No. 2 Cornell men’s hockey takes on Boston University at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, looking to improve to 9-0. Preview Red Hot Hockey here.
8-0 start is Cornell’s best since 1971-72:
Cornell’s 8-0 start is its first since the 1971-72 season, when it reached the national championship game before losing to B.U. You don’t need to go back much further to find another perfect start for Cornell — the Red went 29-0 in its 1969-70 national championship season.
Cornell started the 2017-18 season 7-0 before a loss to Clarkson ended the team’s perfect start.
Cornell is outscoring opponents 20-6 in second periods so far this season, and 20 of the team’s 36 total goals have come in the middle frame.
While the Red hasn’t gotten off to terrific starts — junior goaltender Matt Galajda bailed the team out during slow starts against Quinnipiac and Princeton — the team has worn down opponents with its depth.
“We haven’t had crazy good starts; we haven’t made a living off of starting the game and breaking [opponents’] will right away, but it just seems like if we play our game, teams have a hard time maintaining pressure for more than the first period,” said senior forward and captain Jeff Malott.
Defense-first center does it all:
Cornell’s line of Tristan Mullin, Kyle Betts and Noah Bauld is usually tasked with shutting down opponents’ top lines and has turned in impressive defensive performances all season, recently shutting out Odeen Tufto and Quinnipiac’s top line. But on Saturday, the trio got a chance to get on the scoresheet: Mullin’s second-period 4-on-4 goal gave the Red a two-goal lead, Betts assisted on each of the team’s first two goals and Bauld also added an assist.
“Those guys kind of lead the way for us,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of Mullin, Betts and Bauld after the win over Princeton. “Back-to-back nights where those guys kept the other team’s top line off the scoreboard and at the same time they contributed offense, so it’s a real bonus situation for those guys.”
Betts has impressed Schafer with his speed and consistency. The bench boss compared Betts to another player who wore No. 11 on his sweater: three-time Stanley Cup winner John Madden, a defensive center who played 12 seasons in the NHL, mainly for the New Jersey Devils. Madden won the Frank J. Selke Trophy — given to the NHL’s best defensive forward — in 2001 and thrice finished second in voting for the award.
“Just that consistency. What makes [Betts] so hard to play against [is] he’s so fast and so tenacious,” Schafer said. “Combine that with Tristan and Noah, they’re just a very difficult line to play against. They’ll be physical, they can skate, they’re tenacious and so it’s a long night for the opposing team.”
Like Madden was during his career, Betts is one of his team’s best penalty killers. He helped lead the Red’s PK to a 5-for-5 night against Quinnipiac and a 5-for-6 night against Princeton. Against the Tigers, the junior center drew a penalty on a breakaway scoring chance, negating a Princeton man advantage. He also won 12 of his 13 faceoffs on Saturday.