Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Scouting the enemy: Cornell Big Red

The No. 4/6 Quinnipiac Bobcats head up to New York state once again this Friday beginning with a game against Cornell in what will be the Big Red's home opener. Outside of Quinnipiac's rivalry with Yale, the Cornell Big Red might be the Bobcats second biggest ECAC rival. There is no love lost between head coaches Rand Pecknold of Quinnipiac and Mike Schaefer of Cornell. Schaefer has called out Pecknold in the past as a "fucking classless asshole", stemming from a November 2014 game which Cornell lost 1-0 to Quinnipiac. In that game Quinnipiac's Matthew Peca boarded Cornell's Cole Bardreau from behind (in 2013 Bardreau suffered a broken neck which ended his season and almost his career from a hit from behind) which caused Schaefer to go off in the press conference after he heard Pecknold argued for an embellishment penalty on Bardreau. There was also a 2013 ECAC Quarterfinal game which Quinnipiac won 10-0 which had multiple scrums and Schaefer accused Pecknold of running up the score. This young rivalry with the amount of bad blood and frequent playoff series between these teams reminds me of the rivalry between the Bruins and Canadiens to a much lessor extent.

The Big Red are off to a 2-2-1 start this year but all games have come on the road. Cornell leads the all-time series against Quinnipiac, 17-15-4. The Bobcats rallied to win in overtime, 5-4, on Nov. 7, 2015 in its last trip at Lynah Rink. Quinnipiac has won three ECAC playoffs series against Cornell (2007, 2013, 2016) and lost one to them (2011). Former Bobcats assistant coach Ben Syer is the Big Red's associate head coach. Lynah Rink is likely the toughest rink in the ECAC to play in with a very loud student section so as always winning there is a challenge.

Anthony Angello (photo by Cornell Athletics)
Once again Cornell is a big team on offense something that has been a trademark of Mike Schaefer teams. However with his freshman recruiting class Schaefer wanted to get the Big Red smaller and quicker this season and that is highlighted by Noah Bauld, Connor Murphy and Corey Hoffman up front. Both Bauld and Murphy have played four games apiece while Hoffman has yet to see game action. Cornell does still have ten forwards six feet or taller on the roster so there is going to be some transition over the next few years if Schaefer is truly making a full move to a smaller, quicker roster. Cornell is averaging 3.20 goals per game on offense which is 21st in the nation and while its power play is struggling at 13.33% (4-of-30). Quinnipiac's penalty kill is once again one of the best in the country at 90.1% (64-of-71) which is good for 6th in the nation.

The Big Red offense is headlined by a trio of leading scorers in sophomore Anthony Angello (2014 5th round, Pittsburgh) who has two goals and three assists and 5'7 sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan who has five goals already for Cornell. Junior Trevor Yates has two goals and three assists while sophomore Beau Starrett (2014 3rd round, Chicago) has a goal and two assists. Other players to watch out for on Cornell are junior Jared Fiegel (2014 7th round, Arizona), senior Matt Buckles (2013 4th round, Florida) and junior Dwyer Tschantz (2014 7th round, St. Louis). The key for Quinnipiac in this game will be using smaller, quicker forwards to get around the bigger slower Cornell team along with tiring them out. Winning neutral zone battles will be key for Quinnipiac in order to force mistakes from the Big Red and create offensive zone scoring opportunities.

Mitch Gilliam (photo by Ned Dykes/Cornell Athletics)
Defensively Cornell has moved to some smaller quicker players on the blue line to help their transition game. So far they have been rewarded with solid play on defense with the Big Red giving up only 2.60 goals per game which is good for 18th in the nation. They are getting some solid production on the blue line from players like freshman Yanni Kaldis (4 assists), senior Patrick McCarron (3 assists) and sophomore Alec McCrea (1 goal and 2 assists). What is impressive so far about the Cornell defense is the 93 blocked shots in 5 games played so far (18.6 per game). The ability of the Big Red to block shots at a high rate will be a challenge for the Bobcats to find clear paths to the net. Getting onto the power play is a must for Quinnipiac in order to create more scoring opportunities where Cornell's shot blocking might be neutralized to a degree. Cornell boosts a solid penalty killing unit at 86.7% (26-of-30).

In goal Cornell has one of the better goaltenders in the league in Mitch Gilliam. The senior is starting his third full season for the Big Red. He is off to an solid start on the year at 2-2-1 with a 2.84 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. He has 8 career shutouts (7 came last season) and a career save percentage in the .920's. Gilliam has seven games of experience the past two years against Quinnipiac so there nothing that the Bobcats have not seen with Gilliam before. He brings experience and confidence in his ability to take over a game so the Bobcats need to do a good job creating traffic in front of the net in order to score some greasy goals.

Overall I would expect this game to be a fast paced and physical between two programs that have no love for each other. With this being Cornell's home opener the Lynah faithful will be rocking making this an even greater challenge. Getting out to an early lead would serve Quinnipiac well in order to quiet what is expected to be a very hostile environment.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathan_singer.

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