February 5, 2004
Short-Handed Big Red

By Joe Gladziszewski

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In the immediate aftermath of yet another close loss, in a game in which the Cornell Big Red scored just one goal, the first question posed to head coach Mike Schafer seemed appropriate.

"What do you have to do to get more goals?"

Saturday night's 2-1 loss at Colgate was Cornell's third straight defeat and fifth loss in seven games, all of which were ECAC contests. The Red scored only six goals over those seven games. Take away the 2-0 win over last-place Vermont and it's four goals from six games.

So, coach Schafer, what do you have to do to get more goals?

"More goals? Just put it in the back of the net," Schafer grumbled, before quickly changing the subject. "I think you have to understand that I'm very, very proud of our hockey team, the way we played tonight. As disappointed as I was with the lack of discipline last night, I'm as proud as I can be of our hockey team to come back here tonight with 10 forwards and four defensemen. It's as short-handed as I've had a hockey team."

Upon further consideration, Schafer probably wasn't trying to avoid a sore subject. And he wasn't using the team's significant injury woes as an excuse for its meager offensive output. He was merely making a statement of fact about the current state of the Big Red – and that fact is that they'll be hurting for goals until a full, healthy lineup takes the ice.

The biggest injury is to senior center Ryan Vesce, who has been playing with a nagging injury since the team's home weekend against Brown and Harvard in early December. In the last two months, Vesce's practice time has been severely limited, and his offensive output has gone down steadily. Beginning with the Harvard game on Dec. 6, Vesce recorded just one goal and four assists in 10 games. Three of those assists came in the win at Harvard on Jan. 9. And Vesce won't be back in the near future.

"He's going to be out for a while," Schafer said. "He's not practiced with us since Dec. 5 in a full practice. He's one of the toughest players I've ever coached; it's just come to a head that he has to get healthy. He's not going to play in our lineup again until he's 100 percent and nothing else."

"We've had to make the decision with Ryan Vesce and a couple of other guys to stay out of the lineup. Talk about how hard it is to score goals, the extent of our injuries that will never be revealed, it's very difficult."

Vesce was out injured, and Byron Bitz missed the Saturday game due to a one-game suspension, meaning two-thirds of the team's first line watched in warm-up suits. That left leading scorer, sophomore Matt Moulson, skating on a line with Mike Iggulden and Mark McCutcheon. The team was also without standout defenseman Charlie Cook, and forwards Mitch Carefoot and Cam Abbott, all due to injury. Freshman defenseman Ryan O'Byrne joined Bitz on the suspended list.

Moulson said the Big Red's search for offense begins with getting the puck to the net. Cornell had only 14 shots on goal in the Saturday loss to Colgate and the team's lone goal was a seeing-eye shot from the left point by defenseman Ben Wallace.

"You can't break out of a slump unless you get some shots, that's pretty much all you can do," Moulson said. "That's pretty much all I can say, just keep getting shots, try to make your own opportunities and hope that they go in."

So what to do about the next few weeks? Cornell's solution is to rely on its strengths. Look for tight defense, smart decisions with the puck, and continued excellent play from freshman goaltender David McKee to pull the team through the last four weeks of the ECAC regular season.

"Everybody has injuries, but this is the most injuries I've ever had, and you've got to fight through it. That's what we're doing right now," Schafer said. "We've decided that we've got to play a certain way, being disciplined as we were tonight, be even more defensive. Stay above people and try to frustrate people and wait our time until we get a full roster back so that we can play the way we want to play."


Beanpot Banter – In keeping with the topic of teams performing below expectations, we turn our attention to Harvard, where 20 days away from the rink gave the preseason favorite a chance to renew itself and prepare for a late-season run. But, things didn't change for Harvard after the break. Losses to travel partner Brown and No. 2 Boston College in the opening round of the Beanpot on Monday have Harvard sitting at 8-11-2 overall on the year, and in eighth place in the ECAC with a 6-8-1 record.

Doomed by two unlucky bounces in the first period against Boston College, and trailing 3-1 heading into the third period, the Crimson controlled play and had several chances to get back into the game. With momentum clearly on its side, Harvard's third-period comeback attempt was thwarted by two penalties. Coach Mark Mazzoleni was not happy with his team's discipline.

"I thought our discipline was not where it should be. We took some very, very unnecessary penalties especially in the third period when we were making a bit of a charge. We took the wind right out of our sails with two to three consecutive penalties," he said.

Harvard's Beanpot record over the last several years is not good. The Crimson hasn't played in the championship game since 1998, and this marks the 12th straight year without a title. For the second straight year, however, the team's fortunes have been helped by some scheduling consideration from the ECAC. In the weekend prior to each Beanpot Monday, the Crimson plays only one game.

"This sure gives you a chance to be on an equal playing field," Mazzoleni said. "I'm very appreciative toward our league that they've done that for us. It was a vote by our league members to allow us to put our best foot forward on behalf of our league. It's just unfortunate that we haven't had the results with it yet."

High, flate plane – That's the message that Colgate's players are getting from the coaching staff every day in practice and following almost every shift of every game. The concept is for the Raiders to stay at a consistently high level, and that mentality is a big reason for the team's current six-game winning streak.

A weekend sweep of Cornell was the latest Raider triumph, and the coaching staff is taking an "ain't broke, don't fix it" approach.

"It's pretty hard to find a way to say differently the same message, and that is to keep a consistently high, flat line. That's what we want to do," interim head coach Stan Moore said.

Saturday's win saw senior goaltender David Cann step in for the suspended Steve Silverthorn (fighting) and allow only one goal on 14 shots. It was Cann's first start since the semifinals of the Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28.

"We're not trying to get on a roller coaster ride right now, we're trying to stay up and play straight across," Cann said.

The senior also said that the Raiders have their sights set on the NCAA Tournament, but haven't lost focus on the job at hand. Colgate's last NCAA appearance came in the 1999-2000 season.

"This is great," Cann said. "I think this is the most successful our team has been in a long time, since Shep Harder and Andy McDonald were here in 2000 and 1999. It's kind of reminiscent of that, that same feeling. We'd like to repeat it, kind of get back to the NCAA Tournament, but first and foremost we've got to play in the league and win as many games as possible and keep the streak alive."

Fellow senior Kyle Doyle attributed Colgate's excellent season to good team rapport.

"Our team chemistry is really good this year. Some teams you're on the guys don't hang out. The freshmen and seniors might not hang out off the ice, but this team is together. We all believe that we can win, and we can do this," Doyle said.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Clarkson at Rensselaer (Sat.)
It's the 27th annual Big Red Freakout! and you've got to know somebody to get in. The game is sold out, as the Engineers welcome their North Country rivals in a game that brings out the best in RPI's fans. This year especially should also bring out the best in both teams. Just three points separate fifth-place RPI and seventh-place Clarkson entering this weekend. The Engineers are 15-7-4 all time in the Freakout! game, and unbeaten (9-0-4) in the last 13.

While You're There: Plenty of festivities surround the Freakout!
including an alumni game scheduled for Saturday at noon at Houston Field House. Fifty former players will return from the last fifty years of Rensselaer hockey including 11 members of the 1954 National Championship team will be on hand. Admission to the alumni game is free of charge. Prior to the game Saturday night, the '54 champs and head coach Ned Harkness will be presented with championship rings, in recognition of the school's title 50 years ago.

Stick Salute

You know what's wrong with Colgate's sweaters? Nothing. The same can be said for most teams in the league, with simple, basic, designs. Trying to read the italicized font on the back of the Boston College sweater and the funky lowercase print donned by Northeastern from the Fleet Center press box gave me an even greater appreciation for the basic look of the majority of the teams in the ECAC.

Bench Minor

Maybe they were caught up in the excitement of the moment, but you'd think that an army of sports information staffers at the Beanpot on Monday would have noticed Harvard's goaltending change came immediately following the BC goal at 3:01, rather than the next stoppage at 3:20.

Dartmouth's second 'bad loss' in a span of three weeks was a 7-0 blowout by Union, in the Big Green's Thompson Arena, no less. For a team that was poised to make a move for the ECAC regular-season title, dropping games to the 11th and 12th place teams hurts that much more.


Yale's Joe Zappala continued his late-game heroics by scoring with three seconds left in overtime to give Yale a 4-3 win at Clarkson on Saturday. In a conversation with Zappala earlier this year, he lauded the efforts of goaltender Josh Gartner, and things haven't changed in that regard. Gartner was the ECAC Goalie of the Week with 80 saves in one-goal wins over St. Lawrence and Clarkson.

Union goalie Kris Mayotte, upon posting his second consecutive shutout at Dartmouth, had this beauty of a quote for Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette. "If I played for Dartmouth, I would be going to 'The Show' next year," Mayotte said.

• With two wins this weekend, Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen (currently at 175) will surpass Ned Harkness (176 wins) as the second all-time winningest coach in school history. Harkness will be in town this weekend as the school celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Engineers' 1954 National Championship.

• The bright spot for Cornell is the play of freshman goaltender David McKee. The Texan is a member of the INCH All-Non-Hotbed team. His play thus far has taken much of the sting out of the loss of David LeNeveu to the pro ranks over the summer.

"He's done a very solid job for us, as he has from the start of the year," Schafer said of his rookie goalie. "We're very pleased that that guy answered the question that everybody thought we had in the net."

• Great to see a full house at Starr Rink on Saturday for Cornell's visit, but as is the case with most big games, some of the more casual fans attended strictly for the chance to throw things on the ice (packs of Big Red gum during the starting lineups). Some fans continued to throw things throughout the game, which certainly irked Colgate public address announcer Joe Caprio. His numerous, spirited pleas for better fan behavior included this second-period salvo:

"PLEASE refrain from throwing objects on the ice. It's English! You SHOULD Underrrrr Staaaaand!"

• After allowing a soft goal against Boston College early in the second period, Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris was yanked in favor of Jon Daigneau, who played very well over the final two periods. So well, in fact, that Daigneau could get the start tonight when Harvard visits Yale.

"It's something we have to look at," Mazzoleni said. "We're at a point now in our season that if we're going to turn this thing we need consistency in all parts of our game."

The game, which starts at 8 p.m., is the first of a CSTV Game of the Week doubleheader.

• A big win for Vermont, and head coach Kevin Sneddon, as the Catamounts defeated Union 3-1 on Friday night, the school where Sneddon coached for the previous five years.

Princeton is winless in nine games since beating Harvard on Dec. 16.

Harvard's Bob Bland was inducted to the Beanpot Hockey Hall of Fame this year. He helped lead the Crimson to Beanpot titles in 1960 and 1962.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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