After a 3-0-1 start to the unofficial second half of its schedule, No. 15 men’s hockey (10-5-1, 7-3 ECAC) will face a tough test this weekend on the road against No. 7 Boston University.
Cornell began the second half with a two game series against AIC at Lynah on Dec. 29 and 30. The Red beat the Yellow Jackets in the first game before settling for a tie in game two.
After quickly falling behind 2-0 in the first ten minutes of game one, Cornell stormed back with five goals in the second period and went on to win 8-4. Sophomore forwards Sullivan Mack and Ondrej Psenicka had two goals apiece. Senior forward Jack Malone added a goal and two assists for his first points of the season.
The Red’s offense was stagnant in game two after its outburst the night before. Freshman goaltender Remington Keopple got the start for Cornell but was quickly pulled after allowing two goals in the first four minutes of the game. Two goals by freshman forward Nick DeSantis kept the Red in the contest, and a late goal by Psenicka sent the contest to overtime.
The five-minute three-on-three overtime did not produce a winner, and the game ended in a tie. Cornell won a just-for-fun shootout that will not count for either team’s record or ranking.
The Red resumed ECAC play the next weekend with a trip to the Capital District to face Union and RPI. The first action of 2023 was a resounding success for Cornell, as it secured a six-point weekend with two decisive wins.
Cornell opened the new year by handily defeating Union on Jan. 6. Senior defenseman Sebastian Dirven got things going with a goal a minute and a half in, and Malone added two more goals in a 6-1 Cornell victory. The Red scored on both its power play opportunities and successfully killed four penalties.
The Red completed the weekend sweep the next night against RPI behind four point nights from senior forward Ben Berard and DeSantis. Three power play goals by RPI in the second period briefly gave the Engineers the lead, but the Red quickly regained control and secured a 6-4 victory.
Among the biggest positive takeaways from the start of the second half have been the contributions of Malone and Berard. The senior forwards, along with classmate Matt Stienburg, were three of Cornell’s top six point-scorers last season but did not appear in the box scores very often in the first half of this season.
“It is what it is,” Malone said after Cornell’s win over Dartmouth on Dec. 3. “I’ve just got to make myself an asset to this team however I can, and there’s a lot of different ways to do that.”
Malone, who did not record a point in the first half, has recorded three goals and two assists over Cornell’s last four games. Berard recorded five points in the first half and has added ten more to start the second half. Stienburg, Cornell’s leading point scorer last season, was injured in the Dec. 29 game against AIC and has not returned to action.
Another bright spot has been the play of sophomore goaltender Ian Shane, whose 1.67 GAA is third in the nation. Cornell’s defense as a whole has allowed 2.06 goals per game this season, which also ranks third in the nation.
The Red will hope to build on its success when it visits rival B.U. on Saturday to close out its non-conference slate. The Terriers are 13-6 on the season and represent a big opportunity for Cornell. Saturday’s game is one of three remaining games on Cornell’s schedule against teams currently ranked ahead of the Red in the Pairwise.
Cornell, which is currently ranked 10th in the Pairwise, could make the NCAA tournament without winning the ECAC tournament if it is ranked high enough at the end of the season. Cornell is sitting in second in the ECAC standings, but is 14 points behind No. 1 Quinnipiac, which is a perfect 12-0 in conference play. Cornell is just three points clear of fifth-place Colgate, and only the top four teams get byes to the quarterfinals of the ECAC tournament.
Saturday will be the Red’s first trip to B.U.’s Agganis Arena. Cornell has had recent success against the Terriers. The two rivals have a biennial series at Madison Square Garden which will continue in November. Cornell has won the last three games at the Garden but lost to the Terriers in the NCAA tournament in 2018. Saturday will be the 50th meeting between the teams, and Cornell leads the series 26-20-3. The Terriers will make a return trip to Lynah in coming years.
Puck drop is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday in Boston.