Senior alternate captain Alec McCrea is among the returning Cornell blueliners

Michael Wenye Li / Sun Photography Editor

Senior alternate captain Alec McCrea is among the returning Cornell blueliners

October 24, 2018

Men’s Hockey 1st Team in 17 Years to Return Entirety of Nation’s-Best Defense

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Read all about the upcoming Cornell men’s hockey season in The Sun’s 2018-19 Men’s Hockey Preview Supplement.

In case the return of star sophomore goaltender Matt Galajda wasn’t enough, the Red’s defensive corps — the best in the nation last season — is unchanged entering 2018-19.

Despite coming off a stellar 2017-18 campaign and being the first team to return an entire No. 1 defensive corps — including the goaltender — since Michigan State in 2001-02, the blueliners are prepared to improve.

“There’s always work to be done,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Our expectations for all those guys is to get better. … The biggest improvement within your team is your sophomores, juniors and seniors.”

The Red allowed 1.58 goals per game last year en route to a .788 winning percentage, also the country’s best.

defensemen

All three defensive pairings return: seniors Brendan Smith and alternate captain Alec McCrea; junior Yanni Kaldis and sophomore Alex Green; and senior alternate captain Matt Nuttle and sophomore Cody Haiskanen.

McCrea had five goals — all on the power play — and was named the ECAC’s best defensive defenseman last year. Nuttle tied for second place in the country with a plus/minus of plus-23.

The top-six defensemen being back certainly makes things easier for Galajda.

“Being able to have all those guys back, they’re a huge part of my personal success last season and the team’s success as well,” Galajda said. “They’re an unbelievable defensive corps and having them back this year, every single one of them, is going to be huge for us.”

The Red’s stifling defense last year was impressive despite having two everyday freshmen. This season, all six players have at least 29 games of experience.

“The most important thing is to start with no expectations this year and realize how much work we had to put in to get where we were last year,” McCrea said.