Cornell men's hockey ascends to No. 1 - WBNG.com: Binghamton-area News, Weather, Sports

Cornell men's hockey ascends to No. 1

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ITHACA, N.Y. (WBNG) -- For the first time in more than a decade, Cornell sports the best hockey team in the country. The Big Red currently sits atop both national polls.

"When you go number one, there's a lot of praise," Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said at practice Thursday.

But Cornell's focus is away from the praise.

"At the end of the day [the No. 1 ranking] has no effect on us," freshman goalie Matthew Galajda said.

The Big Red climbed to the top of the ladder this week, earning the top spot in the USA Today/USA Hockey magazine poll for the first time since 2005 and the USCHO poll for the first time since 2003.

"We haven't really accomplished anything," said junior forward Anthony Angello. "We're still coming to the rink getting ready to get better everyday."

This Cornell men's hockey story line isn't really all that sexy. They're just playing consistent hockey, top to bottom, offensively, defensively and in net. The Big Red has trailed in only six games this season.

"I think one of the things that gives us strength is our depth," added Angello, who's scored seven goals in his last five games. "We have four extremely good lines. We have three sets of extremely good 'D' pairs, and we have two fantastic goaltenders."

Speaking of goaltenders, freshman Matthew Galajda (14-2-1, 1.52 GAA, .938 SV%, 6 SO) has quickly made a name for himself between the pipes, following an early season injury to Hayden Stewart (4-0, 1.01 GAA, .956 SV%, 1 SO).

"[Galajda] is calm in the net," said Schafer, who's in his 23rd season at the helm of the Cornell men's hockey program. "He's very poised for a freshman, and he's been consistent, practices hard. He hasn't let go of those reigns whatsoever."

Cornell boasts the nation's best defense, allowing just 1.53 goals per game, and Galajda has already set a program freshman record with six shutouts. The Aurora, Ontario native leads the nation in goals against average, is tied for the lead in shutouts, and ranks fourth in the country in save percentage.

"The team's playing unbelievably defensively right now, and they're a huge part of that [defensive success]," Galajda said.

Defense has always been a staple of Mike Schafer's program, but this year's team is currently ranked eighth nationally in scoring offense (3.42 goals per game).

"The daily focus," said Angello, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. "The puck pursuit. Playing physical. Having your stick down. All of the little things that lead to success, and when you get those chances, just making sure you put them in the net."

The Big Red like to call it "following the process," a consistent mentality that has helped the team already reach the 18-win mark.

"The book has yet to be written on this team," Schafer said.

"When we're at our best, there is nobody that can play with us," Angello added.

Just eight games remain for the Big Red (18-2-1, 12-1-1 ECAC), as they get set to host Union and RPI Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Lynah Rink

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