Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Senior forward Mitch Vanderlaan is the latest in a string of injuries for Cornell after he left the loss to Dartmouth in the first period.

November 30, 2018

Struggles, Injury Woes Continue for No. 16 Men’s Hockey in Road Loss to Dartmouth

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Plagued with injuries for weeks already, Cornell men’s hockey did not see its luck improve on Friday, as sophomore goaltender and reigning first-team All American Matt Galajda was unable to dress, and the Red fell to Dartmouth by a score of 3-2.

“It’s just frustrating, not being able to score goals,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “I was proud of our guys … being as shorthanded as we were, as well as I thought we played.”

In place of Galajda, who will also miss Saturday’s game against Harvard after sustaining an injury in the Madison Square Garden loss to the Crimson, classmate Austin McGrath got his first career start in net and looked sharp through much of the early going. But a couple of defensive miscues ultimately led to goals, and McGrath’s 19 saves were not enough for the Red to hang on despite outshooting the Green, 40-22.

“I thought he did a real solid job for us,” Schafer said. “I thought guys were solid in front of him. … He stepped up to the plate.”

To make matters worse, senior forward and captain Mitch Vanderlaan sustained an injury in the first period and will not play tomorrow night, Schafer said.

Cornell’s inconsistent power play struggled mightily on Friday, as the Red was unable to light the lamp in three tries on the man-advantage. On the season, the Red has just eight power play goals in 47 opportunities. Heading into the night, Cornell’s total special teams ranked 55th out of 60 Division I programs. For its part, Dartmouth, which sports the last-ranked penalty kill in the nation, was 0-for-3 on the power play Friday.

“The tide will turn for guys to score goals,” Schafer said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Cornell jumped to a lead early in the second behind senior forward Beau Starrett’s tip-in of a wrister from freshman defenseman Joe Leahy — the latter’s first collegiate point. But the lead was short-lived. Dartmouth rattled off two of its own in the middle frame to enter the second intermission with a lead.

Junior forward Jeff Malott, who returned to the fray after missing three games to injury, scored his first goal of the season to tie the game at two in the third, but Dartmouth forward Cam Strong buried a backhander past McGrath to seal it for the Green just over three minutes after Malott’s goal.

Despite scoring only twice, Cornell was able to muster a staggering 40 shots on goal, including 21 in the third period alone. Still, the chances Cornell created for itself did not lead to goals despite a plethora of solid scoring chances.

“It’s about great opportunities,” Schafer said. “If you look at the shot chart around the net, wide open nets, 4-on-1s, 3-on 1s, 2-on-1s — we got to be able to bury those.”

Galajda and Vanderlaan are just the latest in a string of Cornell injuries that have hampered the team’s ability to live up to early expectations following its record-setting 2017-18 performance. Malott, senior defenseman Brendan Smith, sophomore defenseman Alex Green and sophomore forward Brenden Locke are all nightly contributors who have been missing in recent weeks. The latter three all did not play Friday.

The reeling Cornell squad, now losers of two straight, will have to find its footing quickly as it travels with its decimated lineup to Cambridge Saturday to take on a Harvard team it lost to in New York City just six days ago.

“Through this struggle, we’ll get better. We’ll find a way,” Schafer said.

Puck drop Saturday is set for 7 p.m. at the Crimson’s Bright-Landry Hockey Center.