Anthony Corrales/Sun Staff Photographer

Ben Robertson '27 in his collegiate debut for Cornell against TMU.

October 14, 2023

Freshman Shine, Men’s Hockey Dominates in Debut

Print More

This story has been updated.

Cornell men’s hockey began its season with an exhibition against Toronto Metropolitan University, dominating from the start to pick up the 6-1 win. The game was trademarked by its freshmen who accounted for three of the six Cornell goals, two of which had multi-point games. 

The freshmen didn’t need much time to get used to playing in front of the Lynah Faithful, as two out of the first three of Red’s goal scorers were first-years. The three notches came all within the first five minutes to give Cornell a commanding lead.

“It gives them confidence,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It gives them an opportunity to get their feet wet and that first experience of the crowd.”

Each defensive pairing had a freshman paired with an upperclassmen, a move Schafer said he made intentionally to take some weight off of the first-years’ shoulders.

“We did that throughout the whole lineup, and it gives them an opportunity to sit and talk about things on the bench,” Schafer said.

Kraft also cited leadership as a reason for his class’s success offensively on Saturday night.

“The older guys [have been] really welcoming,” Kraft said.

Freshman forward Jonathan Castagna got the scoring started less than two and a half minutes in, with freshman forward Jacob Kraft and senior forward Gabriel Seger joining the party less than a minute later with a goal each. Kraft and Seger’s goals both came off beautiful feeds from freshman defenseman George Fegaras and sophomore forward Nick DeSantis, respectively. 

“It was a blast,” Kraft said, reflecting on his first collegiate minutes and his offensive outburst. “Coming in, [I] didn’t really know what to expect. Obviously, Lynah is a great place to play, so it was definitely a blast.”

Kraft debuted on a first-line with Seger at center and DeSantis at right wing.

“It’s been awesome,” Kraft said of playing with the two experienced forwards. “Obviously [Seger] is very experienced and his awareness and hockey sense is second to none. [DeSantis] is a very highly skilled player, too.”

It was all Red in the first period, holding TMU in its zone for the majority of the period. The Bold goaltender Kai Edmonds came up with a couple of key stops, including a one-time missile by Seger from the slot. 

With 3:42 left in the period, TMU had a close call, with Shane briefly outside of the crease, a defensive save by freshman defenseman George Fegaras helped keep the Bold scoreless. Later, with just under two minutes left in the opening frame, TMU found themselves on a partial breakaway, but a hustling effort by junior defenseman Tim Rego allowed him to break up the play and prevented sophomore goaltender Ian Shane from seeing a shot. Shane was up to the task in the first, easily stopping the three shots he faced.

A scrum after the horn sounded on the first period caused the second frame to begin with a Cornell power play. TMU’s Cole Cameron was given a five-minute major penalty for slew footing, resulting in a game misconduct for the defensemen. Seger and TMU’s Liam Ross were also nabbed for roughing. 

It didn’t take long for the Red to capitalize: Winter Wallace found the back of the net just 27 seconds into the period off of a freshman-centered passing sequence by Kraft and Fegaras. Less than a minute later, TMU took another minor penalty to give the Red a 5-on-3. Once again, Cornell wasted no time: junior defenseman Michael Suda fired a wrist shot over the blocker of the TMU goaltender, extending the Red’s lead to 5-0. Sophomore forward Sean Donaldson and O’Leary picked up the assists on Suda’s tally.

The scoring depth was apparent all over the box score. “A lot of guys played well, got pucks to different people,” Schafer said.

Still on the power play from the slew footing major penalty, yet another Cornell freshman was able to find the back of the net. This time, it was freshman forward Ryan Walsh, who made a beautiful deflection off a Seger shot from the blue line. Sophomore forward Dalton Bancroft had the secondary assist on Walsh’s goal, putting Cornell up 6-0 just before the halfway point of the contest.

TMU made a change in net after the sixth goal, replacing Edmonds with Ryan Dugas, who made some stellar saves to cool down the red-hot Red. Dugas stopped all shots he saw in the second frame, a period where the Red fired a remarkable 17 shots on goal. The game concluded with Cornell firing 34 shots against the two TMU goaltenders. Edmonds finished with nine saves, while Dugas personally shut out the Red, making 23 saves.

While the goals subsided as the second frame went on, the action never stopped. Cornell was relentless with its pressure, pinching in tight and making aggressive decisions deep in its offensive zone. Shane stood tall when tested, making a crucial breakaway save while the Red were short handed at the halfway point of the period. Not long after that stop, Cornell replaced Shane with sophomore goaltender Remington Keopple, who played the remainder of the contest. Shane and Keopple stopped 16 of 17 TMU shots, finishing with five and 11 saves, respectively.

The third period saw more even play between the Red and the Bold, with the goalies standing tall at both ends. Around six minutes into the frame, Suda took a high sticking penalty and the Red found itself back on the kill. However, it was Cornell that got the better chance, breaking out into a two-on-one. Kyler Kovich received a cross-crease pass and wasted no time one-timing it, but a stellar glove save by Dugas kept the Red from its seventh goal. 

Just over a minute later, TMU retaliated, and a nice wrist shot by Ian Martin snuck under Keopple’s glove to get TMU on the board. The Bold converted on a third of its power play chances, while the Red finished at 3/9, cashing in on its first three opportunities. 

The action was back and forth until about five minutes remaining in the game, when Cornell was given a two-man power play advantage after a pair of TMU minor penalties. The Red got a few stellar chances but couldn’t find an answer for Dugas in net. Around a minute into the advantage, however, Walsh laid a massive hit on a TMU defenseman. The hit was originally called a minor, but a successful coaches review by TMU resulted in a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct against Walsh. From there, chaos ensued — play was stopped for nearly six minutes as the officials dealt with scrums and thrown punches between the two teams. TMU had one of its defenseman ejected, leaving the final misconduct count at four. 

“With the exception of the [Walsh] hit at the very end, I was pretty happy with our team’s discipline — not getting involved with fighting or letting it get carried away,” Schafer said. “They protect each other, but they didn’t escalate. That’s what we wanted.”

A few feisty––but clean––hits and quick shots were exchanged between the teams to conclude the game. The Red received one of its best chances with just under three minutes remaining in the contest, swinging a wraparound chance just wide of the net before it was smothered by TMU’s goaltender.

Despite the surplus of penalties, the 6-1 score held and the Red secured its first exhibition win. Next Saturday at 7 p.m, Cornell will take on the USA Under-18 National Development Team, fresh off an 8-2 walloping of number one-ranked Boston University. While TMU played a big, physical game, the U-18 team will bring speed, skill and NHL-caliber talent to Lynah. 

“We gotta be ready for them. They’ve got a lot of talent. We’ll have our hands full with these guys,” Schafer said. “It’ll be a different type of game, but we’ll see what they’re doing and get ready for a competition next Saturday.”

The Red will look to finish out its preseason on a high note, before hosting No. 17 Minnesota Duluth in its regular season home opener on October 27 at 7 p.m.