January 10, 2008
Changing Lines Changes Fortunes For Cornell

By Joe Gladziszewski

Cornell went south after Christmas hoping to bring back the Harkness Cup from the Florida College Classic. The Big Red gave themselves an opportunity to play in the finals leading UMass-Lowell 2-1 heading into the third period of the semifinal game. The River Hawks foiled that plan with a pair of third-period goals to send the Big Red to the third place game against Clarkson. That game followed a similar pattern, as Cornell carried a 3-0 lead into the final period only to see Clarkson come back and earn a 3-3 tie.

ECAC Hockey Notebook

Cornell's Evan Barlow had four points in last weekend's sweep of Niagara.

National TV Schedule

The Big Red went on to win a shootout, but losing a pair of leads heading into the final 20 minutes on consecutive days was totally uncharacteristic of Cornell hockey. Losing just one such game hadn't happened in five years. Two in the same weekend? Unfathomable.

That late-December Florida trip was Cornell's first action since a clunker against Boston University at Madison Square Garden and a 0-0 tie against Massachusetts in late November.

They responded by revisiting the true characteristics of a Mike Schafer coached team – focus, intensity, attention to detail, execution. Those ideals led to a two-game sweep of Niagara that improved Cornell's overall record to 6-5-2 heading into the final 16 games of the regular season, all of which take place within ECAC Hockey.

"We've really tried to focus on the process and wanting to play our best hockey going through January and February," Schafer said. "In all those games we did a good job and haven't finished. That's a lesson that every team has to learn, how to win, how to finish and we're getting better and better at it."

Early indicators of a January surge are very positive for the Big Red. The first is the offensive production generated by three balanced scoring lines and a physical, hard-working fourth line that has popped in a couple of goals in Cornell's last four games.

Michael Kennedy is among the primary beneficiaries of the new line combinations. He has been centering senior co-captains Topher Scott and Raymond Sawada since the start of the Florida tournament. After not scoring in his first nine games of the year, he's scored in four straight and has a total of five goals in that stretch.

"We've generated a lot of chances, and I've been very pleased with our offense. UMass-Lowell, Clarkson, when we played University of Massachusetts here we struggled in the first period and a half and then we got it going. We haven't capitalized, and that's been kind of our story for the first half. You have to have offense that doesn't depend on one line," Schafer said.

Another new combination includes Tyler Mugford, Blake Gallagher, and Evan Barlow. That trio had just seven points combined in 28 games prior to the Niagara series, but totaled seven points in the weekend.

"We seem to be rolling together pretty well, not only our line but all the lines. It seems that everybody was feeding off of each other," Gallagher said. "Guys were flying and buzzing and anytime you have a good week of practice like we did and get familiar with each other you're going to generate chances like that."

While the short-term success is satisfying, a big-picture element must also be considered. Cornell plays six of its eight games in January at Lynah Rink, after having played just three true home games in October, November, and December. Getting some momentum on home ice was crucial.

"It's nice to play at home, where the fans have been great for us all year. It's important for us to get these games at home and make sure we put in a good effort, and get the points when we can. It's a luxury to play here with fans like that," Gallagher said. "You're not going to find that anywhere else probably in the country. We have to feed off of them and we definitely don't take it for granted."


Ex-Partners, No Crime: Not too long ago, Yale and Princeton played in ECAC Hockey as travel partners on the conference schedule. During those times, they probably would have been ranked near the bottom of a poll measuring the toughest weekend series in the league.

They're no longer travel partners, but this season a back-to-back weekend against those two Ivy League schools would be no fun at all, as both the Bulldogs and Tigers are improved and find themselves among the top four teams in the ECAC standings heading into this weekend.

Yale (7-4-3, 4-2-3 ECAC Hockey) has won four of its last five games, dropping only a game at WCHA member Minnesota State in that run. Princeton (8-8-0, 6-4-0 ECAC Hockey) has won three straight games to even its overall record, including sweeping an ECAC Hockey weekend at home against Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend.

Sean Backman is pacing Yale in recent games, with a seven-game point streak and goals in five straight games. He leads the Bulldogs this season with 14 points in 12 games. Princeton broke up its proficient line combination of Lee Jubinville, Brett Wilson, and Cam MacIntyre for last weekend's sweep. It sparked two forward lines over the weekend and each recorded at least one point.

The two teams will get a chance to face one another on Friday at Yale's Ingalls Rink. Princeton defeated Yale 6-2 in a non-league game earlier this season.

Great Weekend Getaway
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Princeton at Yale (Fri.)
Quinnipiac at Yale (Sat.)

Three of the top four teams in the ECAC Hockey standings go head-to-head this weekend at Ingalls Rink, and all three come into the weekend with momentum. Earning points this weekend will be a huge step toward chasing down a top-four spot and first round bye in the playoffs.

While You're There: Stick around for a Sunday matinee (4 p.m.) down the road in the American Hockey League when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers host the Binghamton Senators. The Sound Tigers will be wearing special camouflage jerseys on their Salute to the Armed Forces Day.

Stick Salute

Last Friday's game at Cornell was already decided in the final minute, but the Big Red coaching staff shuffled its lines to get one more shift for Evan Barlow and Michael Kennedy. Each had two goals and could've recorded a hat trick.

Bench Minor

ECAC Hockey won the first two Commissioner's Cup trophies, measuring standings in select games between members of the six conferences. That reign is over, as ECAC Hockey teams are just 2-5-1 through eight games so far.


• If you can't make it out to the Capital District rinks this weekend, Friday's Cornell-Rensselaer game in Troy, N.Y. will be shown throughout the northeast on Time Warner Sports in New York and also on SportsNet New York. Time Warner Sports will also broadcast Saturday's Cornell game at Union.

• Sunday's St. Lawrence-Dartmouth game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

• Dartmouth is playing its first games at home since Nov. 24 when it hosts Clarkson and St. Lawrence this weekend. The Big Green will make up their originally scheduled Dec. 13 game at Boston University on Tuesday. The first meeting was canceled due to snow.

• Harvard's winless streak now stands at seven games after a tie and loss at Quinnipiac and Princeton. The Crimson have played only one home game in that stretch, a 7-2 loss to Boston College in mid-December. St. Lawrence and Clarkson visit Bright Hockey Center this weekend.

• Brown's winless streak is at 10 games (0-8-2), including four one-goal losses.

• Union earned a pair of non-league wins last weekend at home against Connecticut and at Army in dramatic fashion. Three third-period goals led to the 4-1 victory over UConn and Union trailed by a goal twice against Army before rallying for a 3-2 win.

• Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens had a shutout streak at Lynah Rink that spanned four games and more than 163 minutes, and included shutouts against UMass and Niagara.

• Clarkson got a big win over Boston College last weekend, boosting its overall record against non-ECAC opponents to 5-3-0 with two games at Colorado College still remaining this season. Nick Dodge scored a short-handed goal to give Clarkson a 2-1 lead over BC last weekend. It was the eighth shortie of Dodge's career, tying him with Erik Cole for the career lead in short-handed tallies at Clarkson.

• Quinnipiac is 6-0-1 in its last seven games including a tournament victory at Vermont's Catamount Cup where the Bobcats defeated host Vermont 4-1 in the championship game. Bud Fisher and Pat McGann will handle the bulk of the goaltending duties in the second half for the Bobcats after Peter Vetri was dismissed from the team following the first semester.

• Xerox and RPI have purchased more than 100 tickets to Friday's game against Cornell and have donated them to Northeast Parent & Child Society.

• Colgate hasn't played since the Badger Showdown in Madison during the holidays, but Jesse Winchester had a point on all three Colgate goals that weekend. He needs just three more points to become the 47th player in Raider history to reach the 100-point milestone.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Joe Gladziszewski can be reached at gladdy@insidecollegehockey.com.