On Friday night, the No. 5/6 Red takes to the ice for its first game of the season, hosting the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 Team in an exhibition game. This year marks a special matchup, as sophomore forward John McCarron will be facing his younger brother Mike McCarron, a forward for the U.S. National Development team.
“Coming to this program as an athlete, we came to Cornell to win, so I think it’s definitely an expectation to come away this weekend with two wins,” said senior defenseman and tri-captain Braden Birch. “Also [for the] younger guys learning the systems, [for the] older guys continuing to play the systems, I think it’s just important that we start gelling … so that when the regular season comes along, we’ll be ready to play.”
The following night, at 7 p.m. the Red will host Brock University in Cornell’s second exhibition game of the weekend. After the Red/White game last Saturday, the team is ready for some competition.
“[This is our] first real game action, so we’re obviously looking to win both games, but we’re just looking forward to getting out there and being able to compete against other teams ... and practice,” said sophomore defenseman Joakim Ryan. “So we are just looking to get ready for next weekend here where we play against Colorado College.”
There has been an increasing amount of hype surrounding Cornell’s hockey program during the past off-season. The Red was picked to finish second in the league this upcoming season by both the ECAC coaches and the media. Cornell is fresh off five consecutive appearances in the ECAC Hockey Championship weekend, which is currently the longest active streak in the league.
As Cornell only graduated four seniors last year, most of the Red squad is back and ready to for action.
“I’m really excited for the season,” Ryan said. “I definitely know the ropes here now and I’m definitely more comfortable compared to how I was at the beginning of last year. ... I’m really looking forward to the season — our team has high expectations and I just hope I can help us win some games.”
Ryan is one of three Red icers that was selected during the 2012 NHL Draft. He was chosen by the San Jose Sharks. McCarron and freshman defenseman Renee Wilcox were also drafted.
“Obviously it’s an honor to get drafted, so that was very exciting, but I wouldn’t say it effects me at all,” Ryan said. “I gotta still play my best, so I’m just focusing on playing my best and hoping the team has success.”
The current Cornell squad boasts eight NHL draft picks, the highest the program has seen since the 2006-07 season.
The Red has added five new faces to its lineup this season — three forwards and two defensemen.
“[The freshmen] are all adjusting pretty well and they seem like they are up to par with all our systems and what not,” Ryan said. “I think practice has been going really well especially now that the coaches are back on the ice. We still have a long way to go but we are definitely headed in the right direction.”
Birch, along with classmates forward Erik Axell and defenseman Nick D’Agostino were named this year’s captains. Due to Ivy League rules, Cornell starts practicing later than other teams do, including practicing without its coaching staff until a later date. According to Birch, this creates a different environment for the captains and the rest of the upperclassmen at the beginning of the year.
“[Being a captain is] definitely a change,” he said. “We start off the beginning of the years with no coaches, so a lot of the older guys were basically [running] practice. So that was definitely a [different] responsibility — teaching the younger guys the systems and different things.”
That being said, he echoed Ryan’s sentiment that practice has been going well so far, and expressed optimism for the upcoming season.
“We always have pretty competitive practices,” Birch said. “The younger guys really gelled into the system really quickly. [They’re] great guys, really talented players; they’re good additions to the team … Pretty much practices are the same every year, [we have] pretty intense practices. That’s what gets us going at the beginning of the year because we’re kind of behind the rest of the league, being an Ivy League team because we always [have] a late start.”
Next weekend marks the beginning of the official 2012-13 season for the Red, but league play will not start until the week after. Cornell will host 19th-ranked Colorado College on Friday Oct. 26 and Saturday Oct. 27 at Lynah, before heading off to Hamilton, N.Y. to face Colgate on Friday Nov. 2. The Red will be returning to Ithaca the next day for another match up against the Raiders, to complete the annual home-and-home series.