This weekend, Cornell men’s hockey will make the long journey north to face St. Lawrence and Clarkson in its final games of the 2018-19 regular season. The Red will look to solidify its up-in-the-air ECAC playoff position — it could finish as low as fifth or as high as first in the conference. The circuit’s top four teams are awarded a first-round playoff bye and a quarterfinal series in their home arenas. Currently owners of first place, Cornell would win the Cleary Cup as ECAC regular season champions with a pair of victories this weekend, among other scenarios.
Despite the Golden Knights representing a much more formiddable opponent, the game against St. Lawrence is potentially as important — a loss to the 59th-ranked Saints could prove disastrous for Cornell’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
How to watch or listen:
Cornell will visit St. Lawrence on Friday and Clarkson on Saturday, and both games will be available on ESPN+ (subscription needed) and WHCU radio. Live stats are available via the home teams’ athletics websites.
Series with the Saints:
Cornell owns a 63-45-8 record against SLU in the teams’ histories with the first meeting occurring during the 1926-27 season. The Red has won the last five meetings, with the the most recent bout ending in a 3-1 Cornell victory at Lynah Rink on Feb. 9.
Series with the Golden Knights:
Cornell leads the all-time series against Clarkson, 66-55-18. The only ECAC team that Cornell failed to beat at least once in 2017-18, Clarkson was also the last team to shut out the Red, with the two sides battling to a 0-0 draw last season in Potsdam. Cornell won the most recent meeting in convincing fashion at Lynah by a score of 5-0.
Cornell last time out:
Cornell is coming off a weekend in which it finished its regular season home slate with a 3-2 overtime loss to Rensselaer and a 3-1 senior night victory over Union. Cornell’s penalty kill continued its stellar play over the weekend, having now killed 39 straight penalties dating back to Jan. 5.
The loss to RPI was a heartbreaker for the Red, which outshot the Engineers, 37-16. Cornell surrendered two goals early and clawed back to tie the game late in the third period before eventually succumbing in overtime. The following night’s win against Union was a rebound victory on what was an emotional senior night for Cornell.
St. Lawrence last time out:
The Saints lost a pair of games on the road last weekend, including a 7-2 blowout loss at No. 5 Quinnipiac and a 5-3 loss at Princeton.
Clarkson last time out:
The Golden Knights tied Princeton, 1-1, and defeated the Bobcats, 5-3, in a big-time road ECAC win.
Scouting the Saints:
SLU is a putrid 4-26-2 on the season, having won just two games since Nov. 17. The Saints are 56th in total team offense in the country at 1.97 goals per game and dead last in team defense at 4.07 goals allowed per game.
Scouting the Knights:
Clarkson, on the other hand, ranks sixth in team defense at 2.00 goals against per game. Nico Sturm — the reigning ECAC Best Defensive Forward — is the team leader with 39 points and leads the conference with a plus-23 rating.
Cornell beats St. Lawrence if…
… It shows up to compete at its typical level. To say that SLU is an inferior team would be an understatement — as evidenced by the numbers — and so it’s a team that Cornell should have no trouble with. However, in college hockey it is possible for any team to beat any other team on any given night, so it’s important that the Red doesn’t look past this game to the next one and focuses on taking care of business.
Cornell beats Clarkson if…
… It gets out to an early lead and controls the special teams battle. Both Clarkson and Cornell are excellent first-period teams, so entering the first intermission with a lead would go a long way towards overpowering the Knights. In addition, Clarkson has respectable and, at times, dangerous special teams units, but Cornell’s are both top-10 in the country. If the positive power play and penalty kill trends continue, Clarkson will have a tough time against the Red.
What they’re saying in Ithaca:
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 on Cornell controlling its own destiny: “We got to go on the road and pretty much have to win two games to clinch. That’s gotta be the mindset, that we’re gonna have to sweep in order to get the league championship. So guys will be excited and ready to play.”
What they’re saying in Canton:
St. Lawrence head coach Mark Morris on the biggest challenge for the Saints this season: “The biggest thing for us is just fielding a healthy team. We have battled injuries, sickness and concussions on a daily basis. Just fielding a consistent roster has been an ongoing challenge since the start of the season.”
What they’re saying in Potsdam:
Clarkson head coach Casey Jones ’90 on a tight ECAC race at the end of the season: “The league is good, there are good teams every weekend. Overall, it’s just a great way to finish off. You get to play these teams that you are right there with. When you control your own destiny, that’s what you want as a player.”
Sophomore defenseman Cody Haiskanen is out for the year, while freshman forward Max Andreev is likely to remain out until at least the beginning of the playoffs. Sophomore forward Cam Donaldson is expected to play this weekend after battling some upper body soreness in recent weeks.
Clarkson and St. Lawrence are both Division III schools that field Division I teams only in men’s and women’s hockey; the Knights and Saints are two of four such teams in the ECAC, along with RPI and Union.