There is great irony in great achievement. The greatest accomplishments are attained through the longest journeys. It is those long journeys on which it is easiest to forget first steps. The glint of shining accolades blinds one from proper retrospection or perspective even though the greatest successes depend most on the initial steps that produced them. When one has traveled so far, it is easy to forget where one began. However, it is the impulse to take the first steps that begets the greatest things. It is in that moment that one forsakes inaction or mediocrity that the cavalcade toward greatness begins.
When did the hockey program at Cornell University take its first steps toward greatness? Many will tell you that it was in 1963 when Athletic Director Robert Kane hired Ned Harkness away from RPI. Some may argue that it was in 1995 with the hiring of legendary alumnus Mike Schafer in the hopes of returning Cornell hockey to greatness. A daring few may contend that it was in 1900 when Cornell began sponsoring varsity hockey. Or, perhaps 1957, when the University resurrected an abandoned hockey program from a decade of non-existence. All are likely partially or wholly insufficient suggestions.
The greatness that is Cornell hockey began on Beebe Lake. It began not in the program's first season of existence, even though greatness was likely on the minds of the first skaters to don carnelian-and-white sweaters, but between 1909 and 1911. The stories of that era have been all but forgotten to modern fans. Some dispense with the entire era as "a footnote." A more devoted enclave of the Lynah Faithful recall it as another year of trivia to be memorized and appreciated. However, the epoch is far from trivial. It is the bedrock that underlies a culture that demands greatness from Cornell fans and teams alike.
College hockey emerged in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The placement of Cornell University in Upstate New York and the cultural diffusion between Ontario and Upstate New York during the development of hockey exposed Cornellians early to the emerging new sport. The first recorded hockey game occurred in March 1875 in Montreal. As early as the late 1880s and 1890s, The Cornell Daily Sun reported that Cornellians had tremendous interest in building a rink and starting a team. The emergence of Cornell hockey seemed all but inevitable.
Several false starts and uncooperative weather in Central New York delayed the creation of such a team. The desire and passion never waned. Cornellians would pine for the time when their peers or they would represent their University on the ice each Winter. It would arrive soon enough, but Yale became the first hockey program in the United States in 1896.
Cornell began its hockey program in 1900. It took the ice for its first competition in 1901. Several collegiate hockey programs emerged between Yale's exhibition game in 1896 and 1901. The emergence of many programs demanded the creation of an overseeing athletic body that would regulate competition. The extant collegiate programs formed the Intercollegiate Hockey Association in 1899. The first Stanley Cup was awarded only seven years before the IHA began crowning its intercollegiate champion.
The Bulldogs of Yale won the first three IHA national championships in 1900, 1901, and 1902. The program on East Hill tried to find sure footing. Cornell was not a member of the IHA in its first season of competition. The Big Red earned a 3-1-0 record over its first two season. The lone loss occurred at St. Nicholas Rink in New York, NY. The opponent for that contest was eventual national champion Yale. The Elis throttled the Central New Yorkers, 5-0. Cornell was competitive, but not yet elite.
The hockey program at Cornell along with that of Dartmouth applied for admission into the IHA on November 30, 1906. The application of Dartmouth was accepted. The application from Ithaca was denied. The Cornell squad was disappointed. Its members endeavored to improve the stature of their program through competitive schedules against programs not yet admitted into the IHA. The Big Red went 6-0-0 over the two seasons immediately following its rejection by the IHA.
An undefeated record over two seasons was impressive. What was astounding was the fact that Cornell skaters outscored their opponents 32 goals to no goals. Defense had found a home in Central New York. The Big Red held opponents scoreless through two entire seasons. The IHA no longer could deny the quality of Cornell hockey or the University's commitment to the sport. Cornell was admitted to the IHA in 1908.
Harvard had won four consecutive national titles after Yale and Princeton won its first in 1907. Cornell was uncoached, as it had been since its second season, in its first season in the IHA. The Cornell skaters registered a 2-0-1 record against the University of Pennsylvania to open its first season in the IHA. However, the Big Red quickly imploded losing its next four contests including a 6-3 loss to Yale and a one-goal loss to Dartmouth. Mediocrity was not tolerated at Cornell. The University would not abide the embarrassment of a popularly supported program at the hands of other great universities. Cornell needed to correct course.
The University knew that it wanted to hire a full-time coach for the hockey program during the 1909-10 season. The midpoint of the year arrived without the University's finalizing a contract with any such coach. The team conducted its Beebe-Lake practices on December 21, 1909 as its last preparation before a trip to Cleveland, OH in late December. The Cornell squad departed for Cleveland from Central New York. The University completed negotiations with a coach to lead Cornell's team while the team was in transit.
Cornell University hired Talbot Hunter of Ontario to lead the University's hockey program. Hunter was a well regarded figure among the professional hockey ranks. Hunter before his hiring as head coach of Cornell hockey was a professional player and coach who contributed to some of the most successful Canadian teams of the era. Legends in the margins of the annals of Cornell hockey history surmise that Talbot Hunter was accepted as Cornell's hockey coach when the University mailed him a train ticket from Toronto to Cleveland to join his new team. Hunter would join his team mid-season at Elysium Rink.
Talbot Hunter intercepted his team on New Year's Eve in Cleveland. His first day of practice with his team showed little promise in the next day's result. Yale defeated Cornell, 5-3, on New Year's Day. Two days later, the Elis downed Ezra's boys by the same margin again. A faint glimmer of hope may have been apparent in the third meeting between the teams of the third-oldest university in the United States and New York's land-grant institution. Cornell won the third contest three goals scored to one goal allowed. It was Cornell's first victory over the three-time national champions in six attempts.
Hunter's magic and strategies may have begun to take root in a brief stint with his new team. A deplorable schedule of travel that had the Big Red skaters traveling from Cleveland to Manhattan, back to Ithaca, and then back to Manhattan all within four days's time took its toll on an improving Cornell team.
Talbot Hunter coached his first contest at St. Nicholas Rink on January 5, 1910. Princeton won the one-goal affair. A return trip to Ithaca followed. Hunter led the carnelian and white against future archrival the Crimson for the first time in either program's history on January 8, 1910. This game again occurred at St. Nicholas Rink. The Harvard hockey program decimated the team from the aspiring great American university.
The season was not for naught. Talbot Hunter managed to improve the team markedly with just under a month's rest between contests. He placed an extreme emphasis on conditioning. His players were required to run from the Gymnasium, four years before ground broke for Barton Hall, to Beebe Lake as a warm-up and cool-down from practices. He began building the success of his second season with recruiting then-freshmen to begin training for the upcoming 1910-11 season. Hunter hosted practices for individual assessments of shooting and fundamentals in the early morning and team-based practices in the evening.
Cornell returned to New York City in early February for a rematch with Yale and late February for a first-time meeting with Columbia. Hunter's skaters controlled both affairs. The Big Red defeated the Bulldogs and the Lions by a margin of five to one. Poor early season performances against IHA competition stunted the heights to which Cornell could climb later in the season. Nonetheless, in a mere two months, Talbot Hunter carried his team to a third-place finish in the IHA. Princeton, a team that Cornell played very closely, was the eventual national champion of 1910.
The 1910-11 hockey season began early for the era at Cornell. After a third-place finish, expectations were high. Many wondered what great things Talbot Hunter could achieve with his group of Cornellians if given an entire year and the sound foundation that he built just months prior. Hunter announced the first outdoor practice of the season on December 5, 1910.
Outdoor practices were well attended events. The allure and centrality of hockey to Cornell students was obvious. Throngs of fans bundled in layers of outerwear would line the banks of Beebe Lake to watch a glimpse of the spectacle that was their skaters racing down the ice. One must remember that the donation that endowed the creation of Risley Hall would not be given for several months. Hockey was the sole reason Cornellians trekked to the northern limits of campus.
Talbot Hunter oversaw 40 would-be players at the first outdoor practice who hoped to make the final cut for the 1910-11 team. Hunter ran his dedicated icers through two hours of drills. The weather was not yet cooperating. The next few days would witness the construction of a small, temporary structure that would serve as a locker room for the hockey team on the banks of the Lake. The construction of low-rising boards to frame out the playing surface waited until the ice was more solid.
Good news came in the form of meteorological forecasts that predicted that the 1910-11 Winter would be consistently cold. This would preserve the team's ability to practice Cornell's beloved sport. Other good omens appeared in early December. The play of seniors F. H. Crassweller, F. A. Haist, N. M. Jameson, E. B. Magner, and M. F. Warner, and sophomores G. L. Choran, A. L. Dean, E. L. Douglas, E. M. Scheu, J. D. Vincent, and W. C. Wilson impressed spectators and Talbot Hunter alike. Junior goal guard M. D. Vail drew much attention with his first performance on ice against shooters in months.
Hunter who organized most of his hockey activities from Barnes Hall addressed a crowd later in December. The second-year coach responded to the palpable interest in hockey at Cornell and sought to channel it into a competitive advantage. Talbot Hunter reached out to leadership and membership for a freshman squad. This move brought Cornell hockey in line with the practices of other competitive programs. Furthermore, Hunter emphasized the communal purpose of Beebe Lake when he stated "it is my purpose to have three rinks laid out on Beebe Lake, one for varsity, one for scrub, and one for freshman practice. If only two rinks are available, I will assign certain hours in which you may do your practicing."
Cornell's season began on December 30, 1910. The Big Red would compete in its first contest in Chicago, IL. The varsity squad squared off with the freshman squad in a well attended scrimmage on Beebe Lake before the varsity squad departed for Illinois. The varsity squad defeated the freshmen 14 goals scored to two goals allowed. Crassweller with noteworthy speed and finesse played brilliantly. His break-out rushes were joined with Evans, Magner, and Vincent. Cornell seemed ready.
The team departed for the Midwest with only nine players. The arrival of the team's competitive sweaters beat its departure by one day. Cornell on this one trip would play five contests. Three were against Yale at the Ice Palace Rink in Chicago. Cornell would confront the teams of the Case School and Western Reserve University at Elysium Ice Palace in Cleveland, OH on its return trip to Ithaca.
Hunter-coached teams continued their winning ways against Yale at the Ice Palace Rink. The Ithacans downed the New-Haven natives in three contests in four days. Cornell's success did not end there. Even though the teams of the Case School and Western Reserve University were neither admitted into the IHA nor did they play with the level of play prerequisite for admission, the Big Red's skill in utterly dismantling both teams in Cleveland was reassuring for Cornell's ambitions.
National media began to take notice of Cornell hockey as an institution with which to be reckoned. A thorough dismantling of Yale in three contests, nearly doubling the Bulldogs's offensive output, made hockey critics take notice of the team and program that hailed from Beebe Lake in Central New York. Something more impressive began to happen.
During the Christmas Break, Cornell undergraduates trained from their homes to Chicago to watch their beloved team square off against that of A. D. White's alma mater. Perhaps more shockingly was the way the Cornell alumni in the Chicago area flocked to witness the contests. Current students joined alumni of the young university in the Ice Palace Rink and Elysium Ice Palace to support the program of their common alma mater. Both venues were filled to capacity. "In both Chicago and Cleveland the team was warmly received by alumni and undergraduates, who packed the houses at each contest" remarked The Cornell Daily Sun. The Cornell community was galvanized, across time and region, by its hockey program.
Hunter's men outskated their first five opponents with considerable ease. The skills of Crassweller and Magner individually and in concert gave opponents little hope of victory. Reports indicated that "[t]he Ithacans were wonderfully fast." The Big Red appeared to put on a skills demonstration in both contests in Cleveland. An 18-1 drubbing of its opponents over two contests in Ohio proved Cornell was more than ready for its IHA season that could end in a national championship. Cornell hockey was ready to step out from the shadows cast by the programs of Harvard and Yale.
The expectations of the hockey season began to merit Cornell hockey's unassailable and enviable perch atop The Cornell Daily Sun above the fold. The Cornell campus waited with quiet anticipation for the Red's first IHA contest of the 1910-11 season. Ever a program for easy schedules, Cornell would begin its campaign for its first national championship against the defending national champions. Senior center Magner would lead Cornell as captain during the season.
Misfortune befell Cornell before the skaters departed Ithaca. The nine that brought Cornell so much early season glory in the Midwest needed to be supplemented. L. B. Smith fell ill and was admitted to the University's infirmary. Talbot Hunter tabbed Haist to replace him. Haist was known as a physical presence with a knack for open-ice body checks, but his speed was not equal to that of Smith in the defensive zone. This posed a challenge against the very fast and very talented Princeton team. Additionally, weather did not cooperate. Cornell was unable to practice before it left for New York City.
St. Nicholas Rink where Cornell defeated Princeton, Yale, and Columbia during its run to the 1911 IHA Championship.
Matthews Arena where Cornell defeated Harvard and Dartmouth durings it run to the 1911 IHA Championship.
The Tigers of Princeton sought their second national championship in hockey. Their captain, Kay, led the team emotionally and tactically. Media in New York City where the contest would be played anticipated the match-up between Cornell's Crassweller and Princeton's Kay. The former was regarded as a far better stick handler. The shot of the latter lived in infamy in the minds of the Tigers's opponents. Most outside of East Hill gave a nod to history and discredited relative youth in expecting the Tigers to win.
The attitude of the institutions of Cornell University and Cornell hockey were manifested in the opening seconds of Cornell hockey's first drive for a championship. Moments after the puck was dropped, carnelian sweaters darted into Princeton's half of the ice. Right wing Vincent rushed in on Princeton's Kalbfleisch and put Cornell up by one goal. The scoring drive came but 75 seconds into the contest at St. Nicholas Arena in Manhattan. Before Princeton could establish any form of its smooth-passing game, Magner blasted a shot that put the Upstate New Yorkers up by a two-goal margin.
Princeton began to establish its game and pressed into Cornell's end of the ice. The Tigers would be demoralized soon. Every time that Princeton penetrated the Big Red's zone, the physicality of players like Haist and Warner repelled the orange-and-black skaters. Frustrations boiled over for the Tigers as the first half lingered.
Kalbfleisch, the Tigers's goal guard, slashed Crassweller when he was about to tip another Cornell goal into Princeton's net. The penalty was called. Kalbfleisch was forced to serve it. Princeton replaced him with Blair while he served the penalty. Cornell's third and fourth goals were tallied in quick sequence after the slashing call. Magner and Vincent both notched their second goals of the contest for those tallies.
The last half of the game closed with few incidences. Cornell spent most of the final frame playing down one or two players because the officials began penalizing the Big Red for its physical play. Vail between Cornell's pipes stood tall and kept Princeton from scoring for most of the contest. The Tigers would break the deadlock off of an assist from Kay in the closing minutes of the contest.
This display of skill on 66th Street in New York City drew attention to what was rising from the frozen waters of Ithaca. The New York Press reported that "[t]he Ithaca forwards skated rings around the Tigers, and the Cornell cage men put up an air-tight defense...Princeton players were bewildered by the speed and elusiveness of Magner, Crassweller, and Vincent. The Cornell defense fully measured up to its attack, and so gloriously did Vail defend his net." After the first contests on the IHA schedule, Cornell remained the only team that had played that had not lost.
Cornell's next victory in the season would arrive again at St. Nicholas Rink. Talbot Hunter's penchants for beating the Elis would pay off again as Cornell put four goals against Yale as it had against Princeton a week prior. The Bulldogs would fare one goal better scoring two on the often indomitable Vail. Cornell went through the game with no penalties and no claims of roughing against it.
Skillful passing and strategic examination of the ice led the New-York Tribune to note that "the Ithacans seemed to have mastered [good team play]." The Tribune might have become the first periodical to characterize Cornell hockey as working with "machine-like precision" that evening in January 1911.
The headlines on Tuesday January 23, 1911 did not boast of the victory over Yale. It was apparent what Cornellians wanted. It was obvious what they expected. And, it was even clearer from whom they wanted to exact it. The front page of The Cornell Daily Sun pronounced in bold, exaggerated typeface that the "Harvard Game May Decide Championship."
Cornell and Harvard had met only once. It occurred during the previous season. The Crimson eviscerated the Big Red by a five goal-to-nothing margin. Cornell was an institution founded in contradistinction to the values and practices of the older establishment. It was its hockey team's opportunity to bring its influences to bear on the skaters of Harvard.
Cornell and Harvard advanced through the IHA schedule with two victories and no losses. The common opponent that both teams defeated was Princeton. The Crimson downed the Tigers by one goal more than had the carnelian and white. Harvard's other victory came against Columbia. Cornell and Harvard implemented similar styles of play. Harvard dominated possession and territorial play in all of its early IHA outings.
The advantage that Cornell possessed? Goaltending. No goal guard in the IHA had proven as durable or skillful as Malcolm Vail. The campus on East Hill began to place palpable weight on the importance of Vail's play to ultimate victory over the Crimson. Cornell returned all of its starters from its first trip through the Midwest just before the Harvard contest.
The game that likely would decide the national championship of the 1910-11 season was played at Matthews Arena, then Boston Arena. Cornell would travel nearly 350 miles for the weighty contest while Harvard would grapple in its home rink. Harvard played the deciding game on the ice on which its skaters practiced.
The home-ice advantage on Boston's artificial ice surface did little to hold off the Cornellians. Vail held off a bevvy of challenges from the Cantabs. The two future rivals exchanged goals. The two halves of regulation would not be enough to decide the contest of national relevance. Cornell and Harvard were tied at two apiece.
Cornell proved that despite the advantages that tilted in Harvard's favor, Cornell was the equal or better of the Crimson. The overtime stanza began. The minutes drudged by as each team exchanged chances. Harvard, accustomed to dominating territoriality with its "stick artists," was reduced to equality against the precise machinations of Cornell hockey. Ten minutes elapsed in the additional frame. Cornell's Vincent pounced on an opportunity and buried the puck into Harvard's cage. The sophomore scored what the Cornell team and fans assembled knew was likely the marker that would make Cornell national champions.
Cornell had two tests remaining in the season. However, after downing the formidable programs of Princeton, Yale, and Harvard, a feeling of inevitability dwarfed the challenges that Columbia and Dartmouth seemed to present. The task fell to Talbot Hunter to keep his second-year team motivated. If Cornell lost its remaining contests, defeating Harvard would be for naught as the Crimson could rise past the Big Red for the national title. Hunter dedicated himself to ensuring his team would not relent.
Cornell returned to St. Nicholas Rink in New York City on February 10, 1911 for a meeting with Columbia. Hunter had achieved his goal. The team seemed more focused and disciplined than it had even in its performance that dismantled Harvard on the Crimson's home ice. All-American rover Crassweller connected with right winger Vincent for the first goal of the evening. Cornell struck less than three minutes into the contest.
Vincent solved Columbia's Washburn again for Cornell's second tally of the game. The Lions of Morningside Heights attempted many breakouts successfully against the Big Red, but the poise and skill of the Cornell defense defused all of their chances and outlet rushes back into Columbia's zone. Cornell's captain, Magner, lifted the Big Red to a three-goal lead before the first half expired. Magner's first tally of the evening was scored off of a beautiful breakaway during which he split Columbia's Bates, Lovejoy, and Trimble before depositing the puck into the Lions's twine.
Magner scored again in the second half of the contest. Cornell retreated to defend its four-goal lead for the remainder of the contest. Columbia leveled far superior chances in the second half against Cornell. Cornell's defense and Vail were more than equal to the task. Cornell and Vail left St. Nicholas Rink with their second shutout of the season.
Harvard entered its final contest with a lone loss. A Crimson victory and a Red loss would tie the two in the IHA championship standings. Avoiding a tie with Harvard was not the only thing occupying the thoughts of the skaters on East Hill. Perfection drove them at this point. Cornell returned to Matthews Arena for the final game of the season. Championship glory and unprecedented success were what it sought.
Crassweller, Magner, and Vincent set the tone of the final contest early. Cornell was cheered on by 2,000 spectators that crowded Matthews Arena. Current undergraduates at Cornell and alumni dominated the number of attendants that evening like similar crowds had in Chicago, Cleveland, and New York. They were mesmerized as Vail made Dartmouth's best salvos look "foolish." Dartmouth rallied after Cornell's Magner and Vincent put the Indians behind by two goals early and Dartmouth traded starting goal guard McCarthy for Norris. Raucous applause from fans was regularly reported.
Magner's last-seconds goal to end the first half pleased the Cornell fans in attendance. Dartmouth resolved not to go quietly. The skaters from New Hampshire increased the physicality of the contest. This tactic proved ill-advised as it was Dartmouth, not Cornell, that needed to request a timeout four time for unconscious players. Cornell grew complacent in Dartmouth's end.
Dartmouth center Stucklen retrieved the puck and raced down ice unopposed on Vail. No Cornell skaters could arrest the impending offensive opportunity. Vail was not equal to Stucklen's shot and a momentary team lapse denied Vail his third shutout of the season. Crassweller, Magner, and Vincent responded to expand the lead back to three goals. Scheu and Warner played more disciplined and limited the quality of the few opportunities that Dartmouth had on Vail.
Cornell realized that it had a meeting with destiny. As time wound down, Cornell did not relent. The puck stayed in Dartmouth's and Norris's end. Crassweller from the corner of the playing surface at Matthews Arena sent the puck from a tight angle across ice toward the net. The puck slipped between Dartmouth's goal guard and the post into the net. Vincent appeared to score moments later, but officials waived it off. It was little disappointment to the Red skaters. They were national champions.
Cornell's victory that evening on February 18, 1911 was historic. The Big Red became the winningest team in the short history of college hockey. Cornell completed the season undefeated and untied. A flawless 10-0-0 record belonged to Cornell during the 1910-11 season. Cornell was not the first undefeated, untied team in the IHA era of college hockey. Harvard had achieved that feat in 1903. Cornell was the first to win as many games and the first program to equal a decade of wins in a season.
The skaters of Talbot Hunter were the best conditioned, most disciplined, and most skilled collegiate hockey team assembled to that point. So well trained and focused were the members of Cornell's 1910-11 team that Talbot Hunter never made any in-game substitutions during the entire season. His team was great. Its skaters trusted in their preparation.
The same seven Cornellians who began each contest competed every minute for the eventual victory. This was in contrast to the frequent substitutions that the Big Red's opponents made to relieve fatigue and attempt to reinvigorate their teams. Hard-fought and long contests did little to dilute Cornell's product. Cornell scored 20 goals during the IHA Championship series. Magner and Vincent each contributed nine. Crassweller, the rover who served often as the catalyst for scoring opportunities, notched the remaining two goals. Vincent became the highest scoring winger in the young history of college hockey.
The odds were starkly against the 1910-11 team. The members of that team were forced to play each contest on the road. Further exacerbating the challenges for the enormously successful team is the fact that Talbot Hunter and his skaters practiced and planned on natural ice. All contests of the regular season and the IHA championship were played on artificial ice surfaces. The perseverance and hard work of the 1910-11 Cornell hockey team is distinctly Cornellian in nature. It overcame grave odds to achieve greatness.
The odds overcome and the skill demonstrated were not lost on national media. The Boston media, long naysayers of Cornell hockey as a product of New York and resistant to singing the praises of the squad as had the media from New York City, relented and came to an astonishing conclusion after the Dartmouth game. The Boston hockey intelligentsia "pronounced the Cornell team as the best seen in the Intercollegiate field in years." Many programs that wished to safeguard their perch as all-but-guaranteed national champions felt a chill of foreboding emanating from Central New York.
This fear of eclipsing dominance creating irrelevance for proud programs was not a new phenomenon. Harvard, Yale, and Cornell were the Big Three of academics and athletics in the late 19th and early 20th Century. The respect between these institutions was so entrenched that Harvard and Yale invited Cornell to participate in the first and inaugural Harvard-Yale-Cornell regatta in 1897. Cornell won the three-way race handedly. In protest and fear of Cornell's dominance, Harvard and Yale decided that Yale, the second-place finisher, actually won the contest and that Cornell would be invited no longer.
This theatricality followed Cornell's indomitable performance in the 1910-11 hockey season. The Harvard Crimson in September 1911 cautioned that "[s]kating has always been one of the chief pastimes at Cornell, and inasmuch as they have a great many Canadian students there with whom hockey is the favorite sport, it looks as though the Ithacans would carry off the honors in this particular field for a good many years to come." Harvard, a four-time IHA national champion that won in 1909, feared what might come if Harvard continued to compete for national titles against Cornell. The fact that Hunter and his outgoing seniors began preparing a team for a nation-title defense the day after they returned to campus exacerbated fears. As what happened to the Harvard-Yale-Cornell regatta happened to the IHA with Cornell as a member.
Columbia was ejected from the IHA at the close of the 1911-12 season. The Lions were reported to be playing with players that were not students at Columbia University. The IHA did not permit this as a violation of the spirit of intercollegiate athletics. Suspicions began to be directed at Harvard for similar practices as well.
The last season that the IHA functioned as a healthy regulator of intercollegiate hockey was the 1911-12 season. Two national champions were crowned over 1913 and 1914, but the seasons lacked the oversight and regulation that had been expected since 1899. The IHA that had ceased to exist effectively one season after Cornell won a national championship would cease to exist entirely after the 1913-14 season.
Two decades with a lack of centralized control over college hockey followed a flight from the IHA that Cornell's dominance partially prompted. In 1934, the Quadrangular League was formed and its champions exchanged the Hobey Baker Trophy. The Trophy was named for valiant American war hero and Princeton alumnus, Hobey Baker. Baker had been a freshman at Princeton University when Cornell won the 1911 national title. Harvard had regained the good graces of Dartmouth, Princeton, and Yale by 1934. Cornell had not.
This era that was a direct result of Talbot Hunter's and Cornell's improbable perfect 1910-11 season shaped the history of Cornell hockey. Without a governing body to ensure regular match-ups, Cornell developed closer ties and rivalries with programs within New York. Cornell reignited its series against Army in 1914. Cornell's long-standing series with Colgate began during the 1920-21 season. The first ice encounter between Clarkson and Cornell occurred in 1923. Cornell reopened its series against RPI in 1924 after 16 years of neglect. St. Lawrence first became a fixture on Cornell's schedule in 1927. Union College traveled to Ithaca, NY in 1928 for the first installment of that series.
Cornell defines itself as the embodiment of Upstate New York hockey or, at the very least, as having a connection with the hockey culture of New York. This facet of Cornell's identity would not exist had Talbot Hunter not led his skaters to dominance over the best programs of Cornell's more natural peers. This onetime apparent misfortune is a happy coincidence. It made Cornell hockey what it is today. It was not just the culture born in the aftermath of the 1910-11 season that affects Cornell greatly, but also that which was experienced during it.
With each passing victory on distant ice surfaces, Cornell fans grew to expect greatness and anticipate championships. Even though the 1911 IHA Championship was the first championship that Cornell had won, it was apparent that the devotion of Cornell hockey fans demanded success, and that their coaches and players would deliver it. Hunter, Crassweller, Evans, Haist, Magner, Scheu, Vincent, and Warner were the first to deliver. The institutions of Cornell hockey, even if only on some subconscious level, have not been the same since that season.
The 1910-11 season has become overshadowed. Harkness brought unequaled greatness to East Hill in another era. Schafer instilled pride and expectations back into a program from Lynah Rink that has known four championship coaches. As important as both are, neither created a tradition on their own. They built upon what existed.
Some have dispensed with the Beebe-Lake era as a footnote. Those who do so are partially correct. The outdoor era was a footnote in that it is the underlying substantiation that impels programs at Cornell hockey to greatness. Few hallmarks define Cornell hockey. They are skill, hard work, and support of zealous fans. All three were omnipresent during the 1910-11 season; eight years before Ned Harkness was born.
There is a sad irony in the fact that the perfection of the 1910-11 season has been forgotten. A mere two days after Cornell claimed victory against Dartmouth to clinch the 1911 national championship, editors of The Cornell Daily Sun wrote of the splendid members of the 1910-11 team and their accolades that "[t]hey stand as an example for other minor and major sports to follow: they deserve all the honor that is due to a model team for surely their season has approached the ideal, and may be set down in history as a time most pleasing to remember." It has been a time forgotten for far too long. It should be no longer.
Even though their names or the positions they played may be alien at first, it is important to celebrate what they achieved for the institution of Cornell hockey. They were Cornellians who elected to represent their University in hockey. They were not recruited to lace up skates for an organized team. They were students like any other. It was through their hard work and resolve that they brought Cornell its first national championship in hockey. They incited the passions of fellow students and alumni to travel to distant cities to manifest their support.
The names of Crassweller, Magner, Vincent, and Vail may not be as memorable as those of Dryden, Lodboa, Nethery, Schafer, Nieuwendyk, Moulson, or Scrivens, but they should be no more forgotten. It is true that Harkness and Schafer have lifted more championship trophies for Cornell hockey than have any other coaches, but it was Hunter who hoisted the first. Harkness patented "the Big Red machine" and Schafer engineered "the dream-crushing, soul-devouring juggernaut," but first it was the 1910-11 team that executed with "machine-like precision." Teams of Harkness and Schafer may have precipitated The Line, the Lynah Faithful, and Lynah East, but the seeds of all were sown in December 1910 in Chicago as Talbot Hunter and nine Cornell skaters prepared to bring hockey greatness to Cornell for the first time.
A depiction of a hockey contest at St. Nicholas Rink where Cornell defeated Princeton, Yale, and Columbia during its perfect season.
1911 National Champions
F. H. Crassweller, Evans, F. A. Haist, E. B. Magner (C), E. M. Scheu,
L. B. Smith, Malcolm Vail (G), J. D. Vincent, M. F. Warner
The Cornell women's hockey team continues its effort to claim the program's fourth ECAC Championship this weekend at Cheel Arena in Potsdam, NY. If members of the Lynah Faithful are able, they should make the trip to the North Country to support our great women's team. There are no split obligations this weekend, Faithful. The men are idle during this first weekend of the 2014 ECAC Hockey Tournament. This is the time of season the Lynah Faithful live for.
If you lack the motivation to make the trip, this video set to the sounds of Pitch Perfect, a film based partially off of a book by a Cornellian, should put you in a more appropriate state of mind. Go support the Lady Rouge!
The bracket above represents the field of the 2014 ECAC Hockey Tournament. WAFT will update this graphic as games are completed. You will be able to check back and see the progression of the field. Furthermore, any results or stories of relevance that the writers of WAFT wish to draw to our readers's attentions will be posted in subsequent posts. For those unfamiliar, ECAC Hockey follows a reseeding model in which the lowest seed will play the highest seed and so on throughout each round of the tournament. The brackets above represent that. Cornell earned a first-round bye after the weekend's results when Cornell defeated Harvard, Yale stumbled, and Clarkson failed to get a sweep with a winless Cornell weekend. WAFT's coverage of the men's hockey team will resume from its hiatus next week when Cornell prepares for its first weekend in the playoffs. The time of year that all Faithful wait for eagerly is almost upon us.
Will Brian Ferlin's rush toward an overtime tally against Yale be remembered as the beginning of Cornell's run to playoff glory?
That went well.
Coach Schafer opened the weekend by praising Eric Freschi for responding to the choice to switch him out of the line-up. Freschi responded with a berserker-like effort against Clarkson after sitting against St. Lawrence. John Knisley responded similarly after being scratched in the weekend against the North Country. John Knisley put Cornell on the scoreboard early against a Yale squad that hoped to put Cornell on its heels in the early minutes.
Buckles, Knisley, and Kubiak outworked the Bulldogs in the corner. Kubiak found Knisley behind the net. The Pittsford native converted a small-circumference wraparound shot and sent the puck under Lyon. Cornell took a 1-0 lead just over two minutes into the contest. Realizing it was antithetical to Cornell's mentality to take the easy route to do anything, the Big Red dutifully fell behind by two goals before the first frame ended.
Cornell allowed Yale to get several chances on Iles down low. The senior netminder made three quick saves in transition, but could not quite stop a blast from the left face-off circle for Yale's first tally. The second goal saw Yale borrow a page out of Cornell's script as the Bulldogs found the back of the Red net with less than a minute remaining in the period. A bad neutral zone turnover at Yale's blueline led to an odd-man rush that neither Ryan nor Iles could prevent.
It was up to the likes of Buckles, Knisley, and Kubiak again to lift the Big Red onto their shoulders. Cornell came out for the second period buzzing and dominating more than it had in the closing minutes of the first period. However, an early penalty in Yale's favor managed to abet the seemingly inevitable for a few minutes.
The line rushed in on Yale. Several chances developed. Then, Buckles re-directed the puck cross-ice to Knisley to snipe it into the net. The shot was slightly off-target, but Kubiak recollected the puck in a scrum and buried it in the twine. It was apparent which line was the hardest working consistently that night.
The game was knotted. It would remain that way for nearly 40 minutes. Cornell may have grappled its way to a tie on the mantra of expecting the unexpected, but the game was won in a way that was truly expected. Cornell's stars came out to down the defending national champion.
The goal was highlight reel-worthy
and left an impression on Yale fans. Joakim Ryan blocked a shot and deflected it toward Brian Ferlin. Ferlin collected it on his stick and rushed in on an exposed Alex Lyon. The entire Yale squad on the ice gave pursuit. It was to no avail. Ferlin bounded over the line with his characteristic skating style and the new-era Yale skaters could not keep pace. Yale's Obuchowski made a last-ditch effort to hook Ferlin as the Cornell forward's sights zeroed in on the net. It was for naught. Ferlin wrist a shot mid-breakaway onto the top shelf of the net. Appropriately, 17 seconds remained.
Coach Schafer in post-game interviews after the Brown contest implied what many of the Faithful feel themselves. The Cornell-Yale series has become such a proving ground that the emotional letdown after it is dangerous, especially when a talented Brown laid just ahead. Cornell weathered the cathartic letdown and won the contest.
In a goal that many, including this writer, thought was potted by Jake Weidner, Cornell took the lead off of a gritty pileup in front of Tyler Steel. The goal was eventually awarded to Buckles with Kubiak and Weidner receiving assists. The game-winning goal was scored off of a play from Joel Lowry in the neutral zone. Lowry muscled a Brown skater off of the puck and broke out into the Bears's zone. Lowry passed the puck to Bardreau who found the back of the net. It was the first goal for the Lowry-Bardreau-McCarron line since an outing against New Hampshire.
The efforts last weekend were satisfying. Cornell played like a Cornell squad of the 2010s. It dazzled opponents and college hockey fans with goals of sheer beauty like those of Knisley, Ferlin, and Bardreau, but also had the grit and resolve to score the ugly goals that are needed with the tallies from Kubiak and Buckles. Some of the hardest working players who were most integral to Cornell's victories this weekend, Buckles, Knisley, Kubiak, and Weidner, have been the least sung.A Note About Importance
Anyone who does not follow WAFT on twitter missed a few historical notes that we shared after Cornell's victory over Yale. Contests against the reigning national champion are not all too common. In the NCAA era, Cornell has played the defending national champion only 23 times. Cornell's record against the defending national champion is 10-10-3 all-time. When the national champion also is an in-conference foe, Cornell's record improves to 9-5-1.
The two times that the defending national champion has been a member of ECAC Hockey since the Divorce, RPI in 1985-86 and Harvard in 1989-90, Cornell never swept the series with those teams. The Big Red went 1-1-0 against RPI and 2-2-0 against Harvard when each was the reigning national champion. Coach Schafer's sweep of Yale gave Cornell its first post-Divorce sweep of an in-conference national champion in program history.The Next Challenge
Cornell will face no new foes until the national tournament begins. The back half of a series with Colgate looms ahead for Cornell. Both programs have much to prove in this rematch.
Some from the Colgate faction have acted as though Cornell's play and status is stationary while their performance is dynamic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both Colgate and Cornell are very different teams than when the two met in early December. Both have gained particular strength and exposed certain weakness.
The offense of the Raiders has improved to the degree of scoring 17.9% more goals per game. Colgate now comfortably averages more than three goals per game. Perhaps more startlingly, Colgate surrenders a modest 2.33 goals per game to its opponents in the second half as compared to the 3.53 goals allowed per game that the Raiders carried into Lynah Rink. Want to belabor a point? Colgate's power-play unit has converted on 25.0% of its power-play opportunities since the Raiders settled for a tie in Ithaca.
Colgate's special teams have increased on the defensive side of play as well. The Raiders's penalty kill has upticked from allowing conversion on 20.3% of opportunities allowed to since allowing opponents to convert on only 18.4% of opportunities. Colgate during its recent run of success, including a shootout win against Minnesota, has become a very difficult team against which to play.
Colgate's offense has become more balanced since the meeting in December. Prior to the December meeting, only seven skaters averaged more than one-tenth of a goal per game. Only Kyle Baun, Darcy Murphy, and Tylor Spink averaged more than 0.40 goals per game. Since the encounter on East Hill, 12 members of the Raiders now average more than one-tenth of a goal per game. High-end production has given way to a balanced attack. No player averages more than 0.50 goals per game now, and only Tylor Spink remains above 0.40 goals per game, but seven skaters average one-third of a goal per game or more. Spiro Goulakos has tied for second in terms of offensive production per game since the first game in the series.
Charles Finn between Colgate's pipes has gotten much better in addition to becoming Don Vaughan's de facto
starter. His save percentage has improved from a 0.878 to a 0.922 since he held Cornell to two goals. Despite these performances, Colgate has averaged a scoring margin in its recent run of less than one goal per game in its favor.
Colgate is a great team this season and is a very difficult team to play against. Cornell is too. Cornell's offense has become more balanced. Every line from Ithaca has contributed over its last two series. Frankly, it is amazing to watch.
If Joel Lowry regains his scoring touch that carried Cornell early in the season, then the point of the Red's offense will become even more precisely honed. Lowry has generated considerable opportunities, but the involvement of such a talented scorer cannot be long absent from the line-up without eventually costing the Big Red. His linemates, Cole Bardreau and John McCarron, also need to prove that last weekend's game-winning goal marked a return to production, not an aberration in the second half of the season.
Do we need to mention Andy Iles? He has played very well since the contest against Colgate. Furthermore, over his last three outings, he has delivered performances that are up to his expected level as senior Cornell netminder. His goals-against average is below two goals per game in the second half and his save percentage has inched above 0.930. Iles will be an essential element in almost all foreseeable contests. He realizes that and he will continue to be central to Cornell's success. Cornell's balanced attack should help do more than erase any mishaps that inevitably happen.
Cornell needs to score on the power play. What happened? Cornell has generated offense and has nearly perfected opportunistic finishing on even strength, but has failed to find the back of the net even on its best executed power-play opportunities. Only a few times since the first Colgate game has Cornell's power play looked hapless, but that provides only minor consolation when considering the recent drought of power-play scoring.
The Big Red faced the Raiders with a power-play unit that converted 26.2% of the time that it took the ice. This second-half Cornell squad has converted on 4.8% of its power-play chances since the first Colgate game. Over the same span, only Alabama-Huntsville has a worse conversion rate on the power play. This drop-off of 81.7% in efficiency, despite any glaring shortcomings in the on-ice product, needs to be addressed this weekend. If Cornell does not solve this, it will be fatal.
Colgate is headed into this contest in the hopes of proving that last weekend was an anomaly. Cornell endeavors to prove that last weekend was not and that this Cornell squad is even better than a tie against a very good Colgate team. Both teams are determined and both teams are poised for post-season success. This game is a great test of Cornell, much like previous contests against Harvard and Yale.
Can Cornell prove that Colgate's success crested?
Christian Hilbrich tucks away the puck and the game against Clarkson.
Looking For An Uptick
Cornell has assembled two respectable three-point weekends in a row. The two were very unlike one another. Cornell dominated Harvard from the opening face-off, then battled back twice with last-seconds goals to down the Crimson. At Dartmouth, Cornell's offense could not find a groove and could best a relatively inexperienced Big Green netminder only once in the contest. Against St. Lawrence, Cornell was expected to win. It was almost undeniable that if Cornell could hold the Saints to two goals, the Big Red would win. The Red jumped to a 2-0 led. Then it became complacent. Greg Carvel used his timeout to great effect and spurred his team on to erase 2-0, 2-1, 3-2, and 4-3 deficits to tie the contest. Alternate captain Cole Bardreau had the game on his stick with a penalty shot in overtime, but could not convert. Clarkson pounced on Cornell with two tallies in the first period. The Big Red was held scoreless. Matt Buckles got the team rolling and Andy Iles settled in after an atypical outing against St. Lawrence. Cornell returned to the locker room with a 3-2 lead. The Big Red would hold onto that lead for the remainder of the contest.
Perhaps it is supporting Cornell's style of play or respecting closely contested game, but the 4-4 tie against St. Lawrence was far more disappointing than the 1-1 tie against Dartmouth. It may be time to move on, but the St. Lawrence outing was the first since the semester break where this writer found himself consistently puzzled at Cornell's play. Cornell got three points both weekends. Let's hope that Coach Schafer and the team have improved upon the defensive and penalty killing lapses that let St. Lawrence knot the contest late.
Schafer's general rule is that the Big Red should aim to split on the road and sweep at home. Cornell played two games on the road and two at home. In his ideal, Cornell would have earned six points over those contests. Cornell managed to equal that point total. So, at least in that regard Cornell's climbing of the standings is sound. However, Cornell will need a few big weekends to make up for weekends in the first half of the season that fell short of this pace.
All teams above Cornell in the ECAC Hockey standings are active this weekend. Union swings through the North Country, Quinnipiac travels to Dartmouth, Colgate exchanges with Cornell, and Clarkson battles RPI and Union. Several of those match-ups provide top-five infighting that may enable Cornell to make actual progress up the standings. The Big Red needs to make good of this opportunity.
Is the contest against Yale more psychologically important? Perhaps. However, not for the reason that some may think. The Cornell-Yale series has entered a new era. The pains of Yale's domination over Cornell in the ECAC Hockey Championship games of 2009 and 2011 are barely felt on the members of this Cornell squad. Only once in eight meetings that this senior class has played against the Bulldogs have they defeated the Big Red by a margin greater than three goals. Its last losses have been by one goal. These Cornell teams no longer live in any form of psychological dread of playing an Allain-coached Yale team.
Yale is the reigning national champion. And, can defeating the reigning national champion ever get old? In recent contests, Yale has been able to be contained. Clarkson and Brown have given the Elis their only post-semester-break losses. In both contests, the opponent held Yale in check defensively and won a war of attrition. Yale exacted revenge against Brown with a 6-0 thrashing the day after its 3-1 loss. Six goals was the most that Brown had surrendered all season. Cornell gave them the next highest total of five.
Yale averages just fewer goals per game than does St. Lawrence while allowing 1.66 fewer goals per game. Cornell and Yale are tied in terms of team defense. Yale's special teams find themselves in the bottom half of the country. It is its power-play unit that fairs much better converting 19.3% of the time on opponents. The penalty kill from New Haven ranks 42nd in the nation. Before that gives you relief, consider that Cornell has been unable to convert on three opponents over its last four games that rank worse.
Yale's roster attempts to execute the same system as it has for seasons under Keith Allain, failing to realize that the nature of its personnel are changing. There are few Christian Hilbrichs in the game, so an increase in size and weight of newer Yale recruits has made the Elis's game less up-tempo and mobile. Alex Lyon between the pipes has made up for whatever systemic shortcomings there may be elsewhere.
Lyon has produced a 0.936 save percentage since the break. He did not allow more than three goals over that span. However, it is interesting to note that in those victories over that span, Lyon has allowed only one or no goals. This save percentage places him among the ten hottest goaltenders since the end of December. Andy Iles checks in at 15th.
Brown has compiled some gaudy stories on its run to the present moment. The Bears tied Denver and Boston College, and downed Colorado College on the road. Colorado College may not be performing at its expected level, but defeating such a historic program in its own building is noteworthy. The return to league play has been less forgiving for the Bears. They have averaged only a 0.500 record since returning to conference play.
Brown's special teams rank in the bottom 20 of the nation. The Bears allow opponents to convert 24.4% of their power-play opportunities. Tyler Steel in net cannot be underestimated. He has seen challenges from some of the most skilled forwards in the nation and has performed admirably. A modest 0.911 save percentage represents his performance since the Bears resumed play in the second half of the season.
Room for Improvement
Solving Steel may prove as difficult as solving Lyon despite the fact that Brown averages surrendering three goals per game since the semester's break. Andy Iles will need to keep his play at a high level to outperform both netminders. Furthermore, Cornell needs to keep its scoring momentum from the Clarkson contest.
Scoring for Cornell has been entirely unpredictable and unreliable. Three different lines scored on Saturday while in a four-goal outing on Friday, only one could find the back of the net. The line of Hilbrich-Mowrey-Ferlin has scored eight of the 11 goals that Cornell has tallied since resuming in-conference play. Meanwhile, the line of Lowry-Bardreau-McCarron has not scored since a two-goal outing against New Hampshire. Cornell's depth has carried it to success so far, but extreme reliance, to the effect of 72.7% of Cornell's offense, on one line is a decided weakness.
The mixed message of Cornell's scoring continues if one delves into other interesting statistics. Cornell is fourth in the nation in terms of its rate of scoring goals when it takes a shot on net. The Big Red finds the back of the net on 11.6% of the shots that it takes. Also, Christian Hilbrich, who has become quietly Cornell's second-most productive goal scorer, leads the nation in converting shots into goals. One-third of the shots that Hilbrich takes find their way behind the opposing team's netminder.
Cornell's power play, which led the nation for a brief several weeks, has fallen to six in the nation. More alarmingly, the Red power-play unit has not converted in its last 15 outings. That is five complete games without a Cornell power-play goal. Cornell hockey is won along the boards and in special teams, and allowing such a drought is antithetical to how Cornell hopes to play and how it said it would win this season. Engaging the Lowry-Bardreau-McCarron line and converting on the power play are high priorities for proving that this Cornell team is headed in the right direction.
These road tests may be challenging but they are fraught with opportunities.
Joakim Ryan's play honors a long-standing legacy of dynamic Cornell defensemen.
Two members of the 2013-14 Cornell team have been chosen for fan votes
in the earliest stage of the Hobey Baker Award process. Senior netminder Andy Iles and junior defenseman Joakim Ryan. The contributions of Iles to the program over his already storied career are many of a growing contingent. He has honored Cornell's legacy of terrific goalkeepers. As good of an athlete as he is, he is an equally or surpassingly good person. However, it was not Iles, but Ryan whom USCHO highlighted recently to analyze the likelihood of the first ECAC Hockey Hobey Baker Award recipient since Lane MacDonald of Harvard in 1989. This writer agrees in the conclusion that of skaters, Joakim Ryan is the most likely recipient of the Award from ECAC Hockey.
Joakim Ryan's game dominates both poles of the ice. During parts of the early going in the season, it may have seemed that he was sacrificing offensive production and opportunities at the expensive of defensive soundness, but over the last few contests, Ryan is back to being one of Cornell's most responsible and reliable defensemen behind the blue line. How do national challengers stack up to Ryan?
Cornell's junior blueliner is the third-greatest producer of points among defensemen. Ryan averages 0.95 points per game. He stands 0.01 points per game out of second place. His goal production of 0.26 goals per game places him among the ten best in goal scoring for defensemen.
One must be mindful that shots on goal are not created equally, especially with defensemen. A defenseman who has a tendency to pinch and unleash a haphazard shot has a high probability of creating an odd-man rush back into his zone as a result. The key inquiry is does a defenseman make good on his jumping into the play by keeping it in the offensive zone and possibly converting. Ryan has shown improvement on his already impressive game in the former category. The latter? The rate of shots on goal finding their way to the back of the net is a suitable standard. Ryan ranks among the top third in the nation on goals scored per shot on goal. The junior defenseman converts nearly 11% of the time the puck leaves his stick; the seventh-highest conversion rate in ECAC Hockey.
The lone blemish on Joakim Ryan's resume this season? His +/- is at a mere +5. It is a respectable figure, but modest when considering his other statistical contributions. A +5 among defenseman places him as possessing only the 15th-best +/- among defenseman nationally. Expect this statistic to trend upward as Ryan's improved defensive play in his own zone will prevent opponents's chances. He may not be able to reach the Conference-leading +16 of Quinnipiac's Danny Federico, but he should be in contention by the time the post-season arrives.
There's another defenseman in ECAC Hockey that has drawn much, admittedly deserved, attention. However, it is astounding how Ryan's performance this season dwarfs even his statistics. Shayne Gostisbehere of Union converts a mere 6.6% of the shots that he takes on net. This stands among the 20 worst among defensemen in college hockey.
When considering the four stated objective metrics, Ryan averages outranking Gostisbehere by 13 places in the standings. Even considering just points per game and goals per game, Ryan averages outranking Gostisbehere by nearly four places. This is a somewhat expected result. Considering that Cornell has produced some of the best defensemen in college hockey history, how does Ryan's offensive production compare to theirs?
Points Per Game of All-time Great Cornell Defensemen
Goals Per Game of All-time Great Cornell Defensemen
The two metrics that I compare in the graphs above are offensive production in terms of points per game and goals per game. I chose defensemen from six distinct eras of college hockey. The use of defensemen in the offensive aspects of the game ebbs and flows over time, so as not to create sampling bias I chose great defensemen from six different eras to compare to Ryan.
The first set of statistics included is that of Walt Stanowski who was the national tournament's most-valuable player in 1967 and who played with the Big Red from 1965 to 1968. The next set was that of Dan Lodboa, most-valuable player of the 1970 national tournament and referred to as "the Bobby Orr of college hockey." Lodboa played from 1967 to 1970. The 1975-78 era is typified by the offensive minded play of all-American defenseman Pete Shier whose statistics are representative of the highest-scoring era in Cornell hockey history. Mike Schafer's production during the time from 1982 to 1986 captured the play of offensive defenseman during the late Reycroft Era. Doug Murray, known for his blast of a shot on the power play during a Frozen-Four run, provides a good representative of offensive Cornell defensemen in the early 2000s. A return to more mobile and scoring-oriented Cornell defensemen in the 2010s is captured in the skills and career of Nick D'Agostino.
The graphs above show comparisons of point production and goal scoring per game for each player mentioned. If the key is unclear, from the foreground to the background in each season it progresses from Stanowski to Ryan in chronological order. The freshman seasons for Stanowski, Lodboa, and Shier are necessarily zeroed because during that era the Ivy League did not permit freshmen to play on varsity squads. The senior campaign for Ryan is necessarily zeroed as it has not happened.
What do these comparisons reveal? Of the three defensemen who played four seasons at the varsity level, Ryan's point production in his freshman season trailed behind only that of Nick D'Agostino. Joakim Ryan trailed no four-season defenseman in terms of goals per game in his freshman season.
The arc to Ryan's junior rate of production is not a smooth one. Ryan dipped below Schafer in terms of goal production his junior season. His sophomore season saw him outperform no stated defensemen in terms of goals per game. His point production that season did surpass the associated rates of Stanowski, Schafer, and D'Agostino during their sophomore seasons.
Ryan's current trajectory of point production for his junior campaign has him outproducing Schafer, Murray, and D'Agostino in their junior seasons. Stanowski, Lodboa, Shier, and Murray all outpaced Joakim Ryan's current rate of goal scoring. Ryan is off the pace of Stanowski's and Murray's goal scoring by factors less than 47%. However, the junior-season goal production of Lodboa and Shier, both at 0.55 goals per game, is over double Ryan's current goal production.
It is clear that Lodboa and Shier represent an unequaled and untarnished gold standard of great offensive defensemen at Cornell. It is interesting to note that Ryan is a mere 0.15 points per game off of tying Shier's 1.10 points per game production of his junior season. If Ryan can muster a marginal improvement of 15.7%, he will tie the legendary Red defenseman's total.
All but two of the cited defensemen increased their offensive production from their junior to senior seasons. For Joakim Ryan, the best is likely yet to come. What is striking about this analysis is how he measures up against Cornell greatness already. Ryan may not be an all-time great offensive defenseman in Cornell hockey history yet, but he has proven that he is one of the best playing college hockey today.
Dustin Mowrey sizes up Michalek and finds him wanting as Mowrey scores the game winner against Harvard.
A New Measure of Success
What did you find yourself asking yourself after last weekend's series? I know what I did. Isn't a three-point weekend great?
Such is the mindset of a member of the Lynah Faithful after the jarring experience that was last season. The mental gash that remains from watching one of Cornell's most talented teams in recent memory not reach the championship weekend, something that had become all but a birthright for Cornell teams, is slow to fade. This lends itself to a certain degree of pessimism and alarmism. Who can blame us? It has been four years since a Whitelaw Cup was hoisted.
Further exacerbating the situation is the competitive congestion atop the ECAC Hockey standings. While Cornell got three points, the one other team in action above Cornell in the standings got four points. However, taking a page out of Schafer's and most great coach's playbook, I took a deep breath and realized that if the process is there, the results will take care of themselves. The process was there.
Last weekend, Cornell manifested archetypical Cornell hockey. The Big Red dominated Harvard from the first faceoff. More than half of the first period had elapsed before Andy Iles even had to make a save. During that time period, Harvard even benefited from a power play. Cornell came to win the contest. It would do that.
It was on said power play that Madison Dias collected an up-ice pass from Joakim Ryan at the blue line. Dias, who showed a knack for puck placement in the second half last season, slapped a shot into the upper glove-side corner of the net. It was Cornell's first shorthanded goal of the season. It was Dias's first goal of the season. It was not Cornell's last of the night.
The adrenal and theatricality of the rivalry between Cornell and Harvard was on extreme display. Christian Hilbrich and Brian Ferlin on a last-seconds rush down the ice before the first intermission generated an offensive opportunity. Hlibrich decided to opt out of the open pass and shot from Ferlin, and deposited the puck into the corner opened by Dias minutes earlier. A goal with four seconds remaining in the period usually breaks the will of opposing team, especially when it gives a team a multiple-goal lead. Harvard did not get the memo.
Harvard converted on two opportunities that seemed benefited oddly by Cornell defensemen backchecking Harvard forwards to the ice. The second of which was a talented execution from Sean Malone behind the net to Devin Tringale. Each time, Harvard celebrated in jubilant fashion in a manner that manifested well what Harvard's broadcasters stated was a perennial season goal of Harvard: sweep Cornell in the rivalry series.
The ante was upped and once again, Cornell struck when it seemed least likely. Harvard corralled the puck behind its net. The seconds were dwindling. The Crimson, contented with taking a tie into the second intermission, did not expect a dedicated and onrushing Ferlin to challenge with puck possession behind the Harvard's net. Patrick McNally, disgraced captain of the Crimson, seemed none the sharper after his hiatus from hockey at the end of last season when Brian Ferlin with superior skill and grit muscled him off the puck.
The junior forward slid the puck from behind the net to Christian Hilbrich at the red line who found Dustin Mowrey. Mowrey sized up Michalek and exploited the same glove-side void that had proven exploitable early. The senior forward punched the air viciously in overjoy as Cornell had retaken the lead again in the closing seconds of the period. Mowrey must have known his tally would stand as the difference.
Harvard clearly improved as the contest lingered. But, Cornell was undaunted. The game transitioned from sheer Red dominance in the first 15 minutes of the contest to a well balanced contest as Harvard had found reason to play well against its rival. Despite Harvard's improvement, Cornell still tallied two of its goals when Harvard had regained footing. Cornell was generally defensively sound and creatively offensively opportunistic. Some goals were left on the ice, but Cornell did what was needed to win the contest.
Gaudet chose to start unknown James Kruger against a Cornell team that exploited clearly the weaknesses of Michalek's goaltending. It may have been the wisest choice of the evening for the Big Green. There were certainly choices made that were far less wise. Mowrey scored his second goal of the weekend less than five minutes into the contest. It seemed inevitable that more goals would come for Cornell. They would not. Dartmouth tied the game before the midpoint of the game. The game was tied. Cornell generated considerable offense in the waning minutes of the contest, but could not convert. Dartmouth was held in check by responsible defense and a stellar Iles who made the Big Green's shot differential irrelevant.
Three points and a win against Harvard. All achieved on the road, well, at least technically. Nearly three weeks without a contest against a collegiate opponent and the hangover from the Harvard game were endured in admirable fashion. Many great teams have forfeited two points to Dartmouth because of attention to the more emotional Harvard contest on the road. This team kept its focus, defeated Harvard, and took a point out of a Dartmouth team that should improve over the second half of the season.
Prior to the weekend, Coach Scott fell victim to a Freudian slip when interviewed. When asked what did Cornell need to do last weekend, he responded, "get two points on Friday." It was an honest moment of accuracy and candor. Cornell needed points against Dartmouth, but a win against Harvard infuses a jolt of enthusiasm and focus into the season.
Cornell will catch those that it needs to before the playoffs approach. It is best to be getting hot when the playoffs arrive than continue an unquenchable burn that fizzles out before contests of championship consequences are played. Cornell is warm and getting warmer.
North Country Revisited
Clarkson is on a tear through the season. There is no doubt about it. This comes as no surprise to this writer. Casey Jones seemed all but destined to have a great season. Now, his Golden Knights come to Lynah Rink. St. Lawrence has been described as the laughing stock of the Conference. However, such criticisms are entirely misplaced. The Saints went into Ralph Engelstad Arena and took a victory out of a North Dakota team that surrendered only two out-of-conference losses.
Two theories as to the disconnect exist. Maybe ECAC Hockey is that much better than every other conference in the nation including the elite programs of those conferences, so even a low-standing team can dominate a great program in a hostile environment. Or, perhaps St. Lawrence is vastly underperforming from where it once was. Choose the former at your peril.
The Saints of St. Lawrence produce offensively among the best in the nation. Their offensive production is ranked in the top ten. The Brothers Carey may have fallen out of their lofty perch in the national standings for goals scored per game, but they are still in the elite of the top 15 of the nation. They contributed nearly 40% of St. Lawrence's goals. The power play from Canton converts 30.2% of its power-play opportunities; it is the one ECAC Hockey program more lethal than Cornell on the man advantage. The Saints average nearly one and a half power-play goals per game.
However, St. Lawrence cannot keep the puck out of the back of its own net. Three goaltenders have seen action this season. None of them have produced a save percentage above 0.890. Each has a goals-against average of more than three. Only six teams in the nation have a statistically worse defense than St. Lawrence. Take pause however. One of those teams held Cornell to one goal last weekend.
Clarkson is ranked 31 places behind St. Lawrence in terms of scoring offense and a mere 33 places ahead of St. Lawrence in terms of team defense. That disparity in itself indicates the way Clarkson wins contests. The Golden Knights play with incredible balance in their game. Their power play is toward the median in the nation. It does nothing the best, but it does many things well and executes on a consistent level.
No pairing of players contributes more than 25% of Clarkson's offense. Clarkson's offense is balanced. The majority of Clarkson's skaters, 65%, have scored multiple goals this season. Greg Lewis and Steve Perry have performed admirably. The former owns a 0.895 save percentage while a 0.919 belongs to the latter. Steve Perry has seen the last two starts and Greg Lewis took the team's last loss, but Jones has made it apparent that he is still waiting to determine a durable starter.
Clarkson's main advantage is a no-frills approach to the game this season. It resembles some previous Cornell teams. Such a description is no insult, because it yields great results. It makes a team difficult to defeat because no single thing is its tool for victory. The one intangible that Clarkson has his patience. While Clarkson and Cornell resemble one another this season in their opportunism, frustration and impatience rarely plague Clarkson. This combination defeated Cornell with a goal scored with 37 seconds remaining in a game.
Clarkson's apparent weakness? Clarkson has allowed at least one power-play goals in its last three contests. Clarkson ranks 47th in the nation in terms of penalty killing. Cornell's power-play unit finding its menacing form again may be essential to the Big Red avenging its loss in the North Country in a game when goals could come at a premium. Cornell was on the verge of winning the contest against Clarkson earlier this season, but for a momentary mental and systemic lapse.
Finishing chances like those generated last weekend that lay on the ice will be crucial to success this weekend.
Ithaca.com sat down with Arthur Mintz '71 in an interview
that should be read by all familiar with the distinct way that Mintz's public announcing adds to the aura that is a game at Lynah Rink. His role in solidifying and continuing the legendary status of Cornell hockey cannot be overstated. He is what brings the goings-on of a contest to life for the Faithful. From "good evening, hockey fans" to waiting for the crowd to celebrate or defame scorers of goals to the "thank yous," the experience of a Cornell hockey game for generations of Lynah Faithful is linked intimately to the involvement and service of Arthur Mintz. In the interview, he discusses his motivations for taking the position as well as why Cornell hockey drew him in. The interview
is a good read from Chris Hooker.
"The reason I wanted the hockey job was the atmosphere at Lynah Rink. It was a big difference between one team—which was just coming off a national championship when I started and then won another national championship with the legendary undefeated team, and had always been a powerhouse in the Ivy League and in the country..."
The article in its entirety is available here
Why beat Harvard once when you can do it twice? The Big Red toppled Harvard at Lynah East on Friday. Be at Lynah Rink on January 18, 2014 at 4:00 pm when the Lady Rouge look to give Cornell its second win of the weekend over its archrival.
John McCarron looks to lead Cornell to its first win over Harvard as captain.
There is a dirty little secret in Cornell hockey right now; and it needs to die. What better place than Lynah East? What better place than now?
We all know deep down what that dirty secret is. Cornell, in recent memory, has not quite dominated its historic foil the way that it once did under Coach Schafer. Harvard's Ted "I played in the NHL" Donato has many shortcomings. He gave the Crimson five seasons under 0.500 and looks to be gifting them a sixth in the near future. Already, Donato has given Harvard 18% of the losing seasons that it has endured in its 116-year history in a mere nine seasons.
How does this relate to our collective, communal secret? Much has been made about the fact that Cornell has not defeated the Crimson since November 2011. It is true that Cornell is 2-3-1 against its archnemesis since Schafer and the 2009-10 team complied the most dominating trouncing that either participant of this rivalry has ever wrought with a 4-0-0 season record. What's alarming is how Donato has fared against the carnelian and white.
Harvard's current bench boss has held Cornell to an 11-11-2. A coach that languishes below 0.500 on a regular basis has managed to equal Cornell's record in contests that he coached against the Big Red. That span includes two Whitelaw Cup teams and four teams that narrowly missed the Frozen Four. Clearly, or Cleary if you prefer a misspelled pun, Donato has the ability to motivate his team against its rival, the fearsome Big Red hockey machine.
Let's put an end to this.
This series is the one for which the common, impassioned tropes are needed least, but come most readily. In light of the last few seasons in Cambridge, the philosophical distinction between these two athletic programs scarcely could be starker. That adds yet another wrinkle to this already rich rivalry. It is sufficient to say that the usual barbs that the Lynah Faithful level at Harvard have gained particular acuity, in many cases replacing the satire of bygone eras.
More than a Diversion
Perhaps the hardest part of Harvard Week on the road is the need to play Dartmouth. The emotional build-up or hangover, depending upon the sequence of the contests, many times proves fatal for Cornell teams. Cornell will need to avoid too great a catharsis, no matter the result against Harvard. Assistant Coach Scott stated that Dartmouth, despite its misleading record, is playing sound hockey. Usually, a member of the Faithful would consider that mere class and respect for one's opponent, but after last season, the Lynah Faithful have an appreciation for how true that can be.
Half of Dartmouth's losses have been within one goal. Among those one-goal losses are impressive performances against Providence and Union, two teams that execute at a very high level. The Big Green recently defend ECAC Hockey's honor in tackling Boston University. Yes, a win against Boston University is not worth what it once was this season, but it is a feat that Cornell could not achieve. Furthermore, in a clear battle of defenses, Dartmouth forced Northeastern to accept an 8-8 tie. Not impressed? Northeastern is nestled solidly in the prospective NCAA Tournament field presently.
Dartmouth's offense has been unable to compensate for its shortcomings behind the blue line. The Big Green scores nearly three goals per game, but surrenders on average one more goal per contest. Dartmouth's defense is ranked in the bottom five of the nation. Three goaltenders have seen action for the New Hampshire Ivy. None of them have produced a save percentage above 0.900. Charles Grant is closest at 0.895. Grant has seen all of Dartmouth's start since the middle of November. He is the netminder whom Cornell will oppose.
Depth seems to be escaping Dartmouth's offensive front. Eric Neiley has been producing a respectable season, but the attention paid to Dartmouth's less-than-stellar record has directed attention away from it. More than one-fifth of the times that the Big Green has bested an opposing netminder, it was Neiley who did it. His goal total more than and point total nearly doubles the pace of Brad Schierhorn, his nearest competitor on Dartmouth's roster.
If Cornell can shut down Neiley, then the task of defeating Dartmouth becomes much easier. Dartmouth is a team that will find a rhythm at some point this season. Cornell's greatest task will be to ensure that it does not occur at its expense. An emotional hangover after a game against Harvard and a Dartmouth team's anticipating getting hot could spell disaster for an undisciplined Cornell effort. However, this Cornell team in particular has shown that it can demonstrate keen mental and emotional discipline.
The Task at Hand
Beat Harvard. Is that not enough? A cursory glance through the annals of Cornell hockey indicates how the Cornell-Harvard series of a season sets the pace for that season. There is neither a definite nor predictable way that it does, but its influence is undeniable. These two games are the biggest of the regular season.
Harvard is mere seasons removed from owning the best power-play unit in the nation. This season, that honor nearly rests on East Hill where Cornell's power-play unit is ranked second nationally in terms of power-play conversion. Harvard has been relegated to the bottom 15 in the nation on the power play. However, Raphael Girard and the penalty killing in Cambridge have the Crimson among the nation's elite in reducing opponents's conversions rate.
Yeah, Raphael Girard. He is the near-bane of Cornell's existence in recent memory. He manages to produce stellar performances against Cornell no matter his general statistics over the season. He had a veritable implosion at Madison Square Garden last weekend. If he gets the nod, the goaltender who owns a 0.931 save percentage and 2.38 goals-against average, he will be ready to outperform both against the Big Red.
The difficulty that Harvard poses is very unlike that which Dartmouth poses. When Dartmouth begins to win, it will do so as a result of playing as a more cohesive unit in sounder systems. The opposite will be true of Harvard. Harvard will tack together a series of wins when it begins embracing its overwhelming talent and ignoring the rudiments imposed upon it. Harvard's greatest chance for success is to give into the temptations of its raw talent and play like a traditional all-star team.
Any team, like a Cornell or Union, that harnesses the skills of individual players but puts them to use for a collective, team good through sacrifice and selflessness will make quick work of an all-star approach. But, succumbing to the latter is Harvard's best chance. Harvard is awash in talent. That is its greatest threat to Cornell.
Cornell is talented. The Big Red have employed a creative and efficient power play throughout the season. The penalty kill seems poised to join its man-advantage counterparts in the second half of the season. Since Fall final exams ended, Cornell has killed every power-play opportunity that it has relinquished to opponents. That includes two stifling efforts against special teams ranked in the top 20 in the nation. Look for this trend to continue.
All hands will need to be on deck for generating Cornell's offense. The midseason exhibition contest against the Russian Red Stars indicated the promise and depth of this squad. The second half of conference play has arrived. Now is the time to realize potential. Cornell's top producers will need to continue to produce. And, it is time for more freshmen to step up.
No freshman, including Mitch Gillam, who has played in more than one contest has not tallied a point. If the freshman talent on Cornell's squad has seasoned over this brief hiatus, Cornell will have an untapped arsenal with which to challenge its historic foe. Contributions from freshmen, especially considering past results, should become an expectation rather than a surprise.
The reason that Cornell's offense will need to be spectacular is the same reason why Andy Iles will need to maintain his outstanding form from Florida. Iles has never surrendered more than two goals at Lynah East. He stood many times as the difference in Cambridge. He will have one last time to do that. If he delivers a flawless performance, he would enter another elite of Cornell netminders.
It Is Time
Cornell has the skills to make a run. What better place than here? What better time than now? Schafer and this team can put Donato back in the losing column and give Cornell its first victory over the Crimson in far too long. A suspect call on an obvious Ferlin goal erased the tally that would have stood as the game-winning marker at Lynah East. Cornell has been on the cusp of another breakout in its series with its loathsome opponent. It can begin tonight.
Here's hoping we see the carnelian and white strike the match for a red-hot run.