The 2018-19 Cornell men’s hockey season is on the docket, so The Sun’s hockey beat writers — Dylan McDevitt, Raphy Gendler, Zachary Silver, Christina Bulkeley and Jack Kantor — have predicted what’s in store for a team looking to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year.
Read all about the upcoming Cornell men’s hockey season in The Sun’s 2018-19 Men’s Hockey Preview Supplement.
Total Wins (Including Postseason)
Last year’s team won 25, 23 of which came in the regular season. I think this year’s team will fare a little worse in the regular season — simply because you can’t be much better. But more success in the postseason will buoy the win total.
Another top-10 national finish is in the cards for Cornell, but the Red is likely to drop a couple conference matchups that it won last season. Plus, Union, Clarkson and Harvard — among other ECAC foes — could represent improved competition.
Cornell will have its fair share of stumbles in the regular season. The season is a grind, and scoring remains my biggest concern. That being said, some postseason success will make up for regular season ups-and-downs in the end.
Losing top scorers means that Cornell might not be quite as volatile as last year, but the complete preservation of its defense should largely balance that out. I predict the number in the win column dwindling, but only by a game.
This is going to be somewhere in the ballpark of last year’s win total of 25, considering they are retaining the entirety of the nation’s best defense from last year. Having said that, the loss of its top three goal scorers will result in the Red losing a few more regular season games, and some low-scoring ties. But, one would expect a better postseason this time around showing to even that out a bit.
So many things can go wrong to prevent this prediction from being correct, but with defensive depth and a top-tier goaltender, it’s hard to see Cornell losing too many games simply by the nature of how little opponents can score. If the right people stay healthy, this team can win at least 15 or 16 conference games.
With its star goaltender and stellar defense intact, the Red is the preseason favorite with good reason. With a No. 1 netminder and shut-down defense, any team has a real shot at making noise in the NCAA Tournament.
Don’t worry, Cornell will be back at Lake Placid and NCAAs. But a few missteps along the way by a young team will let Union slide in for the Cleary Cup.
Picking the Red to finish first is hardly a risky choice, given that the coaches’ poll rated them first in the ECAC and that they are the only team in the conference in the top 10 for preseason rankings. With last year’s defense intact for the 2018-19 season, you can’t lose if you don’t allow goals.
While Cornell is the most likely to find itself at the top of the standings at the beginning of March, it’s by no means a shoe-in. When it comes to ECAC hockey with quality programs like Union, Harvard, Clarkson, etc., it’s tough to pick a leader with much certainty.
Dylan: Matt Galajda
This is a no-brainer. He was the MVP last year and assuming he’s healthy this year, Galajda’s play in the net will take the Red as far as it goes.
Raphy: Matt Galajda
Galajda backstopped the nation’s best defense last year. The sophomore’s play in 2018-19 will determine if Cornell keeps its place of prominence on the national stage.
Zach: Yanni Kaldis
Power play, lockdown defense, point production: Kaldis is ready to separate himself as one of the elite players on the team.
Christina: Matt Galajda
As good as Galajda was last season, there’s reason to believe that, with another year under his belt, he’ll look even better this winter. And it’s hard to imagine anyone being more valuable to the team than an improved Galajda.
Jack: Matt Galajda
Needless to say, he was an absolute stud last season. The rising star allowed a measly 1.51 goals per game last year — best in the country. If he does anything close to this again — and there’s no reason to think otherwise — Cornell will win hockey games.
Dylan: Morgan Barron
Barron is among the more talented skaters on the team. He performed well in his freshman year and got tons of ice time. With a cohort of top scorers from last season now gone, Barron will be among those who step in to fill the gap. Expect him to score at least 10 or 12 goals.
Raphy: Cam Donaldson
It all comes down to health for Donaldson, who can be a difference-maker for the Red offensively if he stays on the ice. The speedy sophomore is a double-digit goals candidate and could contribute to an improved Cornell power play.
Zach: Matt Nuttle
Nuttle appeared in only two games as a freshman. Now he’s an alternate captain. Look for that ‘A’ not only to elevate his leadership status but highlight his contributions that have gone more unnoticed.
Christina: Kyle Betts
The sophomore’s promising rookie campaign provided glimpses of his ability, including a hat trick last December. He was a pre-game scratch in Sunday’s exhibition game against Guelph, a move that head coach Mike Schafer ’86 called merely precautionary. As long as he’s healthy, he should be able to step up this year and fortify the offense.
Jack: Brenden Locke
Locke proved to be quite the facilitator on offense last year with 15 assists, the most by any offensive player last season. Locke also showed his big play ability when he netted a game-winner at Princeton early last season. The current situation on offense is ripe for Locke to take on a big role.
Dylan: Mitch Vanderlaan
Vanderlaan is probably the best offensive player on the team. He’s got 67 points in his first three seasons and his role on the offense has only grown over time. The senior captain is a force to be reckoned with offensively and he’s got a good chance to approach the 20-goal mark.
Raphy: Morgan Barron
Also a breakout candidate, Barron has shown flashes of being a quality goal-scorer and effective linemate. The sophomore figures to be on one of the Red’s best lines, giving him many opportunities to get on the score sheet and contribute offensively throughout the season.
Zach: Cam Donaldson
Injuries kept Donaldson from finding his true form in 2017-18. But don’t forget, the winger was a 1.28 points per game player his final year in juniors before coming to Cornell.
Christina: Morgan Barron
The class of 2021 last season had the most goals of the returning classes, and I expect Barron to lead the way this year. With 5 goals in 2017-18, he was tied with Betts amongst the freshman class’ high scorers, but Barron’s six points on Betts last season suggest he has the edge in spotting scoring opportunities.
Jack: Mitch Vanderlaan
Despite missing several games last year, Vanderlaan still notched the most points of any returning skater with 20. As a player who always has such a presence on the ice, expect the senior captain to be an integral part of the Red’s offensive output this season.
Rookie of the Year
Dylan: Max Andreev
It’s always tough to pick which freshmen will perform without seeing them play in a real game situation, but I liked what I saw from Andreev in the exhibitions. At 20 years old, he’s a relatively mature left-shooting forward that could prove to be a difference maker this year.
Raphy: Michael Regush
Regush’s spot on the Red’s top power play unit in exhibition contests gives me a hunch that head coach Mike Schafer ’86 has faith in the rookie center to produce at the college level right away.
Zach: Max Andreev
The Russian played alongside Vanderlaan and Donaldson in the exhibition games and impressed. With those two by his side, it’ll be hard for him not to break out in his first year.
Christina: Michael Regush
Regush seemed comfortable during the exhibition games, collecting a pair of assists and a goal, the best stat line of any of the freshmen. While such a small sample size means little, it would seem that Regush is ready coming out of the gates.
Jack: Chase Brakel
This is quite a toss-up since we have yet to see any of these players skate in a meaningful college hockey game. Having said that, Brakel showed that he is ready and willing to help out the offense, notching a couple points in the pair of exhibition games.
With tons of talent on this roster, it’s easy to see how a successful season might play out, if the team stays healthy. A big if. In college hockey, injuries are certain to happen and the flu is sure to ravage the locker room at least once. This year will likely be no exception, but if Cornell is lucky enough to see its ailments kept to a minimum it will surely have the tools to succeed.
Raphy: Power play
While the penalty kill was excellent, the Cornell power play was one of the team’s only weaknesses in 2017-18. Improving upon the 40th-best man-advantage mark may be what Cornell needs to up its offensive production.
Losing the top three scorers from a season ago will not be an easy hole to fill. Especially when those three combined for exactly half of the power play scoring.
No matter how good the Red’s defense is, you can’t win a game 0-0. Without offense stepping up to help out what is potentially the nation’s best defense, the team has no hope of fulfilling expectations. Keep an eye on how the team performs during power plays.
Jack: Backup Goalie
Perhaps the team isn’t dependent on Galajda in net, but they sure do rely on him a lot. In a grueling sport like hockey, it’s quite a gift to have a player compete in a full slate of games in a given season. Having a serviceable backup in net could go a long way for Galajda’s longevity this year.