Series Record: 56-41-7 Cornell
Friday, February 1
December 1, 2012
Cornell completed a sweep at Lynah Rink of the North-Country teams at the end of November and beginning of December 2012. Cornell downed Clarkson and St. Lawrence with a pair of 3-1 victories. Senior Vince Mihalik scored his first goal of the season against the Saints to even the score after St. Lawrence struck first with a power-play goal from Greg Carey. Cornell scored two unanswered goals from Esposito and Lowry. The flow of the game never felt out of Cornell's control.
Since the First Meeting:
The Saints of St. Lawrence University have earned a record of 4-5-1 since they braved Lynah Rink in early December. That record amounts to a winning percentage of 0.450 since the residents of the North Country ventured southward to Central New York. That record pales in comparison to the 0.682 winning percentage that St. Lawrence enjoyed before the first meeting of the season between Cornell and St. Lawrence. The Saints had only three losses before the Big Red closed the first half of its season with a win over them.
The Saints had been on somewhat of a slide compared to the very early season success that they had enjoyed. The statistics bear out that reality. However, the Saints appear to show early signs of having corrected their course. No opponent has beaten them in their last four outings. Wins in that span came against Brown, Dartmouth, and Harvard. St. Lawrence mustered only a tie against archrival Clarkson that leaves them with a regular-season record of 0-2-1 against the Knights of the North Country.
The offensive prowess of the Saints has continued despite the slight slump before the recent resurgence. St. Lawrence has scored three or more goals in seven of its last ten games. The Saints have scored four goals in three of their four victories since their loss to Cornell.
The continued production of Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey largely paces the Saints still. Both players are ranked among the top five most offensively productive players in the nation. They tally 1.43 and 1.42 points per game respectively. Carey is ranked second in the nation in terms of goals scored per game with 0.67. Flanagan is 24th in the same category tickling the twine 0.52 times per game.
The Saints have scored on only 12.8% of their power-play opportunities since Cornell last played them. St. Lawrence's penalty kill has killed off successfully 75.6% of its opponent's power-play opportunities. St. Lawrence has allowed one or more power-play goals in all but two of its games since the contest at Lynah Rink. The Saints have developed a penchants for scoring short-handed goals in recent games as they have scored three short-handed goals over the last ten games.
Some commentators have begun to claim that the Saints are ready to make a run at the 2013 ECAC Tournament. The Saints' sweep of Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend does not have the weight that it would have earlier in the season. Nonetheless, they appear to be on an upswing and their skill cannot be taken for granted.
Keys to the Game:
Cornell has developed an unsettling habit as of late to play to the level of its opponent's power-play unit. Cornell killed off 100% of the power-play opportunities that Yale drew. The weekend before Cornell surrendered one power-play goal to Union who at the time owned the best power-play unit in the nation. Cornell has surrendered three times as many goals to power-play units that are middling than those that is has surrendered to power-play units that are among the nation's best.
Special teams would not appear on first gloss to be a disadvantage for Cornell against St. Lawrence after last weekend, but considering the cited trend, they cannot be overlooked. Cornell will need to prove to itself that its penalty-killing prowess has returned for good and that last weekend's efficiency of killing 90% of the power-play opportunities that its opponents drew was not a mere aberration.
Cornell has played sound defense over the last five games. The one error that cost Cornell the Yale loss in some ways was the same failure that led to challenges in the Capital District. Cornell gains an unsettling overconfidence in its own zone, allows its opponents to cycle, and then clusters its own players in front of Cornell's net that sometimes acts as a screen to Iles and leaves open the sides of the net. If this lapse can be addressed and corrected, Cornell's defense will be unquestionably among the best and most disciplined in the nation no matter what statistics may indicate.
Cornell cannot afford to play undisciplined hockey against a team as offensively skilled as is St. Lawrence. The fact that St. Lawrence is converting at only a 12.8% rate since Cornell last met them does not neuter the skills of Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey. Cornell played as much time a man down against Brown as it had in both games during its trip to the Capital District. St. Lawrence will likely make Cornell pay if it plays undisciplined hockey and gives the Saints too many opportunities.
The Saints have relied upon more than three goals to claim nine of their eleven victories. St. Lawrence has allowed nearly three goals in its game on average since the beginning of the season. This total inches up to an average of 3.40 goals allowed per game since Cornell and St. Lawrence last played each other.
St. Lawrence has come to rely upon outscoring its opponents on even-strength in games that devolve into high-scoring affairs. This appears to be the winning formula upon which St. Lawrence has begun to rely in recent games. The game will be won or lost largely upon how Cornell plays behind the blue line. The Saints have been allowing a relatively large number of goals in recent games despite their success.
Cornell will need only covert a few times on a team that suffers from a high goals-against average if Cornell can stanch the Saints's offensive momentum. If Cornell's defense and goaltending does not hold up, Cornell will be involved in a game that will become a scoring derby against a team that has much better recent success scoring gaudy numbers of goals. Prevention of the latter scenario will be key if Cornell hopes to enjoy success at Appleton.
Cornell ended a streak last season that many did not notice because Cornell's breaking of another streak got more attention earlier in the season. Cornell defeated St. Lawrence 4-3 at Appleton Arena in February 2012. Cornell had not left Canton with a victory in seven seasons. The last time that Cornell had defeated St. Lawrence at Appleton before last season was February 2005 during the second half of the 2004-05 season. The season before that 2005 victory at Appleton, Cornell had tied Clarkson and defeated St. Lawrence. Those results are identical to those with which Cornell left the North Country during the 2011-12 season.
In lieu of embedding a video with this post, I recommend highly watching the following linked video tribute to now-retired St. Lawrence men's ice hockey head coach Joe Marsh. The video gives a look at the renovated facilities of St. Lawrence hockey, history and tradition of St. Lawrence hockey, and the legacy of St. Lawrence's historic and revered coach.