When you think Cornell, you think defense.
But this is just getting ridiculous.
Mercyhurst’s Nardo Nagtzaam tallied the game-winner at 12:49 in the third period of Cornell’s 5-4 home loss to the Lakers on Oct. 29. Since then, it’s been a clean slate for 312 minutes, 11 seconds and counting without giving up a goal at Lynah Rink, including a 0-0 tie with Clarkson Saturday night.
“Five straight shutouts at home … we’ve never had that at Cornell,” Big Red coach Mike Schafer said. “We’re going to win a lot of games if that keeps up.”
Sophomore Andy Iles has been in net for not only the entirety of the streak, but the whole season as well after splitting time with Mike Garman last year. Garman graduated a year early, leaving Iles as the only Big Red goalie with collegiate experience entering this season.
“He’s elevated his game,” Schafer said. “He was the best goaltender at the World Junior tryouts this summer and he’s been able to put up some phenomenal numbers. It’s great to see.”
But Iles (1.62 goals against average, .930 save percentage) was quick to credit his teammates. “I’ve never played for a team before that’s made so many good defensive plays,” he told CornellBigRed.com after Saturday’s game.
OK, so the Big Red haven’t been allowing goals. But what about the offense?
For the most part of the year, that’s been there, too, although Cornell ended the pre-holidays part of the schedule in a bit of mini-slump, scoring only three times in its last four games.
Despite that, it’s still second in scoring in ECAC play, and Schafer isn’t concerned heading into the holiday break.
“The times when you’re not producing scoring chances, that’s when you get concerned,” he said. “We’ve had more than enough opportunities. We need to show a little more poise and make that one extra pass or have more of a presence around the net.”
You can create chances, but when you face goalies like Clarkson’s Paul Karpowich or St. Lawrence’s Matt Weninger, there’s a likelihood chances will be just that: chances.
“We’ve done enough defensively to carry us through,” Schafer said. “We’ve scored three goals in four games and we’re 2-1-1.”
After losing seniors Joe Devin and Tyler Roeszler and their nearly 50 points to graduation, Cornell has been led offensively by a blueliner and a freshman, with junior defender Nick D’Agostino (7-6–13) and rookie forward Brian Ferlin (5-7–12) topping the scoring charts. D’Agostino leads the conference with four power-play goals.
One goal, two viewpoints
Saturday’s game between Quinnipiac and Rensselaer featured two teams near the bottom of the standings looking to turn things around.
In dramatic fashion, one of them did just that.
Down 2-1 early in the final period, the Bobcats got their first conference win in just over a month when Yuri Bouharevich launched a shot from the point with 2.4 seconds left to give QU a 3-2 win.
“Oh, man, that was long overdue to say the least,” a relieved Bouharevich said after the game. “That goal was huge for the team; it was a much-needed win for us.”
On the flip side, the loss exposed an RPI breakdown and continued a frustrating early part of the season for the Engineers, who last season made their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1995.
“They’re all tough. This one sucks,” RPI coach Seth Appert said after the game.
RPI is entrenched in last place with a 1-6 record in ECAC play, and Saturday’s loss in Hamden featured multiple turnovers and several breakdowns, including a final one that left Bouharevich wide open in the closing seconds.
“It’s a great example of why you’ve got to play out every shift,” Appert said. ‘We talk about it all the time about finishing your shifts and not going mentally dead within shifts for five or seven seconds. I thought the last play was an example of that. We had some guys that were just waiting for the horn to blow.”
The loss ruined an outstanding outing for RPI freshman Scott Diebold, who finished with 35 saves, and was put to the test during a penalty-filled second period for the Engineers.
“Their goaltender was very good,” Bouharevich said. ‘We had a lot of shots on him and he made some big-time saves.”
Former Colgate forward David McIntyre made his NHL debut on Nov. 29 for the Minnesota Wild, centering the fourth line that include former Massachusetts standout Casey Wellman. Even in the pro ranks, McIntyre, who posted 131 points in 151 games for the Raiders from 2006 to 2010, still keeps tab on his former team.
“I follow them on Twitter,” he said. “I’m pretty excited; I think they can do some great things this year.”
McIntyre said he was able to work on his defense while at Colgate, and cited this as a reason for his quick rise up the ladder in the pro game.
“Our coach stressed defensive play when I was there so my defensive game got to develop,” he said. “When I made the transition to the [AHL] and this league, I was able to put defense first. That’s my role; to play ‘D’ and be tenacious.”
He made his mark felt immediately, seeing 8:22 of ice time against Tampa Bay in his debut and laying out former Boston University defenseman Matt Gilroy with an open-ice hit, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Around the league
• USA Hockey announced the preliminary roster for the for the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team that will play at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Eighteen NCAA players made it, including three ECAC members: Ferlin and Yale sophomore forward Kenny Agostino, while Iles was listed as an emergency goaltender, leaving his coach a bit miffed.
“He’s clearly shown he’s capable, especially at the BU game in front of 18,000 people,” Schafer said, referring to the Red Hot Hockey matchup against Boston University Nov. 26 at Madison Square Garden.
Iles is the only collegiate goalie listed.
“It’s great for Brian; he was kind of an underdog, a last-minute replacement in the summer and he came through,” Schafer said. “Brian has produced and performed and was named and Andy has produced and performed and he wasn’t.”
The final roster will be announced on Dec. 22, with the tournament starting Dec. 26.
• The Ivies swept the conference’s weekly awards, with Princeton’s Jack Berger (4-1–5) earning player of the week, Brown’s Ryan Jacobson (1-3–4, plus-4) taking home rookie of the week, and Iles (1-0-1, 36 saves) claiming goaltender of the week.
• Yale wraps up its pre-exam portion of the schedule with a non-conference matchup at Massachusetts Wednesday night, while Brown and Cornell are done until after Christmas.
“We have to be very committed over the next three weeks between exams and going home for a week,” Schafer said. “[The players] need to keep up their work ethic, especially away from the coaches’ vision.”
• The latest edition of the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll sees four ECAC teams ranked. Union leads the way at No. 10, while Colgate (12), Cornell (16) and Yale (17) are all among the top 20. Quinnipiac and Harvard received votes as well.
Don’t forget me
A lot of this week’s space was devoted to Iles and Cornell. And rightfully so. But another one of the conference’s goaltenders is among the national leaders as 2011 draws to a close. Clarkson senior Paul Karpowich leads the nation in minutes played (1,152:53), and is seventh in goals against average (1.82) and second in save percentage (.942).
In fact, three of the top four stingiest goalies in the country reside in the ECAC. Colgate’s Alex Evin has made the most of his limited time, giving up nine goals in 364 minutes, 9 seconds, which translates to a Division I-leading 1.48 goals against average and .948 save percentage. Iles (third, 1.62) and Union’s Troy Grosenick (fourth, 1.76) are also in the top four in goals against average.
In case you missed it
Harvard coach Ted Donato was a guest on USCHO Live last week, talking with Ed Trefzger and Jim Connelly about Harvard’s recent play as well as the challenges of recruiting at an Ivy League school.