Cornell men’s hockey will face a group of 17-year-olds in an exhibition game at Lynah Rink this weekend, but these won’t be your average high school juniors. The U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 Team is full of the nation’s top young prospects and future college hockey and NHL stars.
The Red hosts the Under-18 team at Lynah Rink this weekend in the team’s final tuneup before it takes the road to start its regular season Nov. 1 at Michigan State. Cornell beat Nipissing, 6-2, in its first exhibition on Sunday.
The Under-18 team has already taken on six NCAA Division I teams this season and has posted a 1-5 record to go alongside a 5-0 mark against USHL opponents. The game doesn’t have any actual implications on the 2019-20 season for Cornell, but there’s plenty of pride at stake.
“A ton of pride. I’ll be very upset if we lose to them just because obviously we’re quite a bit older,” said junior forward and captain Morgan Barron. “Regardless of how skilled they are, we want to make sure to come out with a good outcome.”
A handful of Cornell players have some knowledge of the Under-18 team, as the development team regularly faces teams in the USHL, where eight Cornellians played before their arrivals in Ithaca.
“I played them in juniors a number of times when I was in the USHL with Jack Malone [on the Youngstown Phantoms],” said sophomore forward Michael Regush. “They’re a good team; just because they’re young doesn’t mean we can take them lightly.”
Barron said his teammates and others who are familiar with the Under-18 team all say the kids present a formidable challenge.
“They all say the same thing, that they’re pretty small and younger than a lot of the guys, but still they’re so fast and so skilled that it makes it a challenging game,” Barron said.
The U.S. team used to face Cornell in exhibition games almost yearly, but the teams haven’t met since 2014, a 3-2 Cornell victory. The Red is 4-1-1 against the NTDP U18s since 2005.
The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based team is coached by Seth Appert, who was the head coach at Cornell’s ECAC opponent Rensselaer from 2006-17.
“Seth knowing our rink, he realizes it’s a great environment for his kids to come into,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “He probably realized we’ll have the best crowd he’ll face all year at a college for an exhibition game, so he’s using it as a learning experience.
“You don’t develop players unless you go into hostile arenas and face different types of teams and I think Seth realizes that, so I’m very happy to have them come back here,” Schafer added.
Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Lynah Rink.