Abington’s Dan Cornell seized opportunity with Northeastern men’s hockey

Dan Cornell, in action as a Northeastern de- fenseman, has recovered from leg surgery.
Dan Cornell, in action as a Northeastern de- fenseman, has recovered from leg surgery.
Jim Pierce

Abington’s Cornell hitting stride in second season at Northeastern

Dan Cornell  was not sure what to expect a year ago as a Northeastern University freshman, when he was a recruited walk-on with the men’s hockey team.

“I had broken my leg the previous season in juniors and came into camp eight months after surgery,’’ recalled the former Catholic Memorial School defenseman from Abington who prepped one year at Kimball Union Academy. “I wish I had more time, and it was really a matter of jumping in and seeing how my body held up.’’

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Cornell, who played 29 games last winter for the Huskies (nine more than as captain for the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s Philadelphia Revolution in 2010-11), has a different perspective this season.

“I’ve got a year of experience playing Division 1 hockey and a lot of time behind me since the surgery,’’ said the 6-foot, 195-pound Cornell, who after three games was tied for the team lead with five blocked shots and a plus-2 rating.

“I’m not one of the bigger defensemen in Hockey East, but my strengths are my skating and positioning, and I try to move the puck up ice quickly and jump into the play.

“Last year, I looked up to the older players as a newcomer getting my feet under me. This year, because I’m 22 and we’ve brought in a dozen new players, I feel more like a veteran.’’

Northeastern’s second-year coach, Jim Madigan, who also utilizes Cornell on his penalty killing unit, called him “a responsible player who keeps it simple. As a walk-on, he seized the opportunity and like every freshman he had his peaks and valleys.

“But I’ve always liked Dan’s way of giving that extra something and for the attitude and personality he brings to the rink,’’ added Madigan, whose team is ranked 15th nationally by US College Hockey Online.

The Huskies were 2-1, after defeating Merrimack and splitting a pair of games against defending national champion Boston College, heading into this weekend’s conference matchup with the University of New Hampshire.

Cornell, whose 12-year-old sister, Bridget, plays for both boys’ and girls’ teams in the Hanover Youth Hockey program, came to Northeastern knowing what it takes to be a champion.

A Catholic Conference All-Star at Catholic Memorial, he played defense and forward during the 2008-09 season when the Knights won the Super 8 championship, and he was named the team’s Unsung Hero. He scored CM’s first goal in the title game, a 5-0 victory over Burlington.

At Kimball Union in New Hampshire, Cornell was an integral part of its drive to the New England Prep Small School championship.

“My game improved a lot those seasons at Kimball Union and in Philadelphia,’’ said Cornell, who played for the Boston Junior Terriers and South Shore Eagles as a youngster.

He keeps a special memento on his desk.

It is the puck he shot past Notre Dame goalie Mike Johnson last Dec. 2 for his first collegiate goal, handing the Huskies an early 3-0 lead on the way to a 9-2 win in South Bend, Ind.

“It was great to play in their new complex, and you never forget the first one,’’ he said. “It was a one-timer from the point and it went 5-hole.’’

Cornell said he is taking the ice with confidence and motivation this season.

“You can never be content because there’s always another level to get to personally and as a team,’’ he said. “The best advice I ever received was do all that, but have fun playing the game.’’

Players, coach lift Lasell soccer

With the contributions of six area players, the men’s soccer team at Lasell College, coached by Braintree resident Giovanni Pacini, won the Great Northeast Athletic Conference regular season title with a 9-1 record.

Lasell, at 14-3 heading into the weekend, was the top seed in the conference tournament. The Lasers were to host cross-Newton rival and eighth seed Mount Ida College on Saturday in the quarterfinals.

Twenty players have started at least one match for Pacini, whose team is ranked a program-record ninth in Division 3 in New England.

“I’ve been able to combine several different combinations of players,’’ said Pacini, “and each has played to a high standard.’’

His roster includes senior forward Kyle Cronin  (Weymouth High) and freshman forward Conor Fitzgerald, who had five goals each through last weekend; junior midfielder Cedric Dybaud  (Quincy High), who had three tallies; senior midfielder Lawrence Fagan  of Weymouth (South Shore Christian Academy), who had chipped in with three assists; junior back Dan Gleason  (Weymouth High); and freshman back Taylor Witherbee  of East Bridgewater (Cardinal Spellman).

“Kyle has that nose for the goal and Conor is an exciting player with speed and creativity,’’ said Pacini, a Weymouth native who founded the men’s program at Lasell.

Dybaud “made an immediate impact with his speed and technical ability, and Lawrence was a spring walk-on who was so impressive I invited him back.’’

Pacini added that Gleason had his best match recently during a 2-1 victory over Bridgewater State, and that Witherbee is a sound back who has been a steadying influence off the bench.

Heacox nets big wins for Endicott

Endicott College sophomore Amy Heacox  of Marion was named Commonwealth Coast Conference Women’s Tennis Player of the Week after helping the Gulls win their second straight conference tournament, and secure an automatic NCAA Division 3 tournament berth next spring. Heacox came back at fourth singles to help Endicott edge Roger Williams, 5-4, in the semifinals.

The Old Rochester Regional High graduate was also victorious in both singles and at third doubles in an 8-1 win against top-seeded Nichols in the finals.

She finished the fall season undefeated (15-0, 7-0 CCC) in singles play. Her teammates included junior Annie Gluskin  (Duxbury High), who was 7-4 at fourth, fifth and sixth singles.