A year after winning the ECACHL regular-season and tournament championships and then losing in overtime at the NCAA West Regional to Minnesota, Cornell returns the two best players from last year’s squad — senior forward Matt Moulson and junior netminder David McKee — to take another shot at a national title.
McKee was a Hat Trick finalist for the 2005 Hobey Baker Memorial Award after posting a 1.24 goals against average and a .947 save percentage last season; both of those marks were the third highest in history.
The team’s senior captain, Matt Moulson, scored 22 goals and added 20 assists a year ago, including 12 power-play goals and four game-winners. Both he and McKee were unanimous selections for the preseason All-ECACHL team.
One of the keys to Cornell’s success, year in and year out, is the ability of its special teams, and McKee and Moulson play critical roles on both units.
On opposite ends of the ice, McKee and Moulson led the best power play (24.3% efficiency) and the stingiest penalty-killing squad (89.2%) in the nation, in addition to a defense that allowed an average of 1.29 goals per game, best in the nation.
“We take a lot of pride in our special teams, and we practice them a lot,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “I think it’s always been a key to our success.
“Goaltending obviously always helps your penalty kill,” he added. “Without great goaltending you’re not going to have a high penalty-killing percentage.”
With McKee in net, great goaltending is almost assured. But of almost equal importance to Cornell’s success, both in the league and in the national title hunt, will be overcoming a brutal six-game stretch at the start of the season.
First up for the Big Red: two games at Lynah Rink against the Michigan State Spartans.
“Michigan State will be a real test for us because we’ll have like five practices under our belts and that’ll be practically their seventh and eighth games,” Schafer said.
“And then going on the road to play four road games right after that at Dartmouth and Harvard and Yale and Brown — I think our first three weekends could be our toughest three weekends of the year.
“That’s probably the toughest start we’ve had since I’ve been at Cornell.”