Greening is Big Red Hot
Cornell Power Forward Leads Team Into ECACs
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
It's said that defensemen and power forwards take longer to develop.
That Colin Greening was able to contribute significantly right away, and also continually improve at Cornell in three years, speaks to the unique skills he brings to the Big Red.
It did take time to put it all together, however. Early on, Greening was still trying to figure out how to play physical without being reckless.
"I took a few bad penalties early on in my freshman year, and I had to learn to harness that," Greening said. "I've learned to pick my spots, when it's time to hit guys and not put myself in an awkward position. There's time a guy will turn on you, and you don't want to hurt a guy or get sent off for five minutes. First game my sophomore year, I got kicked out for hitting from behind."
For all that, his penalty minutes have never been that high. While scoring 11, 14 and 13 goals in his three years, he had 41 PIM last year (including 15 in the first game when he was ejected) and 22 this year.
"He's more than just a power forward. That label, they say the player has no vision, or no touch," said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. "That might have been true (for Greening) as a freshman, but he's really refining his game as far as having more vision. He can get to the net, but he can also make plays. He's a smart player. For a guy that can deliver so many hits, he remembers respect for the other players. ... As a freshman, he probably would (take a penalty) but now he's much more of a complete hockey player. He's the complete package for a coach."
He's also a 4.0 student, which only adds to the package. The skills in the classroom made him a hot commodity, and Greening always had his eyes focused on college, even after getting drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2005. In fact, his second choice was Princeton, the team Cornell plays in the ECAC semifinals this Friday.
"Princeton didn't really have the same fan base, that was one thing Cornell had an advantage," Greening said. "But knowing coach (Guy) Gadowsky (at Princeton), he's started a great tradition."
The decision to go to college at all, however, was one met with a typical amount of derision among some people back home.
"Parents and other players couldn't understand why I was going that way," Greening said. "But growing up, mom was a teacher, and my dad didn't get a chance to go to college. Both know the importance of a good education. When I got the chance to pursue Ivy education, I knew it was the right choice."
And it's not like Cornell is a slouch school for hockey.
"I did my research and I knew about the fans, the alumni, the success it had in the past, and that was everything intertwined," Greening said. "It was a choice I made myself. Back home, some support it, some don't. ... It's not just becoming a better player, but a more well-rounded person as well. You meet all sorts of people, future leaders of the world, you understand how they work, and get to join different organizations. The whole Cornell experience is exactly what I was looking for. And it's made me a better player for experiencing those things."
And playing for Schafer? Nothing but a positive for Greening, even with his reputation for being tough.
"He definitely tells it how it is," Greening said. "He doesn't feed you any garbage. He demands a lot of you, but when you're playing in a Division I program, there shouldn't be anything less than the best. ... He's a tough, honest coach. He's a great guy to play for. He makes you a better player. But you can also sit down and talk to him about personal things. He always has an open door."
Schafer will have some decisions to make this weekend with Greening. Greening started the season playing with Riley Nash, the team's leading scorer. But later in the year, he was teamed with Joe Devin and Blake Gallagher, because Schafer wanted to get more balance in the lines.
This was working splendidly mid-season, until Devin got hurt. Then, this past weekend, Gallagher was hurt. Both are questionable for the weekend.
"It's definitely a shame what happened to both of those guys. Devin was playing fantastic when he was in the lineup," Greening said. "Gallagher in the second half has been our best forward, apart from Riley. ... Each guy (I play with) brings a different aspect that complements me. Our forward lines have depth, which is why we've been successful. So whoever I play with this Friday, it's still unknown to me, but whoever it is, I think we'll have a good line."
The two games with Princeton this year were tough battles — a 1-0 win in Princeton, followed by a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in Ithaca, when the Tigers scored twice in the final minute.
"We're very similar teams, very disciplined," Greening said. "They're one of the least penalized teams in all of college hockey. They play hard to the whistle and that's it. That's hard to play against a team like that, because they know exactly what their roles are."
And an NCAA bid is on the line as well. The loser Friday, might not make it.
"Each game will definitely mean something in the rankings and Pairwise," Greening said. "But in the end, you want an ECAC championship."