Coming off one of its best years in recent memory, Cornell men’s hockey will welcome four rookies next season, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 confirmed in a Zoom town hall with fans on Thursday.
Only three Cornellians — forwards Jeff Malott and Noah Bauld and defenseman Yanni Kaldis — are graduating, leaving most key pieces from the 2019-20 season in place.
Here’s an early look at the four members — two forwards and two defensemen — that make up the Red’s class of 2024:
Jack Lagerstrom (Edina, Minn.)
A defenseman hailing from Minnesota, Lagerstrom committed to Cornell back in January 2018. Prior to his commitment, Lagerstrom played for Shattuck St. Mary’s and finished his senior year with 49 points on 15 goals and 34 assists.
Lagerstrom then moved on to play two years of juniors hockey, taking the ice for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League for the 2018-19 season before spending the past year in the United States Hockey League for the Tri-City Storm.
During his time with the Vees, Lagerstrom put up 22 points in 57 games, but an injury for much of 2019-20 limited him to 12 contests.
Jack O’Leary (Smithtown, N.Y.)
O’Leary is one of two forwards who will look to add firepower to Cornell’s already-lethal attack next season. Standing at 5-foot-6 and weighing 157 pounds, Schafer compared O’Leary to junior forward Cam Donaldson.
Like Donaldson, O’Leary carries plenty of skills and speed onto the ice. This translated into two successful seasons with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL. Cedar Rapids head coach Mark Carlson praised O’Leary in the early stages of the 2019-20 season.
“Jack really personifies the way we want to play,” Carlson said in an interview with The Gazette. “He has a lot of juice, a lot of energy. He is an unbelievable team guy. He has really grown over the last year. I think he’s going to be a real leader for our team.”
Kyle Penney (Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia)
The lone Canadian in Cornell’s incoming class, Penney actually spent three years at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire. In his final season with Kimball Union, Penney — traditionally a forward — spent much of the year as a defenseman to fill holes left by other players’ injuries.
Despite the change in position, Penney still notched eight goals and 19 assists, demonstrating his strong two-way play. He further developed his skills in the BCHL during the 2019-20 season with the Chilliwack Chiefs. With the Chiefs, the Nova Scotia native showed off his chops on offense, scoring the second-most goals on the team with 18 tallies.
“As far as on-ice ability, Kyle has an extremely high hockey IQ, and uses his size and speed to make life miserable for opponents,” said Chilliwack head coach Brian Maloney in an interview with the Chilliwack Progress after Penney’s signing. “But the biggest criteria for us in recruiting is character. Kyle is a player that has always come across to us as a natural leader. He is mature, grounded and someone you want to have in your locker room.”
Tim Rego (Mansfield, Mass.)
Rego is another defenseman who — along with Lagerstrom — will help fill the void created by Kaldis’s impending departure. Initially committed to Holy Cross, Rego switched his commitment to Cornell this past January.
After graduating from Williston Northampton School in Massachusetts, Rego exploded onto the junior scene last season. Playing for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Rego served as the top-scoring defenseman on the Bandits, piling up 24 goals and 37 assists for a whopping 61 points. This total was the second-highest for any defenseman in the AJHL.
Rego is the second-ever Bandit to commit to Cornell, following Malott, who skated for the Bandits from 2014 to 2016.