No. 12 Cornell men’s hockey begins its season with a home series against No. 11 University of Minnesota Duluth (3-0-2, 0-0 NCHC) today and tomorrow. The Red last faced the Bulldogs last season in Duluth, once again in a two-game series that served as Cornell’s season opener. The Red lost both games, 3-2 and 4-2.
Minnesota Duluth is coming into Ithaca this weekend with five games under its belt and is unbeaten in all five. This is not unfamiliar territory for the Red –– and other Ivy League teams, for that matter –– as Ivy League rules account for much later starts than that of other conferences.
The Duluth power play has been on fire so far this season. The Bulldogs have scored 11 power play goals, the current highest in the nation, and have a 44 percent power play conversion rate, which is second best in the nation.
“I’m not worried about our discipline,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Even last year, I thought we did a good job playing on the road in their league, I thought we did a good job of being disciplined, that’s always been a staple of our program.”
However, it’ll be a different game from last season, considering that last year, before facing the Red, the Bulldogs were on a four-game losing streak.
“Last year, we faced a very angry team…they lost a couple games at home and when we got there, they were ready to play,” Schafer said.
This year, having not lost a game so far, Duluth will be the ones to make the far trip to Ithaca this time.
“We probably face a very, very confident team this year…in both situations, you get a lot of energy from a team that’s confident and a team that’s angry,” Schafer said. “We don’t have the long travel out there, but we just really have to be focused on ourselves.”
Playing at home, at Lynah Rink, in the season opener brings a different atmosphere against Duluth, so the team needs to be wary of taking unnecessary penalties.
“It gets amped up, there’s pressure and there’s a crowd and there’s everything else,” Schafer said. “With their power play, the way that it is flying right now, we better be able to block shots [and] we better take away [shooting] lanes, but [more importantly] we better stay out of the penalty box and give them limited opportunities.”
It’ll be a good matchup between two nationally ranked teams, and a chance to see where a relatively-new and young Cornell team lines up against some of the best teams in the country.
Puck drop for both games is set for 7pm and will be broadcast on ESPN+.