The newly minted No. 7 men’s hockey team returns home to Lynah Rink looking to continue its winning start to the season. The Red (4-0-0, 2-0 ECAC) will face Dartmouth (1-1-2, 1-0-2 ECAC) on Friday, Nov. 10. The next night, in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, Cornell will verse Harvard (0-1-2, 0-1-2 ECAC) on Saturday, Nov. 11.
“[I’m] super excited. It’s something you hear a lot about,” said freshman defenseman Ben Robertson. “Just to be able to experience it with the group of guys here is super special and [it’s] something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.”
But before the fish go flying on Saturday, the team will have to face a solid Dartmouth team. Its losing record deceives the Big Green, who has garnered some impressive results thus far, including a 7-2 domination of the Under-18 National Development team, a 2-2 tie (and eventual shootout victory) over reigning national champion and No. 8 Quinnipiac and 1-1 tie with No. 17 Harvard.
“Dartmouth plays hard — they’re well structured, [and] they’ve got a great goaltender,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Hopefully we learned our lesson from last week.”
Referring to the Red’s slower start against Yale on Friday, Schafer is expecting a focused, rejuvenated team to attack this weekend’s games, perhaps the most difficult test for the Red thus far. Cornell will also look to its d-corps, whose .75 goals against per game is the best in the country.
Robertson has played a big part in those numbers. The first-year has been riding a four-game point streak to begin his collegiate career, registering five assists for five points.
“Our coaches [are] harping on the details every single day,” Robertson spoke of his defense. “Whether it be our sticks or just relying on our partners, it allows us to play aggressive and not give the other team a lot of room to make plays and have scoring chances.”
Cornell also owes its defensive prowess to sophomore goaltender Ian Shane. His .958 save percentage in four starts has earned him back-to-back ECAC goaltender of the week honors, and the title of MAC Goaltender of the Month. While acknowledging the awards, Shane gives credit to the group in front of him and emphasizes his team’s focus more on the result, and less on the accolades and rankings.
“It’s cool to be mentioned and put in some of those categories,” Shane reflected. “But it’s never been a forefront of my focus.”
“It’s just six big ECAC points and Ivy League points on the line [this weekend],” Shane added.
In the marquee matchup of the season, the Red will face the Crimson on Saturday.
It’ll be a different Harvard team that arrives in Ithaca on Saturday from past years. Particularly, the Crimson saw the key departures of forwards Matt Coronato, Alex Laferriere and Sean Farrell, who scored the unorthodox OT winner against the Red at home on Dec. 2, 2022. Laferriere, who made his NHL debut last month, was the one who sent the Red home in the ECAC semifinals at Lake Placid on March 17, scoring the game’s only goal four minutes into overtime and leaving Cornell with a sour taste in its mouth.
The 2023-24 Crimson team, much like Cornell, is a relatively young, inexperienced team. But unlike the Red, this new Harvard team has struggled to find its identity, going winless in its first three games.
That shouldn’t be a reason to overlook the Crimson, however.
“Throw the records right out the window [in] a rivalry game,” Schafer said. “The freshmen have never experienced [playing against Harvard], so [it’s all about] controlling emotions and being present.”
With the departure of starting goaltender Mitchell Gibson last season, senior Derek Mullahy will likely be between the pipes for the Crimson, giving the upper hand in experience to Shane, who has played multiple games in the coveted Cornell-Harvard rivalry.
“I think the experience of having those games in the past, especially last year not being a Covid year and getting to actually see the crowd and be in that atmosphere sort of prepares you better,” Shane said. “You know what to expect walking into it.”
The Red has been winless in its last six meetings with the Crimson, with the last Cornell win coming on the road on Dec. 6, 2019, when the Red won 3-1. Despite this, Cornell still leads the rivalry with an all-time record of 79-70-13.
Puck drop for both games is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the games can be streamed on ESPN+.