After an impressive weekend, topping now No. 4 Boston University under the lights at Madison Square Garden, No. 16 men’s hockey will look to continue the momentum with a home-and-home series against regional-rival Colgate (5-7-2, 2-3-1 ECAC) this weekend. This will be an important matchup with six crucial ECAC points on the line to see where Cornell stands heading into the break.
“These are huge points, even though it might seem to be still early in the year,” said associate head coach Ben Syer. “The reality of it is these are huge points and can really have an impact on the latter part of February or early March.”
The Raiders are not a team to be overlooked. Its ECAC record is identical to that of the Red, making it a crucial weekend to get ahead in conference play. Colgate boasts big ECAC wins over Princeton and Brown, as well as close games against Dartmouth and Harvard, losing in overtime to the Big Green and winning in a shootout against the Crimson.
“They’re a great group, so hopefully we can slow them down,” Syer added. “On the flip side, I think we’ve got a lot of guys here that are hungry to build on the momentum from Saturday and keep moving in a positive direction.”
Colgate boasts an older, more experienced team, with the majority of its players returning this season after winning the ECAC Hockey Championship last season. En route to its second Whitelaw Cup, the Raiders defeated regular-season champion Quinnipiac (who went on to win the national championship) and second-seeded Harvard.
Although the Raiders lost roster fixtures Colton Young and Matt Verboon to graduation, Colgate returns a lethal combination of Ross Mitton and Ryan McGuire, as well as anchors Pierson Brandon and Tommy Bergsland in the backend.
“Their top line, in particular, is really good. They have a great finish,” Syer said. “We’ve got to be above them in the neutral zone. We’ve got to be above them on the forecheck all night.”
A big question will be the netminder for the Raiders. After suffering a shaky 5-2 loss against Niagara last Friday, Colgate veteran goaltender Carter Gylander was benched the next night, allowing sophomore Andrew Takacs to get the start and eventual win. Gylander is 1-3-0 in his last four games, allowing at least three goals in each outing.
However, Gylander has historically performed well against Cornell. Boasting a .884 save percentage in a pair of games against the Red, he made over 26 saves in each. Colgate could look to Gylander to step up, but could also be deterred due to his recent struggles.
Whoever is in net for the Raiders will have a tough matchup on the other night, as junior goaltender Ian Shane is coming off a brilliant 35-save performance against BU. Shane was lights out in his first start since his struggles on Nov. 17 against Quinnipiac, stealing the game for the Red who were massively outchanced by the Terriers.
In regards to this weekend’s matchup across the ice, the Red and the Raiders also have a rich history, with the two teams splitting its only regular season meeting last year. Cornell’s 2021-2022 season ended at the hands of the Raiders in the quarterfinals of the ECAC tournament after a 2-1 series win by Colgate.
“We have great games against Colgate. We kind of throw the records out of the window for both teams,” Syer admitted. “They are always great games. They battle, we battle, and I think it’s gonna be a really hard fought series this weekend.”
On another note, after 18 straight scoreless power play chances dating back to Nov. 10 against Dartmouth, the power play finally came to life last weekend against BU, when freshman forward Ryan Walsh scored the momentum-shifting tying goal on the man-advantage. The team hopes to continue that into this weekend.
“It’s a real momentum swing,” Syer said. “To score in MSG, but then to see the reaction, [it’s] a sense of relief, a sense of excitement to kind of break out in that area.”
“You want to see that keep going here this weekend.”
Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday at Class of 1965 Arena in Hamilton, NY. The Red will then return home for another 7 p.m. puck drop on Saturday, this time at Lynah Rink. Both games can be streamed on ESPN+.