Team of the Week: Cornell
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
Led by senior goaltender Andy Iles and an efficient power play, Cornell left a weekend series with Nebraska-Omaha with a pair of wins. A 5-3 win on Friday and a 4-3 victory Saturday gave the Big Red a 2-0 start to their season and earned them College Hockey News' Team of the Week.
Iles made 65 saves on 71 shots in the two games. The Mavericks drastically outshot Cornell, 71-33, over the weekend.
Cornell coach Mike Schafer knows his club will depend on the goaltender this season. While he'd prefer not to be outshot as heavily, he knows Iles is more than capable of keeping his club in games.
"(UNO coach Dean Blais') teams are like that. They shoot from every angle," Schafer said. "Andy did a good job of making that first save, and our guys eliminated a lot of second- and third-chance opportunities. When they did get those shots, Andy made the saves again."
The Ivy League calendar prevents Cornell from starting its season as early as most programs. UNO had already played four games coming into the weekend, which is a contributing factor, too. Meanwhile, the Big Red had just an exhibition game under their belt. With that in mind, Schafer was especially happy with his team's performance in certain situations, namely protecting leads and scoring on the power play. Seven of the nine goals Cornell scored in the weekend came on the man advantage.
Juniors Joel Lowry and Cole Bardreau each scored a pair of goals. Classmate Brian Ferlin added a goal and three assists. These three, among others, need to generate offense for the Big Red to compete in a hotly contested ECAC that is home to a defending national champion for the first time since the 1989-90 season.
"I was pleased with the way we competed in certain situations," Schafer said. "Seven of our first eight games are against non-Ivy League teams, so it was good to see our power play scoring so early. There are things we need to improve, but that's a good sign."
Up next for Cornell is a weekend with both Princeton and Quinnipiac. Despite the positives from the sweep in Omaha, playing conference games so early in the season means the Big Red must maintain their form to compete in the league. A year ago, Cornell had a similar start with a season-opening sweep of Colorado College and a win and a tie the following weekend. A four-game winless streak followed. More wins came throughout the year, but those four losses in ECAC games hurt the Big Red in the playoff race.
Thinking about the playoffs and beyond isn't exactly an issue at the moment. However, these early-season games influence the race as much as any. Winning games now helps team gain confidence and a strong position heading into the final months of the year.
The wins in Omaha didn't help Cornell gain any ground in their league. They did reveal the strength of the club, and the potential it has this season. One key piece of that is Ferlin. The junior winger was instrumental in Cornell's success last weekend and will need to do the same this year.
"We need Brian to be a physical presence for us," Schafer said. "He's a good player, and he's been a bit up and down sometimes. There's no question he can be a dominant player in our league."
That league has become a bit more difficult to get through in the last few years. Yale's national championship last April, along with Quinnipiac's run to the Frozen Four, gave the ECAC its first national title since Harvard in 1989. Schafer's known the strength of the league for years. Still, he believes the league still has work to do to reach the acclaim of the nation's other power conferences.
"We still have to earn respect sometimes," Schafer said. "You can see it in the polls and other rankings. Teams from Hockey East and the other leagues can lose games and still stay up in the polls. If one of our teams loses, they fall. We've had a good start in non-conference play, and we had a good season last year, obviously, with Yale winning. We need to keep doing it."