Jan. 23, 2009

Courtesy of Cornell

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Riding a 10-game unbeaten streak, the Cornell men’s hockey team will seek to keep that momentum going this weekend when Yale and Brown visit Lynah Rink for a pair of ECAC Hockey games. The Big Red went 1-0-1 against the Bulldogs last season, scoring a 2-1 win at Ingalls Rink and a 2-2 overtime tie at Lynah Rink. Against Brown, Cornell took both meetings by identical 4-1 margins. The Big Red is unbeaten at home this season at 6-0-1 and has a perfect 5-0-0 mark in the month of January. Both games can be heard in the Ithaca area on WHCU 870 AM, with Jason Weinstein on the play-by-play. Live streaming video of both games will also be available through the Cornell RedCast subscription service.

Cornell returned to ECAC Hockey action last weekend with a pair of games in the Capital District and came away with its third straight league four-point weekend. The Big Red (13-1-3 overall, 8-0-2 ECAC Hockey) opened with a 4-1 win at Union on Friday night behind a three-point night from Riley Nash, then skated to a 3-0 victory at Rensselaer on Saturday night as Ben Scrivens posted his fifth shutout of the season. On the weekend, Nash led the Big Red with four points on two goals and two assists while a quartet of players chipped in with a pair of points apiece. Scrivens saved 50 of the 51 shots he faced on the weekend to record a .980 save percentage and a 0.50 goals-against average.

For the season, Nash and Colin Greening are tied for the team scoring lead with both players posting seven goals and eight assists. Michael Kennedy has a team-best eight goals, while Blake Gallagher and Evan Barlow are tied for team-high honors with nine assists apiece. Scrivens has been masterful in net, posting a 1.18 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage. The Big Red power play appears to have found its stride as well, converting on three of the eight power plays on the weekend to raise the season average to 16.9 percent, while the penalty-killing units went 11-for-12 on the weekend to raise the season average to 90.1 percent effectiveness.

Cornell is led by head coach Mike Schafer, who has compiled a 267-140-48 record and is in his 14th season. Schafer has guided the Big Red to four ECAC Hockey championships and six NCAA tournament berths during his tenure. Additionally, he led the Big Red to its last NCAA Frozen Four appearance in Buffalo in 2003. Schafer is assisted by associate head coach Casey Jones, assistant coach Scott Garrow and volunteer goaltender coach Ian Burt.

Yale made a short-lived appearance in the national polls, but after a loss at home to Clarkson and a tie to St. Lawrence last weekend, the Bulldogs are again on the outside looking in. Yale stands 11-5-1 overall and 6-3-1 in ECAC Hockey action, good for fifth in the league standings after picking up a single point last weekend. Broc Little leads the Bulldogs offensively with 10 goals and nine assists for 19 points, while Sean Backman has 10 goals and seven assists for 17 points. Denny Kearney also has a team-best 11 assists to lead the Bulldogs. In goal, Yale has used a three-goalie rotation this season, with senior Alec Richards seeing just over half the time in front of the net. Richards has a 2.90 goals-against average and a .882 save percentage, while junior Billy Blase has a 2.71 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. Those numbers are a bit misleading, however, as Richards has a 7-2-0 record, while Blase is just 1-2-1 this season. The Yale power play has converted on 18-of-106 chances this season (17.0 percent) while killing off 88-of-103 penalties against for an 85.4 conversion rate.

The second-most frequent opponent in Cornell history, Friday night’s meeting between the Big Red and the Bulldogs will be the 132nd in the all-time series, with Cornell holding a 77-49-5 lead in the series. Cornell holds a 17-7-4 lead over the Bulldogs during the coaching tenure of Mike Schafer, and Yale has not claimed a victory in the series since Feb. 10, 2001, a 1-0 overtime victory at Ingalls Rink. Still, the Big Red has struggled with Yale at home in recent seasons, as the two teams have played to three straight 2-2 ties at Lynah Rink.

Brown enters this weekend’s games with a 1-12-4 mark on the season and a 1-6-3 record in ECAC Hockey action. The Bears are also riding an eight-game winless streak, going 0-6-2 over that span, and with the lone win of the season coming at home to Union on Dec. 5. Brown’s offense is paced by senior Matt Vokes, who has a team-best seven goals and nine assists for 16 points. Only freshman defenseman Jeff Buvinow joins Vokes in double digits in scoring with 11 points on three goals and eight assists. Junior Dan Rosen has seen the bulk of time in goal, posting a .914 save percentage and a 3.30 goals-against average. Brown’s power play has been potent, converting on 19-of-98 chances this season (19.4 percent), though the Bears have struggled on the penalty kill, successfully converting just 91-of-111 opponents chances (82.0 percent).

Cornell and Brown will be meeting for the 108th time on Saturday, with the Big Red currently holding a 63-39-5 lead in the all-time series. Cornell has won two straight in the series after posting a pair of 4-1 wins last season. Under Mike Schafer’s direction, the Big Red leads Brown, 21-3-3.

Ben Scrivens picked up his fifth shutout of the season last Saturday at Rensselaer in his 17th game of the season. Scrivens is now halfway to equaling the Cornell record for shutouts in a season of 10, set by David McKee in 2004-05. McKee used 35 games to reach that mark.

When Riley Nash was released from the Canadian Junior National Team camp on Dec. 15, he could have taken the snub one of two ways: sulking, or proving his worth. Well, the sophomore has chosen the latter path, to the tune of scoring eight points on four goals and four assists in the seven ensuing contests. Nash also struck for his first three-point game of the season on Jan. 16 at Union, recording a goal and two assists in the 4-1 victory.

Cornell’s current 10-game unbeaten streak is the longest such streak since the 2004-05 season, when the Big Red went a span of 19 games without a defeat. Over the course of that streak, the Big Red went 18-0-1, won the ECAC Hockey tournament title with a 3-1 victory over Harvard, and advanced to the NCAA regional final before falling at Minnesota, 2-1, in overtime.

In both of this week’s national polls, the Big Red is ranked third, Cornell’s highest mark in three seasons. The number three ranking is the highest in the USCHO poll since the Feb. 6, 2006, poll had the Big Red third. Cornell reached a high of second that season, and last was atop the poll on March 24, 2003. In the USA Hockey poll, Cornell is at its highest ranking since Nov. 7, 2005. The Big Red last reached number one in that poll on Feb. 28, 2005, when it was tied for the top spot.

With the Cornell offense ranked 37th in the nation, averaging 2.59 goals per game, the defense has more than made up for it with its outstanding play as a unit. The Big Red has allowed more than two goals just once this season, that coming in a 7-3 loss at North Dakota on Nov. 28. Cornell has posted five shutouts and had another seven games of allowing just one goal. The Big Red currently leads the nation in scoring defense at 1.29 goals allowed per game.

While senior Evan Barlow scored what would turn out to be the game-winning goal on the power play in the first period on Friday night, it was his effort on the other end of the ice that found him on SportsCenter. With Cornell goaltender Ben Scrivens at the bench on a delayed penalty call, the Big Red was in control of the puck in the neutral zone. A backwards pass from Riley Nash missed its mark, and the puck went slowly skidding along toward the Cornell goal. Barlow slipped twice but regained his feet and got enough momentum to make a diving effort to sweep the puck to the side of the goal post with just a foot and a half to go before crossing the goal line. That play wound up as the number nine play on that night’s SportsCenter.

Riley Nash’s three-point outing not only moved him into a tie with Colin Greening for a team-leading 14 points, it also was the first three-point performance for the Big Red this season. Entering Friday night’s game, 17 different multi-game performances were had, with Greening and Nash leading the way with three. Nash added his fourth multi-point game of the season and became the first player to record three points in a game since Michael Kennedy tallied three assists in the ECAC Hockey consolation game on March 22, 2008.

A review of the game tape from the Jan. 17 win at Rensselaer has resulted in the game-winning goal being changed from Colin Greening to Michael Kennedy. The goal becomes Kennedy’s team-leading eighth and gives him 11 points on the season.

Through the first 17 games of the season, the Big Red as a team has a combined +88 rating, with all but two skaters currently with a positive rating. Only Taylor Davenport (-2) and Derek Punches (even) are not in the positive range of the +/- category. Brendon Nash has the best rating on the team at +11, while Jared Seminoff is at +10.

A trademark of Mike Schafer-coached teams is the ability to protect a lead, and the numbers continue to bear that out. Since the start of the 2002-03 season, Cornell holds a 110-3-7 record when leading at the end of two periods. This season, Cornell is off to a 12-0-0 start when leading at the second intermission.

There must be something about lining up against a purple uniform that triggers an offensive outburst among the Kennedy family. Brothers Michael and Patrick both tallied a pair of goals and an assist each as Cornell swept Niagara at Lynah Rink on Jan. 9-10.

Should Cornell qualify for the NCAA Tournament, senior Michael Kennedy will probably be pulling very hard to face Niagara in the opening round. In six career games against the Purple Eagles, the senior co-captain has tallied six goals and six assists for 12 points.

Through the first 10 games of league play, goaltender Ben Scrivens is on pace for a historic campaign. The junior has a 0.69 goals-against average and a .973 save percentage in league play to go along with four shutouts. The league record for save percentage in conference games is .948, set by Brown’s Yann Danis in 2003-04 and tied by Cornell’s David McKee a year later. In goals-against average, Cornell’s David LeNeveu holds that mark with his 1.15 goals-against average set in 2002-03 while backstopping the Big Red to the Frozen Four.

Freshman Locke Jillson and junior Joe Scali are the only skaters remaining on the 2008-09 roster to have yet been whistled for a penalty. The pair have combined to play in 29 games this season without being sent to the penalty box.

The Big Red’s five-goal output on Jan. 4 at Massachusetts was the most offense Cornell has put up this season. The five goals surpassed previous high of four, scored on Nov. 13 at Colgate and again on Dec. 5 against Clarkson.

Junior Blake Gallagher had a streak of five games with a point snapped in the 3-0 win over Niagara on Jan. 9. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, native had his first two goals of the season in that stretch and a two-assist performance on Dec. 27 against St. Cloud State. For the season, Gallagher is second on the Big Red with seven assists, with only Evan Barlow’s eight higher.

Another hallmark of a Cornell hockey team is offensive balance, and that number has certainly been achieved this season. A total of 15 different players have contributed toward the 44 goals scored by the Big Red, while all but two skaters - seniors Derek Punches and Taylor Davenport - have tallied at least one point this year.

When Cornell opened the ECAC Hockey slate with a 6-0-2 mark through the first eight games, the Big Red entered rare territory. Cornell’s last time being undefeated after eight league games came during the legendary 1969-70 undefeated, untied national championship season. Cornell last went seven league games without a defeat in 2003-04 before suffering a 2-1 overtime loss to Brown in its eighth game.

A trio of players were recognized for their play at the Florida College Classic, as Blake Gallagher and Brendon Nash were both selected to the all-tournament team. Additionally, goaltender Ben Scrivens received the Shawn Walsh Trophy as the tournament’s most valuable player. Cornell won the tournament for the third time in program history, tying Maine for the most championships won in the nine-year tournament.

When Cornell and St. Cloud State met in the opening round of the Florida College Classic on Dec. 27, the list of current NCAA Division I programs that Cornell has never faced dropped to six.The Big Red has never played against Bemidji State of College Hockey America, Alaska-Anchorage and Nebraska-Omaha of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and Bentley, Connecticut and Holy Cross of Atlantic Hockey.