Any time you come away with a four point weekend, especially on the road, your team has to be pleased. That being said, this was the easiest road trip of the year for the Red, except for possibly the Albany teams in January.
Cornell opened the road trip trying to gain some momentum and get a winning streak started after beating a good Quinnipiac team the previous week. The Red came out physically, fast, and ready to play against a Yale team that couldn't seem to get the puck out of their own zone. The first 5 minutes of the game were filled with big hits from both teams, and Cornell seemed intent on keeping the pressure on with an intense forecheck. Their hard work was rewarded with around 5 minutes left in the period when Colin Greening was able to force loose the puck, which ended up on the stick of Riley Nash in the high slot. Nash was able to wrist the it past Blase for his first collegiate goal.
Yale came out firing in the second period, and dictated the play completely. Cornell was very conservative and seemed content to protect their 1-0 lead. Poor neutral zone play gave Yale a few odd-man rushes but they were not able to capitalize on any. Despite badly outshooting the Red and drawing power play opportunities, Yale was not able to put the puck past Scrivens. Cornell was lucky to escape from the period and the score held at 1-0.
Most of the third period was dictated by Yale as well, but as the game clock ticked down Cornell seemed to turn up the intensity, especially on defense. A big hit by Mike Devin along the boards seemed to fire up the team. Colin Greening's empty net goal from center ice sealed the deal, even though Scrivens lost the shutout bid in the final minute.
All in all, the game played directly into Cornell's plan of a physical, slow contest. That being said, Cornell played nowhere near their potential. With the narrowing of the talent gap in the ECACH, Cornell only wins games like this 70-80% of the time. One goal is simply not enough to be comfortable with. The power play will also have to start producing, especially in close games like these. Not only were they 0-for-4 on the power play, only one of those series generated a decent amount of scoring chances.
The start of the Brown game was the exact opposite of Friday's match. Brown came out physically, fast, and strong. They outshot, out-chanced, outhit, out-hustled and flat outplayed Cornell for the full 20 minutes. Cornell was lucky to get out of the period unscathed as they could simply not match the Bears' energy.
Brown's hard work was finally rewarded early in the second, as they tallied their first power play goal on a shot Scrivens had no chance to stop. Shortly thereafter, there were a series of after-the-whistle scuffles away from the puck that seemed to fire up the Cornell bench. Scott capitalized on the team's next power play to even the score. Brown's defenders seemed to tire; they could simply not sustain the same level of energy they had earlier. Colin Greening was able to put the puck past Brown goalie Dan Rosen in the final 30 seconds on a 4-on-3 man-advantage to send the Red into the locker room with a 2-1 lead.
Cornell did not take their foot off the gas pedal in the third period, as they had the night before. It took almost 15 minutes for them to get on the board, however, as freshman Riley Nash was able to score a backbreaking goal on the power play. Nash scored one of the prettiest goals you will ever see, as he was able to put the puck through two defenders and make an NHL-caliber deke on Rosen, in what will be one of the most talked-about plays of the season. The Red was able to put the game on ice 2 minutes later, as Greening got credit for his second empty netter of the weekend.
3. Ben Scrivens
2. Riley Nash
1. Colin Greening
The good news is that every game Cornell has played has been the team's best game to that point and the team's best hockey is clearly ahead of them. Starting the ECACH schedule with four Ivy teams helps as well, as all Ivy schools have the same practice regulations to abide by. While it is certainly too early to tell what the identity of this team will be, it is clear that they do have talent. Riley Nash appears to be the real deal, and this weekend may very well have been his coming-out party as teams were already starting to key in on him almost exclusively. He was the recipient of numerous slashes and trips against Brown, and even when he was getting the calls, it was clear he had the respect of Grillo and the rest of the Brown coaching staff. Also, it appears that Scrivens has established himself as the number one goalie, winning three straight games and allowing only two goals on the weekend. He will certainly have to do a better job controlling rebounds and limiting second chances, but he played an outstanding 120 minutes of hockey and gave the guys skating in front of him an opportunity to win both games.
The bad news is that the talent gap is shrinking in the ECACH, and every year there is more parity in the league. This team does not have the luxury that the teams in the recent past have had, always being able to fall back on their superior skill to win. The bottom line is that there are no easy games in the ECACH anymore, and this team does not have the talent to take any nights off and expect to come away with anything other than a loss. Every game will be a dogfight, and if the injury bug bites any of the team's top lines, they simply do not have the depth to compensate. The line of Greening-Nash-Barlow may very well be the most talented in the league, but they will have to be the most productive as well, because the lines behind them are lacking in goal scorers.
Justin Milo's departure will sting more than Tony Romano's. This team is full of playmakers—Scott, Nash, Gallagher, the Kennedys—but is short on the pure goal scorers with heavy shots that can find the back of the net. Tyler Roeszer was recruited to fill this role, although it remains to be seen what his impact on the team will be.
This is a huge weekend, perhaps the biggest of the season, as Cornell will face its stiffest competition to date. That being said, we will have a much better idea of what to expect from the team after seeing how they respond in these games. Harvard has an excellent team this year and it remains to be seen if Cornell can exorcize the demons of playing at Dartmouth, winning only once in the past 11 years. Harvard hangover or not, Cornell has suffered some of their most devastating losses on Thompson's ice, and the closest any of the current players have come to sniffing victory was the 2004-2005 overtime loss.
Cornell 3 - Harvard 3
Cornell 2 - Dartmouth 4