who he is.”