For the past several years, the goaltending crease has been a solitary place for Cornell.
The Big Red have had one goalie play at least 75 percent of the minutes in all but one of the last ten seasons. In five of the last six seasons, the starter has played at least 95 percent of the minutes during the season.
With the graduation of Mitch Gillam last spring, it looked like it was Hayden Stewart’s turn in net. But an injury to the senior has delayed his debut this season, opening the door for freshman Matthew Galajda to start both games in a sweep of Alabama Huntsville at Lynah Rink last weekend.
“When ‘Stew’ got hurt last week, I thought it could have been a possibility,” Galajda said. “When I got the text [Thursday] night, I definitely had a smile on my face. It was fun the whole time; the crowd was amazing.”
It’s early, but if Galajda continues to play the way he did last weekend, he and Stewart may be keeping each other company in the net this season.
The freshman stopped 28 of 29 shots Friday against the Chargers, including 16 during his first collegiate period. He combined with Cornell’s penalty killers to hold Alabama Huntsville scoreless during an extended two-man advantage for the Chargers.
On Saturday, he stopped all 11 shots he faced to become the first Cornell goalie to record a shutout in his first two collegiate games since Ben Scrivens did so during the 2006-07 season.
Galajda was aided in part by a Big Red defense that blocked 17 shots on the night, an effort that coach Mike Schafer said was a focus going into the game.
“We came out for the pre-game skate [Saturday] morning and the first thing we did was shot blocking,” Schafer said. “We had sponge pucks out and we said, ‘That’s not the kind of team we are [Friday night].’ We didn’t go do and sacrifice we didn’t block shots. [One of] the basic fundamentals of our whole system is that we have to block shots in our own ‘D’ zone.”
Galajda was one of several newcomers in the lineup for the Big Red. Cornell’s 10-member freshman class is the fourth largest in the country, and eight of them got into at least one game last weekend against the Chargers.
But while the rookies will play a role for the Big Red this season, several veterans played an important part last weekend as well.
One of those was Trevor Yates, who scored three power-play goals against the Chargers. While he ranked among the national leaders in power-play goals last season, the senior has made improvements on the man advantage, according to Schafer.
“He’s made himself even better with his net presence,” Schafer said. “He doesn’t just stand there; he’s able to find some seams.”
Cornell begins league play this weekend when it travels to Quinnipiac and Princeton.
Saves for a cause
Prior to the start of the season, Colgate coach Don Vaughan highlighted Brayden Point’s strong finish to last year as reason for optimism and the sophomore has delivered so far.
He made 20 saves for his first career shutout Friday against Arizona State, and then stopped 21 shots the next night in a 1-1 tie with the Sun Devils. Point has a .955 save percentage this season, and the Raiders are 3-0-3 in games that he has started.
“Every goalie wants to see that zero up on the board and he’s worked very hard to get that,” Vaughan said of Point’s shutout on Friday. “He had a great summer and unfortunately he missed two games earlier this season, but he’s a really good goaltender and you can’t win this league without it. We’re very fortunate that we have him back there.”
Point’s 170 saves in October have been for a good cause as well, as Colgate’s goaltenders raised money for breast cancer research through October Saves. Point and seniors Bruce Racine and Zac Hamilton combined for 225 saves in October, raising a total of $1,831 dollar as of Tuesday night.
Dutchmen claim Capital Skates Trophy
For the second season in a row, Union won the Capital Skates Trophy with a home-and-home sweep of travel partner and rival Rensselaer.
The two wins also helped further distance the Dutchmen from their 0-5 start to the season, as Saturday’s win was Union’s fourth straight. All of those wins have come since Darion Hanson took over the starting goaltending job. The freshman has a .920 save percentage during that stretch.
While Hanson’s emergence in goal has been a boost to Union, last weekend also saw several of the team’s top goal scorers break through.
Senior Sebatian Vidmar, Union’s leading returning scorer, added his first goal of the year Friday, while captain Cole Maier tied Saturday’s game with his first goal of the season as well.
But Union coach Rick Bennett told the Schenectady Daily Gazette that it was Maier’s actions in between periods that helped the Dutchmen overcome a 2-1 deficit entering this final period of Saturday’s game.
“We had a response [in the third period], which was much better than we had in the second,” Bennett said. “It started around our captain. He came to play and rallied the troops between the second and the third.”
Around the league
• Yates (player), Point (goalie) and St. Lawrence’s Callum Cusinato (freshman) were named the league’s weekly awards winners on Tuesday. Cusinato scored two goals in Friday’s loss at Wisconsin at then scored the first goal of the game in the Saints’ win over the Badgers on Saturday. The league also announced its monthly awards, with Clarkson defenseman Terrance Amorosa being named player of the month, while Colgate’s Nick Austin was the top rookie, and Point and Clarkson’s Jake Kielly split goalie of the month honors.
• Cusinato’s goal on Saturday marked the first time this season that the Saints have played with a lead this season. Some of that has been a product of St. Lawrence’s schedule, as it has played five of its first eight games against teams that made last year’s NCAA tournament.