With an ECAC Tournament first-round bye already in-hand, men’s hockey will hit the road this weekend looking to take home another bragging right — the Ivy League title. The Red can clinch the top spot in the Ancient Eight with any combination of results against Yale and Brown, save for a pair of losses.
But with Cornell tied for first in the ECAC standings with Clarkson, the Red would prefer to come away with two wins. Cornell is searching for its third straight Cleary Cup — a feat the program has never before accomplished.
“Obviously it would be nice to finish first in the league, it’s got a lot of benefits to it,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “The guys want to, we want to get there, we want to finish first. We’re competitive, we want to get as high [in the standings] as we can.”
The icers will start the weekend in New Haven, where the Bulldogs will return home following a three-point weekend road trip. On Friday, Yale relinquished a three-goal lead to Harvard, settling for a tie. The next night, the Bulldogs accomplished what Cornell could not back in December — taking down Dartmouth in Hanover.
Yale’s top line boasts its three most prolific scorers, each of whom has 21 points on the season. Curtis Hall is ranked No. 7 in the nation in goals per game with .67. Other than those top three, though, the rest of the Bulldog offensive corps has a cumulative plus-minus rating of minus-76.
“Every team’s got one or two guys that are obviously putting up numbers, but you know for us, it’s just about team effort,” Schafer said. “Knowing who they are, forcing them to play defense, staying above them, making it difficult on them.”
Cornell dropped its last game in New Haven, 5-2, just over a year ago.
The last time Cornell and Yale met, junior forward and captain Morgan Barron completed his first collegiate hat trick only minutes into the second period of the Red’s 6-2 rout of its Ivy foe.
“We played probably some of our best hockey when we played [Yale and Brown in November],” said freshman forward Travis Mitchell. “So I think for us, mainly [the strategy this weekend] is gonna be focusing on ourselves and … mak[ing] little adjustments that can give us the advantage over them.”
Brown will be searching for its seventh win of the season. The Bears have not yet claimed a four-point weekend in the 2019-20 campaign and their 29 even-strength goals this season are the second-fewest nationally.
But Brown has gone 3-2-2 in its latest matchups, signaling that the Bears’ season isn’t winding down — it’s heating up.
“Honestly, we can’t believe it — watching the tape on Brown, they’re a really good hockey team,” Schafer said. “Especially at this time of year, where teams had a rough start to the season or they hit a rough patch and they’re getting guys back, you just gotta judge teams for who they are [now]. So we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Last year’s game in Providence saw Cornell go up 3-0 before conceding three straight goals to the Bears in the span of 53 seconds in the third period — the contest ended in a tie.
However, this year’s edition of the Yale-Brown road trip looks different from the 2019 version — last year, an injury-plagued Cornell limped into the series. But this weekend, the team is expected to be at full strength, with the exception of freshman defenseman Sam Malinski, who has been out since Feb. 1.
“We were playing with like, barely any guys at Yale last year. But I know from the Brown game, guys were really, really mad about that,” said junior forward Cam Donaldson, who missed last year’s road trip himself due to injury. “We could have easily won both games.”
Cornell will go for redemption this weekend in New Haven and Providence. The puck drops at 7 p.m. Friday at Yale and at 7 p.m. Saturday at Brown.