This Week in ECAC Hockey: Depth proving to be a winning factor for hot Cornell squad

Alec McCrea (Cornell - 29), Luke Esposito (Harvard - 9) - The Harvard University Crimson defeated the visiting Cornell University Big Red on Saturday, November 5, 2016, at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center in Boston, Massachusetts. (Melissa Wade)
Alec McCrea has posted eight points in 17 games this season from the Cornell blue line (photo: Melissa Wade).

If there’s one key factor to Cornell’s success this season so far, it has been the team’s balance up and down the lineup.

Six Big Red players are in double digits in points, led by Trevor Yates, who leads the team with 17 points (11 goals and six assists). Jeff Malott is second on the team with 15 points (four goals and 11 assists), while Anthony Angello has 14 points (six goals and eight assists) for third on the team.

Alex Rauter (six goals and seven assists), Morgan Barron (four goals and nine assists) and Mitch Vanderlaan (four goals and nine assists) each have 13 points.

“I think it’s been a lot of balance at all positions,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. “You look at how each line can produce offense on any given night and we’ve had contributions in all of our defensemen. We’ve had both goaltenders contribute by stepping up and doing a good job in between the pipes.”

Out of the six forwards leading the offense, only two of them are underclassmen in Malott and Barron. Malott, who saw his time as freshman hampered by injuries, has taken the bull by the horns in his sophomore campaign.

Despite the injury-riddled season, he was able to contribute late in the 2016-17 season.

“He’s another guy that has played all over the place up front, left wing, right wing with different lines from the start of the year,” Schafer said. “I think he’s starting to find some chemistry a little bit with (Kyle) Betts and Alex Rauter. They have been on fire the last few games. Again, he represents our team. He’s very flexible and he’s a big, strong kid that can skate.”

Barron, a Halifax, Nova Scotia native, has taken an unconventional route to Ithaca, N.Y. The freshman spent the past two seasons with St. Andrew’s College outside of Toronto. Schafer said the New York Rangers prospect has always had the skills to play Division I hockey.

That’s only one aspect to becoming a college hockey player, but it’s Barron’s mental game that allowed him to go straight from Canadian prep school to Cornell.

“Kids are getting pushed back two and three years and I think the biggest adjustment is most kids have the skill to play Division I, but don’t have the hockey sense to come in and make adjustments at a faster pace,” said Schafer. “A kid like Morgan has those attributes, some kids need to go learn the game, a little bit more. Some kids can step in and play right away, and Morgan is one of those kids.”

On the back end, the defense has made freshman goaltender Matthew Galajda’s job easier. There’s no senior in the group, but are led by three juniors in Brendan Smith, Alex McCrea and Matthew Nuttle.

Schafer said while the group doesn’t have the experience as in year’s past, but have gained experience while on the job.

“The juniors have been through a lot,” Schafer said. “Those guys have clawed their way into the lineup after their freshman season and it develops. Even though it’s not an experienced group as they aren’t seniors, but they have paid their dues. It is important as they know what it means to be detailed as they had to fight their way into the lineup from their freshman year to now.”

Bulldogs establishing workman-like attitude

A team who quietly has had a good end to 2017 and a good start to 2018 is Yale.

The Bulldogs are 5-1-1 in their past seven games, with wins over Union, Sacred Heart, New Hampshire, UMass and Colgate. They forged a tie with Cornell this past weekend.

Their lone loss came against Minnesota Duluth at the Ledyard Bank Classic over the holidays.

What has been the biggest positive to their turnaround?

“The real key is the way we’ve been practicing really well,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “I think the past three weeks now we came back, and we didn’t have school. Our guys have really have approached practice in a workman-like attitude. I think they have enjoyed pushing each other and that work has translated into some decent hockey games.”

The Bulldogs have been on the other end of the spectrum earlier this season as they lost five in a row just before the current run.

Allain said the practices in the first half were good, but the way they played in the first half of the season made the team find that extra gear.

Three of the five wins have come from backup goaltender Corbin Kaczperski as he has a 3-1-0 record this season with a 2.01 GAA and a.930 save percentage.

“I wouldn’t say I gave him a chance, he earned his chance,” Allain said. “He’s been a guy who has improved each month he has been with us. It got to the point where right before Christmas, I had to find opportunities to get him into the game because he deserved to play. Right now, we have two goaltenders doing the job for us and that has been beneficial for us.”

Sam Tucker, who has been the primary goaltender, has a 5-7-1 record with a 2.91 GAA and a .898 save percentage.

With an 8-8-1 record overall and 5-6-1 in the ECAC, the Bulldogs sit sixth in the standings.

For Allain, the focus is still on a game-by-game basis.

“I can honestly tell you, I didn’t know we were in (sixth) place until you told me,” Allain said. “I don’t look at the standings. We have a huge game coming up Friday night. We are trying to get two points on Friday night.”

The Bulldogs welcome Union to New Haven on Friday and Rensselaer pays a visit on Saturday night

Players of the Week

Odeen Tufto brought home both the Player and Rookie of the Week as the Quinnipiac freshman had a goal and four assists in the games with Dartmouth and Harvard.

Linden Marshall of Rensselaer is the Goaltender of the Week with a 1-1-1 record, a 1.61 GAA and a .950 save percentage.

13 ECAC players named to Hobey Baker fan vote

Of the 74 nominees, 13 will come from the ECAC for the fans to vote on to get to the top ten.

Union (Ryan Scarfo, Cale Maier), Cornell (Trevor Yates, Alex Rauter) and Clarkson (Jake Kielly, Sheldon Rempal) each have two representatives. Harvard (Ryan Donato), Princeton (Max Véronneau), Yale (Joe Snively), Rensselaer (Jacob Hayhurst), Brown (Brent Beaudoin), Dartmouth (Devin Buffalo) and Colgate (Colton Point) each have one representative.

Voting is open until March 5.

Phase II voting of the Top-10 will start on March 14 and runs until March 25. The Hobey Hat Trick will be announced on March 29 and the Hobey Baker will be awarded on Friday, April 6 in Minneapolis at the Frozen Four.

Scrivens named to Canadian Olympic Team

Ben Scrivens, a former Cornell player, is the lone ECAC alum named to the Canadian Olympic Team. The Spruce Grove, Alberta, native is in his second season in the Kontinental Hockey League and his first season with Salavat Yulaev Ufa after spending last season with Dinamo Minsk

With Salavat Yulaev Ufa, he’s 19-11-2 with a 2.29 GAA and a .917 save percentage.