Cornell University season preview

By DJ Powers

The Cornell Big Red will open their 2005-06 regular season on October 28th when they host Michigan State at Lynah Rink.

Defensive excellence has always been the cornerstone of Cornell hockey. However, last season the Big Red took that to new heights, just missing a trip to the Frozen Four by just one goal.

The team led the nation in defense, giving up an average of a miniscule 1.29 goals per game. Of the 35 total (not including exhibition games) that Cornell played last season, there were only three games where they allowed three or more goals. In 19 of 35 games, they allowed one goal or less against. In addition, the Big Red did not record a loss at home all season long, posting a near perfect 15-0-1 record.

The biggest reason for such astounding numbers was the spectacular goaltending of All-American junior David McKee. The Irving, TX native was named to the Hobey Hat-Trick last season after leading the nation in nearly every goaltending category. He finished the season with a 27-5-3 record. His ten shutouts, 1.24 goals against average and 9.47 save percentage all led the nation. He also finished third with a .814 winning percentage.

McKee returns to backstop a Cornell team that returns most of last season’s team. Two key defensive losses to graduation that the Big Red suffered were All-Ivy League First team selection Charlie Cook (PHI) and Jeremy Downs. Cook led all Big Red defensemen in scoring last season with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) playing in all 35 games. Downs ends his career at Cornell having never missed a game, playing in all 138 games in four years.

With the two gone, Cornell will be looking to their outstanding group of returning players led by a pair of Montreal Canadiens prospects in senior Jon Gleed and junior Ryan O’Byrne as well as sophomore Sasha Pokulok (WSH).

Gleed has become one of Cornell’s most dependable defensemen. He has become a mainstay on the Big Red penalty-killing unit as well as shown some great ability in getting involved on the offensive side as well. He finished his junior season with six points (one goal, five assists) playing in 30 games.

The imposing O’Byrne continues to be the physical presence on the Cornell blue line, but one area where he has made great strides is on the offensive side of the game. He finished last season with ten points (three goals, seven assists) in 33 appearances. He also led the team with 68 penalty minutes.

Many draft watchers were taken by surprise when the Washington Capitals selected Pokulok with the 14th overall pick in the recent NHL Draft. He became the first ever Cornell player selected in the first round of the Draft. His enormous frame combined with good mobility made him quite an attractive choice. With being such a high selection comes high expectations and the Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec native looks poised to meet those expectations this season. He missed eight games late last season due to a broken clavicle. Pokulok finished his rookie campaign with ten points (three goals, seven assists) in 26 games. His outstanding season performance also earned him a spot on the ECACHL All-Rookie team.

Cornell welcomes two newcomers to their defensive corps in Taylor Davenport and Jared Seminoff. Davenport is a small (5’10/190 lbs.) defenseman noted for his great skating. He comes to Cornell from Drayton Valley (AJHL), where he had 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 49 games.

Seminoff, noted as smart and defensively sound blueliner, comes to Cornell from Nanaimo (BCHL), where he had 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) in 63 games.

Up front the Big Red lost four players. Three were to graduation, including Mike Knoepfli (TOR) and Mike Iggulden. Shane Hynes opted to forego his senior season to sign with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Knoepfli finished third on the team with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) and was a key component on Cornell’s special teams. Iggulden finished sixth on the team with 18 points (ten goals, eight assists) and led the team with six game-winning goals. Hynes finished second on the team with 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists). His 21 assists led the team.

While the four players lost were significant, Cornell returns a superb group of forwards led by senior Matt Moulson (PIT), and juniors Byron Bitz (BOS) and Mitch Carefoot (ATL).

Moulson finished the 2004-05 campaign leading the Big Red in scoring with 42 points (22 goals, 20 assists) playing in 34 games. He also led the team with 12 power play goals. Moulson, an All-ECACHL and All-Ivy League First team selection, has led Cornell in scoring for the second straight season. He returns both as the top scorer and team captain. Moulson also looks to be an early candidate for the Hobey Baker award.

Bitz didn’t quite have the sophomore season that many had hoped. One reason could be attributed to the injuries that he had to deal with throughout the season. He finished last season with 15 points (five points, ten assists) playing in 29 games. Healthy again, Cornell is expecting Bitz to bounce back to be an even greater contributor this season.

Carefoot has become Cornell’s penalty-killing specialist. His contributions in that area helped to make the Big Red’s penalty-killing unit the best in the nation last year, with an efficiency rating of 89.2. Carefoot finished his sophomore campaign with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) playing in 31 games. Not surprisingly, two of his four goals came short-handed.

One player who added both excitement and energy to the Cornell lineup last season and is well-worth watching this season is sophomore Topher Scott. At 5’6/160 lbs. he is the Big Red’s smallest player in terms of stature but has become one of the team’s big-time players. He finished his rookie campaign with 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) playing in all 35 games. His tenacity combined with his great scoring ability and being one of Cornell’s best players on faceoffs earned him both praise by Cornell fans and dislike by opposing teams.

In addition to the returning players, Cornell will have five new additions to the forward lines. Among them are a trio from the BCHL – Evan Barlow, Tyler Mugford and Ryan Kindret.

Barlow comes to Cornell from Salmon Arm, where he amassed 88 points (41 goals, 47 assists) in 64 appearances last season. Barlow is noted for his offensive prowess and tremendous skating ability.

Mugford comes to Cornell from Nanaimo, where he posted 55 points (25 goals, 30 assists) in 70 games. He also finished second on the team with 160 penalty minutes. Mugford will bring some intensity to Cornell. He is also noted for his outstanding play around the net.

Kindret comes to Cornell from Quesnel, where he led the Millionaires with 65 points (31 goals, 34 assists) in 57 games. He also led the team with ten power play goals. Kindret is a power forward noted for his offensive ability.

As the reigning ECACHL and Ivy League Champions, the Cornell Big Red will once again have some high expectations to live up to. With their stellar corps of returning players and an infusion of some top-flight newcomers, the Big Red are hoping to more than exceed those expectations this season.

(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 9)

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