Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

The ongoing goalie battle between freshman Joe Howe (34) and senior Nate McDonald will be a storyline to watch in 2022.

December 31, 2021

No. 9 Men’s Hockey Set to Begin 2022 with Two Games Against Arizona State

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After a four-week hiatus, No. 9 men’s hockey will return to the ice for a two-game series against Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

The Red enters 2022 with a 9-1-1 record. Its recent seven-game win streak became an eight-game unbeaten streak after a tie with Clarkson in its last game.

Cornell’s 18 points have it temporarily in first place in the ECAC, although No. 2 Quinnipiac is just one point behind the Red despite playing two fewer games.

Here are some things to keep an eye on as Cornell starts 2022.

Non-Conference Road Trip

After the two-game set with the Sun Devils, the Red will stay in Arizona for a few days before traveling to Grand Forks, North Dakota later in the week for a series with No. 5 North Dakota.

The two out of conference series will provide Cornell with an important opportunity to move in the Pairwise rankings. As of Dec. 31, Cornell sits at No. 18 in the Pairwise while Arizona State is No. 28 and North Dakota is at No. 4.

After this road trip, Cornell’s two games with Quinnipiac will be the only opportunities to play teams that currently sit in the top 20. That, and ECAC teams’ 34-43-12 record against out of conference opponents mean that this road trip could have major implications on NCAA tournament seeding.

COVID Cancellations

The Red had begun its hiatus before the spike in positive cases caused disruptions to athletic teams’ practice schedules and to men’s and women’s basketball games. Nevertheless, the nationwide spike in cases has caused disruptions to college hockey, including to Cornell’s ECAC opponents.

Princeton and No. 2 Quinnipiac postponed their home-and-home series that was scheduled for Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 and Union postponed a series with defending national champions University of Massachusetts. Health and safety protocols also forced the cancellation of the World Juniors tournament.

Goalie Battle

After the team’s exhibition on Oct 16., Head Coach Mike Schafer ’86 said, “there won’t be a starter on our team for quite some time.”

More than two months and 11 games later, it seems Schafer has yet to land on a consistent starting goaltender.

Senior Nate McDonald (5-0-1, 2.13 GAA, .910 SV%) and freshman Joe Howe (4-1), 2.20 GAA, .909SV%) have split time over the course of the first half. The two have performed nearly identically statistically, although the four goals McDonald allowed in the last five minutes of the team’s Dec. 4 game with Clarkson put a dent in his numbers.

What to expect from Arizona State

Expect a lot of scoring.

The Sun Devils have allowed opponents to score an average of 3.85 goals per game – the fourth worst mark in Division I. Meanwhile, the Red is scoring the second most goals per game in the country at a whopping 4.18.

On the other end of the ice, Cornell will seek to stifle the most potent offense it has encountered so far this season. The Sun Devils boast the nation’s 8th best offense, averaging 3.55 goals scored per game. Traditionally solid defensively, the Red enters 2022 having limited opponents to 2.18 goals per game (11th in the country), although it has allowed four goals in two of its last three.

Arizona State has been inconsistent to start the season, going 10-10 in the 2021 portion of its schedule. However, the Sun Devils swept a home series against Clarkson on Dec. 10 and Dec. 11, one week after Clarkson forced a tie against Cornell.The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. MT (9:05 p.m. ET) on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2 in Tempe. A live stream will be available here, and you can follow our coverage on our Twitter.