Boos rained down on referees Joe Carusone and Chip McDonald when their officiating crew whistled Cornell men’s hockey sophomore forward Cam Donaldson for an embellishment penalty in the third period of Saturday’s win over Union.
Part of the rancor came from the nature of the embellishment call itself, and the remaining motivation was due to the fact that Donaldson was injured on the play and did not return to the ice that game after serving his penalty.
But the boos can now turn to sighs of relief, as Donaldson has been deemed healthy for this coming weekend’s regular season finale at St. Lawrence and Clarkson, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said Tuesday.
“Little bit of a weird tweak for him, but he’s fine,” Schafer said, ending 72 hours of speculation on the key forward’s status.
With 4:33 left in the third period Saturday, Donaldson and Union defenseman Greg Campbell — who was assessed a matching high sticking minor on the play — got tangled up in the neutral zone before Donaldson fell awkwardly to the ice and re-tweaked a left shoulder problem that stems from last season and flared up in a Feb. 9 win over St. Lawrence.
Donaldson was kept out of two games following the St. Lawrence win and returned to the lineup this past Friday against RPI. The sophomore’s 11 goals are second on the team behind linemate and classmate Morgan Barron, and his speed and power play contributions have made him one of Cornell’s most important forwards this season.
Andreev in line for playoff return
Whereas Donaldson is good to go, freshman forward Max Andreev is still battling a broken collarbone and is doubtful to return this coming weekend. Barring any setbacks in the recovery process, Andreev should be ready to return to the lineup by the playoffs, as expected.
“He’s getting better and better,” Schafer said. “I don’t know if he’s playing this weekend — I doubt he will — but he could be close to playing.”
Andreev, a stalwart down the middle and a faceoff master as just a freshman, has been practicing in a non-contact jersey lately. He sustained the broken collarbone from a hard hit in a Jan. 18 win over Harvard.
The hope is that Cornell can lock up a first-round playoff bye this weekend and assure that Andreev is 100 percent by the time an ECAC quarterfinal playoff series rolls into Lynah.
“Also to get some guys healthier that have been playing with a lot of bumps and bruises that didn’t keep them out of the lineup but definitely limits their performance,” Schafer said.
Andreev, who sat out one additional game due to injury before the collarbone incident, has tallied two goals and seven assists in his 15 games this season. Most importantly, his return would bring back full stability down the middle — his 60.5 percent success at the faceoff dot leads the team of those with at least 150 draws taken — and it would allow Schafer to slot freshman forward Michael Regush back into a spot on the wing.
Penalty killin’ it
Cornell might want to start playing a full 60 minutes each game on the penalty kill.
In its last 39 shorthanded opportunities, the Red has killed off all 39 — the longest success streak for the program since the turn of the century. Per CollegeHockeyInc, Cornell’s penalty killing rate leads the nation since Dec. 1 at 95.5 percent (and its power play rate of 29.1 percent is third).
“[Associate head coach] Ben Syer does a tremendous job with our guys preparing them,” Schafer said of the success. “The guys are doing a tremendous job of absorbing the information, knowing who the threats are on the other team, being in lanes, paying the price blocking shots and then when called upon, [sophomore goalie Matt Galajda] has been there. … And you have to have a little luck, too.”
“We’ve just focused — I sound cliche — but we’ve really just dialed in on the details,” added senior defenseman Brendan Smith. “And we’ve gotten lucky. You have to get lucky to go 39 in a row. … We’ve been getting some good bounces and doing everything we can to keep it out of the net.”