If the results so far this season are any indication, Cornell might be in trouble this weekend against Dartmouth.
The Big Red moved up to No. 2 in the USCHO Division I Men’s Poll this week, the highest ranking for the school since Oct. 24, 2005.
But Dartmouth is no stranger to beating the No. 2 team in the country.
Last month, the Big Green rallied for a 5-4 win at No. 2 Denver. And on Saturday, they beat then-No. 2 Clarkson 3-2 at Cheel Arena. The Golden Knights entered that game with a fifteen-game unbeaten streak.
Prior to beating Denver, the Big Green hadn’t beaten a team ranked in the top five since a 4-1 win over then-No. 2 New Hampshire on Dec. 30, 2012.
“We lost 1-0 [in the first game at Denver] and then we came back and played some really good hockey,” Big Green coach Bob Gaudet said. “You could see the maturity level of our team as a whole, especially the freshmen and sophomore, taking a step forward.”
The Big Green have a large underclassmen group as it is, but injuries have opened the way for more playing time for some of the inexperienced players.
“We have that ‘next guy up’ mentality,” Gaudet said. “It’s a fun group to work with because nobody cares who gets the credit as the long as the job gets done. We have no big egos on our team.”
Freshman Matt Baker scored twice against Clarkson, including the game-winning goal in the third period. Sophomore goalie Adrian Clark made 24 saves against the Golden Knights, and has a .925 save percentage in league play this season.
Gaudet also pointed to freshmen Quin Foreman, Collin Rutherford and sophomores Will Graber, Shane Sellar, Daniel Warpecha, and Charley Michalowski as making important contributions to the Big Green, who are 6-2-1 since beating Denver on Dec. 16, with four of those wins coming in league play. That stretch has Dartmouth in a three-way tie for fifth place with Colgate and Yale.
While Clark got the start against the Golden Knights, it was Devin Buffalo who started Friday’s win at St. Lawrence. The senior has played well since returning from an injury in December and was announced this week as one of eleven nominees for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.
Buffalo, who was born on Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis, Alberta, volunteered with three levels of the Indigenous Games in Canada last summer. He has also worked at hockey camps on his reservation during his summer breaks, and was involved with a mentoring program while playing junior hockey.
At Dartmouth, he has helped with Go Team Impact, a group that matches children with serious illnesses to collegiate teams. He has also been involved with the Big Green’s annual toy drive and visit to the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
Big road sweep for Union
After winning just twice in six tries in December, Union swept a league road weekend this season for the first time last week and moved to 4-2 in January.
The wins at Brown and Yale came with several important contributions from the Dutchmen’s freshmen.
On Friday, Liam Morgan scored his first career goal to break a 2-2 early in the third period and send the Dutchmen to a 3-2 win over Yale.
Of the 76 goals Union has scored this season, 35 have come in the final period. The Dutchmen are fourth in Division I in third-period scoring.
“I think third periods are pride periods,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “You show a little pride and you get that hunger [and] sometimes it finds your stick because you’re working that much harder and that much smarter and it means something. I thought that third period at times [Friday] really meant something to us.”
But it was freshman goalie Darion Hanson who preserved the lead. He stopped two Yale breakaways earlier in the game and then came up with several big saves in the closing seconds as the Bulldogs pushed for the equalizer.
“He was our MVP,” Bennett said of Hanson’s Friday performance.
Even as Yale scrambled around the net, Bennett credited several of Union’s upperclassmen with keeping the bench calm.
“I thought our leadership group did a nice job,” he said. “Cole Maier, Ryan Scarfo, Sebastian Vidmar and Ryan Walker really kind of kept us together. You know, that’s what they are supposed to be doing. It’s their team.”
Those four have helped Union’s underclassmen grow despite the loss of junior Brett Supinski to injury. The forward was not only a valuable leader, but is one of the team’s top offensive players. He hasn’t played since Dec. 10, and Bennett said he is two-to-three weeks from returning.
“With him being out, it’s going to give these others a whirl,” Bennett said.
On Saturday, Hanson made 20 saves in a 2-0 win over Brown. It was his first collegiate shutout, and pushed Union’s record to 9-3 when he is in net. It was also the first time the Dutchmen had recorded a shutout since Dec. 5, 2015.
The four-point weekend improved Union’s conference record to 10-4. The Dutchmen have a one-point lead over fourth-place Harvard, but is six points ahead of fifth-place Colgate, although the Raiders have played two fewer league games.
Cornell, Clarkson getting plenty from underclassmen
Union isn’t the only league contender that has relied on the contributions of underclassmen this season.
While Clarkson’s winning fourteen-game winning streak came to an end over the weekend, the Golden Knights are in position for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament thanks to the production of their freshmen and sophomores.
Six of the Clarkson’s top eight scorers are either freshmen or sophomores, while sophomore Jake Kielly leads the country with shutouts (six) and goals-against average, and is third in save percentage.
While Clarkson’s streak ended over the weekend, Cornell pushed its unbeaten streak to a nation-best eight games, thanks to a pair of shutouts by freshmen Matthew Galajda. The Big Red rookie’s five shutouts are tied for second in the country behind Kielly, and the strong weekend moved him up to fifth in save percentage. For his efforts, he was named the goalie of the week in ECAC Hockey and the NCAA’s No. 1 star of the week.
Galajda wasn’t the only Cornell freshmen to make an impact in the Big Red’s home-and-home sweep of travel partner Colgate over the weekend, as rookies Cam Donaldson and Kyle Betts scored both goals in Saturday’s win in Hamilton.
Overall, 13 underclassmen, including nine freshmen, have appeared in a game for Cornell this season.
Around the league
• Ryan Donato keeps scoring goals – and Harvard‘s unbeaten streak continues. The Crimson junior scored three times over the weekend to help Harvard push its unbeaten streak to eight games, which is tied with Cornell for the longest active streak in the country.
Donato now had 20 goals in 19 games, and is the only Division I player to average more than a goal per game. He also leads the country in goals despite playing the least amount of games of any player in the top ten in goal scoring. That lead might not hold up, as he is set to travel to South Korea next month to compete in the Winter Olympics for Team USA.
• Donato isn’t the only player with ties to ECAC Hockey set to play hockey in the Winter Olympics. He’ll be joined on the men’s team by former Yale forwards Brian O’Neill, Mark Arcobello and Broc Little. Yale coach Keith Allain will be on the United States staff, while former Rensselaer forward Milos Bubela is set to play for his native Slovakia.
• In addition to Galajda being named goalie of the week, Dartmouth’s Baker was honored as rookie of the week, while Harvard’s Lewis Zerter-Gossage was the player of the week after scoring three goals and adding two assists in a 1-0-1 weekend for the Crimson.