Friday, January 13, 2017

Scouting the enemy: Cornell Big Red

One of the bigger games of the second half of the season for the No. 15/15 Quinnipiac Bobcats takes place Saturday at the High Point Solutions Arena when No. 19 Cornell comes to town. Head coach Mike Schaefer's team is hot winning seven of their last eight games and nine of their last eleven going into Friday night's game against Princeton. The only losses in that stretch were to Quinnipiac and Colorado College. Overall the Big Red are 9-4-1 and 4-2-1 in ECAC play sitting in 6th place with 9 points. However they have six ECAC games in hand on Quinnipiac and they are likely to rise in the standings. Currently 15th in the pairwise rankings this game has a lot of meaning for both teams looking to play into late March. After this weekend, Cornell will have nine of their last thirteen games on home ice at Lynah Rink which is a huge bonus for a team playing as well as the Big Red are right now. The Bobcats and the Big Red are tied in the all time series at 16-16-3 but Cornell holds an 8-7-2 advantage against the Bobcats in Hamden.

Mitch Vanderlaan (photo by Brittney Chew/Cornell Daily Sun)
The Big Red offensively are middle of the pack team as they rank 34th in the country in scoring with 2.86 goals per game. In league games that jumps to 3.14 goals ranking them 6th in the league. Up front the teams leading scorer is sophomore Mitch Vanderlaan who has 14 points (8 goals and 6 assists). He is a short fast forward that already has two game winning goals, a power play goal and a short handed goal. Patrick McCarron also has 14 points (2 goals and 12 assists) to tie Vanderlaan but his production comes via the blue line. McCarron also is a big contributor to the Big Red power play. Anthony Angello and Trevor Yates both have 9 points apiece while seniors Eric Freschi and Jake Weidner have a 7 apiece. Of the five draft picks that are forwards only Angello is a big contributor. On the power play Cornell only ranks 43rd nationally at 14.86% (11-of-74). This team has been finding ways to win even with an average offense so Quinnipiac needs to play smart on defense against the Big Red and not give them a lot of time or space and not give them any extra opportunities by way of the power play.
Patrick McCarron (photo by Cornell University Athletics)

Where the Big Red really excel is on defense which they have taken pride in over the years in Ithaca. When Cornell is at its best its because it has a great defense. That has shown this season for Mike Schaefer's squad. They are 6th in the country at 2.07 goals per game and 4th in ECAC games at 2.43 goals against. They have a top penalty kill ranked 5th in the country at 88.4% (61-of-69). They average 16.6 blocked shots going into this weekend with three players over 20 blocked shots this season. This is a defense that makes you work for everything you get and expect that to continue Saturday night. The leader is the captain, Patrick McCarron who has size, play making ability and will block shots. He has 24 blocked shots. Sophomore Alec McCrea has 35 blocked shots already this season and brings a lot of size on the blue line. The entire defensive core for Cornell brings a lot of size so Quinnipiac will need to have a great transition game and use a lot of speed in order to combat the size of the Big Red's defense.
Mitch Gillam (photo by Ned Dykes/Cornell University Athletics)

Veteran Mitch Gillam is starter in goal and has played in 13 of the 14 games so far this season for Cornell. He is 9-3-1 with a 2.16 goals against average and a .918 save percentage which is solid stats for him in between the pipes. He's a bit undersized but is athletic and is capable of playing big for his team in goal. He has been the starter since his sophomore year and has been really good for the Big Red the past three seasons. This will be Gillam's 9th start against the Bobcats in the past three seasons including a playoff series last year in Hamden so there is a lot of familiarity between the Bobcats and Gillam.

Expect this game to be fast and physical and even chippy at times like most Quinnipiac and Cornell games have been in recent years. This is a starting to become a solid rivalry especially with the hatred between the two head coaches. Add in the fact that this game has so much meaning with both team fighting for positioning in the pairwise rankings and the ECAC standings that this should be a dandy of a game. The only unfortunate part is that students are still on winter break. If Quinnipiac can win this game it will be important in adding to the pairwise resume and help potentially win any tiebreakers for possible home ice with Cornell down the road when it comes time for the ECAC playoffs.

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

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