You may not be aware, but the rivalry between Cornell and Rensselaer is one of the more angst-filled match-ups in college hockey. The teams don’t like each other, the coaches aren’t enamored with each other, and the fans get under each other’s skin rather easily.
The two teams also combine to produce some dramatic hockey and when they meet up tonight in Troy (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), you can expect more of the same as both teams are seeing things go differently in the second half of the year. Three of the last four meetings between these two teams at RPI have ended in one-goal games, all Cornell victories.
Cornell comes in ranked 14th in both the USCHO.com and USA Today polls and are coming off a weekend that saw them swept by their travel partners from Colgate. After starting off the year on fire, the Big Red has cooled off a bit and has shown a nasty tendency to meltdown in the third period.
In three of Cornell’s last five games, they’ve blown leads in the third period. They’ve been fortunate to earn ties in two of those, but after giving up three third period goals to Princeton to get a 3-3 tie and four to Colgate in a 5-3 loss last Saturday, closing strong has been a problem of late.
Cornell coach Mike Schafer won’t stand for that and he’ll ask for more from goalie Andy Iles as well as junior defenseman Nick D’Agostino (Pittsburgh) and senior forward Sean Collins (Columbus). Freshman Brian Ferlin (Boston – pictured) may be the guy to keep the closest eye on as his offensive touch and physical play show why he was a Bruins draft pick in 2011.
For Rensselaer, their second half has been polar opposite of their first. They’re getting great goaltending from junior Bryce Merriam, stellar defensive play from guys like junior Nick Bailen and freshman Curtis Leonard while getting the offensive lift they’ve needed all season long from freshmen forwards Ryan Haggerty, Jacob Laliberte, and Zack Schroeder.
If there’s two guys coach Seth Appert will look to play big for RPI tonight it’ll be defensemen Mike Bergin (Dallas) and Patrick Koudys (Washington – pictured). Being strong defensively against Cornell is a must for the Engineers to have a shot to win.
(Brian Ferlin photo: ECAC Hockey)