Going into Wednesday night, I had very low expectations for Eric Cornel. He by no means surpassed them. I am going to rate his performance an E, for Elmira. It was made very clear throughout the night his primary focus was on playing safe defensive hockey. In my eyes, Cornell only put fourth one shift of impressive hockey the entire game, during which he took two very good low shots that generated big rebounds.
For the majority of the night Cornel offered very little offensively. He was most ineffective on the breakout. Early in the game, with plenty of time and no one around, he panicked flipping the puck high off the glass and right at the feet of a Marlie defender. Later on he had a chance to get behind defenders and start an odd man rush. Instead of skating into space along the wing (the natural choice for a winger) he cut inside towards the defender. Not surprisingly, the pass from Austin went up the wing and missed him completely. Cornel showed good hustle to beat the icing call, but missed a big opportunity. Finally, during an odd man rush he failed to get around his man and drive the net. If Cornel succeeded he would have easily been able to bang home the rebound that came off the pad at the far post.
During his power play time, even when he got himself in good positions Cornel wasn’t able to capitalize. His best opportunity came from a good cut into the slot. Instead of taking a one-timer, Cornel tried to receive the pass in traffic and lost it before getting off a shot. Later with the puck on the baseline he was able to sneak out into the slot. With his back to goal I though he had an opportunity turn and take a quick shot catching the goalie off guard. He opted to force a pass into traffic that was easily intercepted and cleared.
For all his shortcomings in the offensive game, Cornel managed an acceptable performance on the other side of the puck. He did and exceptional job man marking in all areas. He tracked forwards well in the neutral zone, and didn’t give defenseman enough room on the point to operate effectively. He even managed to block a couple incoming shots. The one thing I would have like to see more in Cornel's game was a fore-checking presence. It was very rare to see him pressuring the puck at all. As a fourth line forward he needs to bring a spark when he hits the ice, and I just didn’t see that from him.
There are aspects of Cornel’s game that are very attractive, but I don’t think there is enough for him to succeed at the AHL level. During the 55 games he has played in Rochester, his numbers reflect that. He has only accumulated 14 points and 44 shots on goal. Cornel is still only twenty years old, so there is still time to for him to develop the weaker parts of his game; but he certainly has a lot to work on going forward.