The men’s ice hockey team starts off its season with a home-and-home pair of matches against Colorado College (3-1-0). The puck drops at 7 p.m. on Lynah Rink Friday night, and then again on Saturday night. The most recent USCHO.com national college hockey poll ranks Cornell at No. 7 and Colorado at No. 19.
“They’re anxious to play, we’re four to six games behind everyone in the country right now,” said head coach Mike Schaefer. “Starting this weekend with Colorado College, they’re 3-1 coming in here and we look forward to playing. [We] had a great series with them last year, they’re a great hockey team so we’re just excited to play.”
Although this is the Red’s first look at the 2012-13 season, the Tigers are an out of conference opponent. Currently, Colorado College is in the WCHA, but next season it is moving on to be a charter team in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
And while the Cornell icers may be ready to get going, according to sophomore forward Cole Bardreau, the team also recognizes that there is a long way to go.
“The locker room is full of motion in there,” he said. “Everyone is a little jittery, excited that the long preseason is over … I think anxious is a good word but at the same time, by the same token, we’ve only had three to five practices together, so everyone is just getting to know each other, [to] know each other’s habits. Everyone’s trying to mesh together right now — I think once we get a few more practices and games under our belt, I think we’re really going to come together here.”
On that same vein, with only a few chances to watch the team play together, Schaefer still has to figure out where the right place is for everyone in the lineup.
“It’s just a matter of getting more and more time and trying to figure out exactly who we want on power play and getting two units,” he said. “I played everybody — a lot of guys had a lot of chances to kill penalties and we watch them every day so it was kind of a training run for us. Not that many guys are going to be killing penalties and not that many guys will get a chance on the power play as we move forward … [It’s] not just about who is the best player, a lot of times it’s what can they do and what role can they fulfill.”
Last weekend, the Red hosted the U.S. Under-18 team and Brock University. On Friday, Cornell beat the Under-18s, 6-2, and on Saturday the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
According to Bardreau, this may not have been as good as the team was hoping for.
“Last year we got off to a hot start in the preseason, winning pretty big,” he said. “This year, we had a little set back, but I think that can be good at the same time, give us a little reality check that we have a lot of skill but we also have to play together … I think it’s good. I think along the way it will be good.”
This may just be a result of the limited on-ice time the team has had so far, according to Schaefer.
“It’s just not having enough playing time under out belt yet,” he said. “It wasn’t major things, that was the nice thing about it.”
Even so, Cornell has been watching film and is already working to improve upon last week’s mistakes.
“We just have to start winning puck battles, we have to play harder in our defensive zone and start working together,” Bardreau said.
Another factor the team has to adjust for is the new faces in the lineup: the Red graduated four seniors last year and added five freshmen for the 2012-13 season.
While the season is just beginning, so far things seem to be going well with the new players on East Hill.
“They are freshmen, they are inconsistent — it’s new to them.” Schaefer said. “It’s a grind. Division I hockey, I think, is different than any other hockey: you’re here to win and you’re here to get better. And getting better takes an awful lot of energy.”
After facing the Tigers this weekend, the Red will finally begin ECAC play with the annual home-and-home series against Colgate.