Six different players scored a goal for Cornell as the Red cruised to a 6-2 victory on Saturday in East Lansing, completing a vengeful sweep of the team that stormed into Ithaca to pull of a surprising pair of wins a season ago.
In last season’s losses to the Spartans, the Red wasn’t beaten on X’s and O’s or tactically so much as it got outworked and outcompeted. So head coach Mike Schafer ’86 and his staff approached preseason practices differently — “[teaching] our guys to get that battle” — in hopes that the team would be ready to go from the opening puck drop.
“They came in and taught us a lesson last year,” Schafer said. “I think one of our guys’ biggest concerns coming into the season was ‘are we going to get off to a slow start with so many freshmen in the lineup?’ … I think those guys have answered that concern.”
Freshman defenseman Sam Malinski scored his first collegiate goal and had a three-point night, sophomore forward Michael Regush scored twice and the Cornell power play potted three goals to up its early-season power play conversion rate to 5-for-14.
Cornell (2-0) scored three goals in less than five minutes of game time late in the second period and early in the third to pull away from the Spartans (2-4). Clinging to a two-goal lead thanks to goals from junior forward Tristan Mullin and sophomore forward Liam Motley, who was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Friday’s opener, Regush’s first goal, with 3:51 left in the second period, opened up a three-goal lead.
“We got off to a really, really slow start so it was kind of frustrating in that sense, but after we came back and regrouped after the first period I thought our guys got into the flow of things and started to really get into the flow of things offensively,” Schafer said.
Less than two minutes after Regush’s tally, a tip-in of a Malinski shot by junior forward and captain Morgan Barron made it 4-0. Less than a minute into the third period, Regush scored again, this time on the power play, to give Cornell a 5-0 lead.
With three points in two games, Regush is off to a hot start offensively in his sophomore campaign after scoring 12 goals, six of which came on the power play, in his rookie season.
Junior goaltender Matt Galajda made 21 saves, allowing two power play goals to the Spartans in the third period after the Red had already built a five-goal cushion. Malinski’s late goal completed the six-pack.
It’s only been two games, but the Red has impressed with its depth so far: Cornell’s nine total goals have been scored by eight different players, the team dressed eight freshmen on Friday and seven on Saturday and two rookies have already scored their first goal.
On the blue line, newcomers Malinski, Sebastian Dirven and Travis Mitchell haven’t looked out of place, slowing down some potent Michigan State forwards, stymying Michigan State during 5-on-5 play.
“I just like the fact that we came on the road with seven [and] eight freshmen in the lineup and a lot of new guys back on the blue line and we didn’t give up an even strength goal all weekend,” Schafer said. “The competition [for playing time] is what’s going to lead its way for just to be consistent. You have a lot of guys that played solid and that competition to be back in the lineup … is going to ratchet it up in practice.”
If the depth displayed on the road in a Big Ten barn isn’t enough, Cornell is still awaiting the return from injury of a top-line forward in junior Cam Donaldson, a top-six defensemen in junior Cody Haiskanen and a maybe-top-six blueliner in sophomore Joe Leahy.
Cornell begins ECAC and Ivy League play — and its home schedule — next weekend against Brown and Yale. Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday against the Bears and 7 p.m. Saturday against the Bulldogs at Lynah Rink.