February 7, 2014

ECAC Journal: Iles has Cornell back on track

By Dan Guttenplan

Andy Isles led the Big Red to wins over Yale and Brown last weekend. (Photo: Cornell Athletics)

The formula for success for Cornell hockey has long been established under coach Mike Schafer.

The Big Red pack it in on defense, ride steady goaltending, and outwork ECAC Hockey opponents en route to a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

That’s why it was almost tough to watch the Big Red go through a second-half slide last season. They failed to secure home ice in an ECAC tournament series for the first time under Schafer.

The Big Red are back this season, rising as high as No. 6 in the PairWise rankings following another four-point weekend that has stretched the team’s unbeaten streak to nine games (6-0-3).

At the center of it all is goaltender Andy Iles, a senior who started in net during last year’s down season. Iles has allowed more than two goals in a game only once since November. Last weekend, Iles allowed just three goals in 125 minutes of action.

“We finished off last season playing pretty good hockey, but December, January and February were rough months,” Iles said. “It was a tough hole to get out of. Anyone who comes to Cornell wants to win a championship, and last year was far from that. We came back two weeks after the season with a new mindset.”

Even with the nine-game unbeaten streak, Cornell still remains two points behind Union and one behind Quinnipiac in the fight for the ECAC Hockey regular-season championship. Iles says the Big Red will keep one eye on the standings over the final month of the regular season.

“We’re living in a technology age, and it’s tough not to be exposed to the rankings and national attention,” Iles said. “Guys are aware. We’re not making it our focus. We’ve had some success, but at the same time, we’re in third place in the league. We haven’t accomplished anything.”

Player of the Week

Andy Iles, Cornell

Senior, Goaltender

Iles keyed the Big Red's road sweep of Yale and Brown last weekend. Of the three goals he surrendered, two were on second rebounds and the other was on a breakaway. Cornell was outshot in each game, with Iles stopping 38 against the Bulldogs and 33 against the Bears. He recorded a 1.44 goals-against average and a .959 save percentage on the weekend.

Game of the Week

Clarkson at Quinnipiac, Friday (7 p.m.)

Quinnipiac and Clarkson have met 17 times since the Bobcats joined ECAC Hockey in 2005-06, with Quinnipiac holding a 10-6-1 edge in the all-time series. The Bobcats are undefeated in their last five games (4-0-1) in their last five games against the Golden Knights

Clarkson won 12 of its first 16 games through Dec. 7 before a three-week hiatus. Since then, the Golden Knights are 4-7-1 in their last 12 games and have lost three of their last four games.

ECAC Rankings

1. Quinnipiac (19-4-5; 9-2-3): Senior forward Connor Jones scored the fastest goal to start a game in history and Jordan Samuels-Thomas became the newest member of the 100-point club as in Quinnipiac’s 8-1 win at Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H. on Friday. 

2. Union (17-6-3; 11-3-0): The Dutchmen went 1-1 on their North Country trip last weekend while playing without coach Rick Bennett (Springfield, Mass.) and two key players on the bench as a result of a postgame scrum the previous weekend against RPI. They lost to St. Lawrence, 2-1, on Friday, and rallied from two deficits to beat No. 15 Clarkson, 4-3, on Saturday.

3. Cornell (12-4-5; 8-3-4): The Big Red may have discovered another major contributor last weekend in a road sweep of Yale and Brown. Freshman forward Jeff Kubiak moved to the wing for the first time this season, and turned in his first collegiate multi-point game in a win over Yale. The following night at Brown, he set up the game's first tally with a goal-mouth feed to Matt Buckles for a tap-in.

4. Clarkson (16-10-2, 9-5-0): Clarkson has to feel pretty good about a weekend in which it narrowly missed out on a sweep of RPI and Union. The Golden Knights beat RPI 3-0 Friday before holding a 3-2 third-period lead over Union Saturday. Union spoiled the feel-good weekend with two late goals in a 4-3 win.

5. Yale (11-6-4; 6-5-3): Every healthy Yale player dressed on Saturday night in a 4-1 win over Colgate. The shorthanded Bulldogs also lost center Stu Wilson for the night due to an injury on his first shift.

6. Colgate (13-11-3; 9-5-1): Not enough defense or goaltending for the Raiders last weekend, when they allowed nine combined goals in losses to Brown and Yale.

7. Brown (9-9-3; 6-7-1): Sophomore forward Mark Naclerio (Milford, Conn.) recorded four points on three goals and one assist last weekend to lead Brown to a split against Colgate and Cornell. He leads the Bears in goals (14), points (29) and game-winning goals (4).

8. RPI (11-11-4; 5-6-3): RPI junior forward Ryan Haggerty (Stamford, Conn.) bounced back from his ECAC Hockey-imposed one-game suspension, netting the game-winner against St. Lawrence Saturday night.

9. St. Lawrence (9-14-3; 3-8-3): The Saints led RPI 3-2 heading into the third period Saturday, before mustering just five shots in the final period of a 4-3 loss.

10. Harvard (6-12-3; 3-9-3): Harvard had an embarrassing performance in The Beanpot with a 6-0 loss to Northeastern in the opening round. The Crimson have not played in a Beanpot final since 2008, and have not won a title in 21 tries.

11. Dartmouth (4-15-3, 3-11-1): The Big Green kept themselves out of the ECAC Hockey basement with a 5-3 victory over Princeton Saturday.

12. Princeton (4-17-0; 3-11-0): The Tigers are ranked 54th out of 59 Division 1 teams in the latest PairWise rankings.

Twitter: @Dan_Guttenplan

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