Any other weekend during the regular season, men’s hockey would be either entirely home or away. But every year, one weekend becomes the exception to this rule. This Friday night, the Red will venture to Hamilton and play Colgate as the away team, then board their bus after the game and come back to East Hill for a match against the same foes on Saturday.
This rapid turnaround might mean an hour or so less sleep for Cornell players, as they return to Ithaca rather than to a nearby hotel, but beyond that the team isn’t too concerned.
“When you’re playing the same opponent, the adjustments that you make are pretty easy for our players to understand, so that doesn’t take as much time to prep on Saturday,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
In addition to the team getting more time on the ice against the same ECAC rival, Cornell will also have the opportunity to spend more time prior to the matches to prep specifically for playing Colgate.
“We’ll get more of an in-depth scouting report on them throughout the week — when we play two teams, we usually look at the Friday team longer, and then the Saturday team. We worry about [the second game] postgame Friday and early Saturday,” said sophomore forward Morgan Barron, who has multiple points in five straight games and whose top line with classmates Brenden Locke and Cam Donaldson has produced 12 goals over the last six games.
Given Cornell’s recent success against Arizona State, the last weekend in which the Red played the same team two days in a row, the Red seems to benefit from this extra attention to a single team. Studying up on one team for the duration of the week allows Cornell to strategize more and capitalize on their opponent’s weaknesses.
“It helps that when we come back, there are adjustments the next day that are pretty obvious from the game,” Schafer said.
But beyond these basic, day-to-day adjustments, one change should be obvious to any Cornell hockey fan. Both sophomores Matt Galajda and Austin McGrath will likely get a chance to start in goal this weekend, Schafer said on Tuesday. After Galajda’s bumpy start to the season and subsequent injury, McGrath came out of the woodwork and revealed himself to be a promising goalie. But now Galajda is back and performing well, leaving Schafer in a bind when it comes to who he’s going to rely on going forward.
“They both do a great job of stopping the puck,” said sophomore defenseman Cody Haiskanen.
Haiskanen puts it simply and accurately. Galajda was awarded ECAC Goaltender of the Week on Jan. 21 and McGrath earned the same accolade two weeks prior.
“What we do with them now has more to do with my gut as a head coach than logistics,” Schafer said.
While it’s no secret that having two talented goalies isn’t the worst problem a team can have, Schafer will have to make a decision sooner or later.
Another issue for the team is persisting injuries. Freshman forward Max Andreev is out long-term after suffering an upper-body injury Saturday against Dartmouth. Other injured players’ statuses are up in the air.
Riding a seven-game unbeaten streak dating back to the start of December, the Red is looking more and more like a team that can make a real postseason run.
Though Colgate’s record (6-14-2) might not be impressive on paper, it is worth noting that the Raiders defeated Princeton and Quinnipiac while playing as the away team early in January. The Red knows not to underestimate the Raiders’ ability.
“We can’t rest on our laurels,” Haiskanen said.
Friday’s game at Colgate starts at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday’s game in Ithaca is set for 7 p.m. Each game will be the second game in a double header where Cornell women’s hockey will be playing at the same locations as the men. Cornell women’s hockey will play both days at 3.