So, without further ado, let us celebrate the class of 2017 in numerical order. Here is some of what these contributors will miss the most.
These five seniors are (likely) playing in their final games at Lynah Rink this weekend. They did what was necessary to extend their time at Lynah this season. So, in honor of what Cornellians consider unofficial Senior Week, here is a little bit about each member of the class of 2017 as they complete their storied careers in the coming weeks. So far, these seniors have garnered a combined 189 career points (30% during this season alone) and 80 goals. They have played in a whopping 579 games in carnelian and white. These seniors already have one ECAC Hockey Championship to their names (2014) and an Ivy League title from this season. Replacement is never truly possible in Cornell hockey. Each team is unique and there never will be another like it from one year to the next. Just like the team from 2010 was different than that in both 2009 and 2011, this team, the Cornellian squad of 2016-17, is unlike any past or future, just like last year’s team was and just like next year’s team will be.
So, without further ado, let us celebrate the class of 2017 in numerical order. Here is some of what these contributors will miss the most.
Hanna is very much a leader on this team without a letter. Touted as a talent coming in and the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year in 2014, Hanna’s grit and skill combine to leave these writers with memories of overtime game-winning goals and breakout plays that will still come to mind years from now. Hanna’s presence on the ice calms players and propels them on to win. But the breakout plays that she creates are far from the only thing that distinguishes who Hanna is. You can see it in the stands as children cheer “go Hanna!” and in their eyes when she delivers to their cheers. Hanna always comes to play regardless of who her linemates are and giving up is not in her nature. Hanna’s quiet confidence and determination are going to be part of what we will miss most.
Brianna Veerman had a rougher start to her Cornell career than most. She may have an atypical finish. Her academic eligibility gives the hope that she may have another round in Red next season. Veerman did not suit up in a game during her freshman campaign. That did not, however, mean that she was any less of an integral part of the team then or this senior year’s class. As a sophomore, she surprised everyone by having a breakout year and starting in 28 more games than the previous year. This Friday will be her 28th game of the season. And Veerman has turned into more than just a reliable player on the ice. She fights and claws and even though the roster lists her as a forward, she plays on defense when called upon. She is the epitomical “everywoman” of this team. Though many unacquainted with the team may not recall her name, her absence will be a void to fill.
Sydney Smith is the only defenseman in the senior class and the best phrase to describe her is Iron Woman. Smith has played in every single game (127 of them!) during her time on East Hill. A stay-at-home defenseman in the best possible way, Smith is responsible, reliable, and necessary to the defensive success of this and every team that she has been a part of. The Alberta native found success minding the blue line in Lynah and around the country. Though her goals have been sparing, they have all been important including during time that she skated as a forward. This Iron Woman still has a few more games in her. We’re excited to see what they bring. Syd Smith will be missed as a reliable, constant presence on the blue line.
One of Cornell’s captains sits in the senior class as a woman of purpose: Kaitlyn Doering. Doering co-captains the red as a consistent scorer and backbone of the team. Ten of her points this season are goals, leaving her tied with classmate Hanna Bunton for second-most goals on the team. More impressive? Four of her ten goals this season are game winners. Doering has stepped up, already scoring three more goals than the previous season, one more than the season before that, and twice as many as she had as a freshman. It is easy to imagine the exciting freshman that Doering was, but it is impressive to see the leader that she has become. Doering has improved consistently on the ice, but her off-the-ice work as a leader is what these contributors will really miss in the effortless leadership she brings to the team.
What can we say about Big Paula? The six-foot tall senior who excels both in the net and in the classroom is the heart of this team. She is part of the nation’s best tandem in the country. Paula never fails to give this team a chance to win and her confidence and poise in the net are only part of the reason. In 85 games in net, Paula notched a career save percentage of 0.922 with eight shutouts to her name, and time in three playoff games as a freshman en route to an ECAC Hockey Championship and six other playoff games to boot. Playoffs are familiar to Paula and even when the team is not victorious, everyone knows how much she put into the game. Last year in Potsdam, Clarkson fans exalted her to this contributor. Paula’s stalwart defense and huge heart are going to be the biggest things that this contributor misses about Big Paula.
These seniors are a special quintet. Which moments will you remember from Hanna, Brianna, Sydney, Kaitlyn, and Paula? Have they already been written, or are they still yet to come?
I get knocked down, but I get up again
The time of year when the Lynah Faithful sing songs that remind them of the good times and sing songs that remind them of the bad times is nigh. The carnelian-clad mob that will ascend East Hill on Friday and Saturday cannot look too far afield whether they are on the bleachers or ice. A common sports metaphor keeps coming to the forefront of this writer’s mind. The last opponent that Cornell will face in the regular season refines the resolution of that image.
Union has been a well-oiled machine in pulverizing opponents from nearly the beginning of the season to the present. Mike Vecchione, a freshman on the Dutchmen’s last team that won a Whitelaw Cup and more, returned for his senior season with the promise that he was going to return Union to the greatness that he joined. A worthy contender for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, Vecchione has done that.
Self-forged hero Alex Rauter corralled all the momentum from a heated contest in Messa Rink in early February. Mike Vecchione threw his weight to even the contest on a short-handed goal. Union was no match for Cornell in grit and desire in Schenectady as Anthony Angello and Jake Weidner opportunistically sank the Dutchmen.
The game was essentially even largely because the Red gave the garnet-wearing homestanders the ability to re-enter a contest that Cornell should have controlled for nearly three-quarters of the game. Union tends to do that to teams. Cornell tends to do that to itself.
Cornell has settled for less than a win four times in its last nine contests. The Red held third-period leads in all of those four games. Coach Schafer’s squad charitably gave victory away in the last five minutes of half of those non-wins. Find much authorial intent in the use of the possessive proper noun in the previous sentence.
Come on, guys, this is a Schafer-coached Cornell hockey team! Where are the dream-crushing, soul-devouring blitzkrieg to an early lead and stifling, coldly methodical, strangling defense of that lead? Teams rarely should surrender third-period leads. Implosions of this frequency are blasphemous on East Hill since 1995.
Feeding into this unpredictability and instability were the performances of two of the Red’s go-to point grabbers. Mitch Vanderlaan vanished as a goal scorer for Cornell for nine games. Anthony Angello scored only four goals in the first half of the season. The game of neither ever looked entirely off, but they were not producing what the Lynah Faithful expected of them and what they expected of themselves. They were works in progress.
Cornell is a work in progress. It makes many mistakes that doom otherwise stellar efforts. Union is a work of consistency. It is doing what it needs to win now with few mistakes. So, who you got on Saturday?
The adage after a healthy lead off fits here. Baseball coaches and scouts have spirited debates about a traditional hypothetical about two prospects. One exhibits unrefined form in his stride in making his way to first base after a hit. The other’s form is exquisite in traversing the same distance. Both have the same time. Whom should you take?
The traditional answer is the former. A coach or scout sees in the former the promise of improvement with refinement. The latter, arguably, is getting already the same output as the former with no basis on which a coach or scout can improve. The latter’s upside is known. That of the former is not. The unorthodox answer is to take the latter because discipline likely will not wane and putting overwhelming faith in the promise of the former is betting on the benefits of promise. Cornell is the flailer. Union is the paragon. Now.
The Dutchmen have been restless ever since a blaring crimson alarm stirred them from a slumber. Union has held opponents at arm’s length since Harvard visited a humiliating 6-2 defeat on it. The team from Schenectady has trailed only 12:56 in the three contests since the Crimson defeated garnet. Union has won each contest.
Vanderlaan and Angello prove what happens when elements of a team with great potential begin to become refined. The two sophomores combine for eight goals in February. The Red has faced off less than eight times in the year’s shortest month. Last season’s linemates have scored 36.4% of their goals on the season in the last three weeks. Two of the contributors on whom Cornell depends have put together their whole games at the season’s most critical time.
The best center in college hockey wears carnelian. This statement is particularly bold considering that Mike Vecchione brings Union to town this weekend. Vecchione is one of the best players in college hockey. Any fan of the game should find watching him a pleasure. His scoring touch does edge out that of this writer’s preference.
The senior who hopes to take his boys on a roadtrip back home to Chicago in April is the center in every conception of the term. Jeff Kubiak is the fulcrum on which games swing. He rarely is beaten to the puck on the forecheck. He has incredible vision on the ice. Few can overpower him. He is the best distributor of the puck in the nation.
Kubiak finds or creates an opponent’s weaknesses and then exploits them. His pass and a prayer to Anthony Angello against Yale was truly divine. This Red seraph delivers similarly devastating maneuvers regularly. When all else is going wrong in a contest and suddenly something goes right, Jeff Kubiak stands at its epicenter. The senior center makes sure that the trains run on time for New York’s land-grant institution.
Coach Schafer is not pleased with this progress alone. He is more inclined to use another “p” word: pissed.
The carnelian and white’s schemer of plays used that term to describe his feelings toward his charges’s efforts in their two most recent defeats…err, non-wins (?). This contributor, one none too shy to be critical of the hockey teams that represent his alma mater when they deserve it, thought that the Red could have played better in its ties against Yale and Clarkson. However, his sentiments were admittedly far kinder than were those of Coach Schafer. The respected head coach was kindest when he said that he was “disappointed” in his team during those games.
There is a reason that Coach Schafer leads one of the teams projected to finish highly in the PairWise Rankings. He sees in teams potential. What seemed as moderately successful efforts against Yale and Clarkson to a somewhat knowledgeable observer were nothing but pain to a skilled tactician who knew his team could perform better.
Coach Schafer saw his teams in little more than a stupor. Players regularly have been out of striking position in the offensive zone. Undisciplined execution on the penalty kill keeps games thrilling for opponents when they should not be.
A trans-Atlantic pissing off is developing on Campus Road. Coach Schafer is dissatisfied and annoyed with the Red’s recent efforts. The team has appeared as though it is playing in an alcohol-induced haze for long stretches recently. Coach Schafer has two weeks to distill this team into a potent tonic.
The team is presently a sweet mash of top-shelf potential (a “p” word perhaps more loathsome than all others). The question that remains is whether the work ethic of Assistant Coach Sean Flanagan, Associate Head Coach Ben Syer, Coach Schafer, and their team will be enough to distill it into a fine bourbon (we’re makin’ bourbon because Corn’ dominates the mash, right?). They have two games and two weeks to age their product before its first crucial tasting.
Cornell hockey nearly made history last weekend. The Red was 3:15 away from sweeping in the North Country for the first time in 12 years. The last two teams to bring three points back from the North Country made the national tournament. One of them won the Whitelaw Cup. This team openly aims higher. Its coach expects more too.
The principal contributors of Where Angels Fear to Tread took the long road trip to Potsdam to witness history. No Cornell hockey team ever has swept four of the five road conference weekends since ECAC Hockey adopted the travel-partner model. The contributors were there to witness history. It was not to be.
The writers were a little disappointed despite the valiant effort. Heck, perhaps they were even a little pissed (in the American sense, not the other, we had a long drive ahead of us, remember) that this team did not write its own footnote in the annals of Cornell hockey already. Matt Nuttle’s go-ahead goal gave hope that the unexpected could happen even if the current unrefinement of this team dashed it.
The right balance may be struck. The final product may be distilled into a smooth spirit. Success of historic proportions may be on the horizon just as long as the team does not keep playing like it is drinking it.
Cornell traversed the treacherous terrain of the icy road to a post-season bye already. It did so with a week to spare. The Ithacans can fall no lower than fourth in ECAC Hockey’s standings. They can climb as high as first. The carnelian and white will need some help from maroon, and scarlet or green to climb to the highest reaches of the conference standings. The Red’s ascent is beyond its control.
Union will need to fall to Colgate on Friday and Harvard will need to produce at least its second-worst weekend in conference play for Cornell to have a chance to be jettisoned into the first seed overall. The scenarios are not that outlandish for Cornell to claim the spittoon without the first seed. Remember, this is a participation prize, every team that ties for the greatest number of points receives a souvenir.
The Crimson’s gaining only one point is most beneficial to the Schafemen. However, even a three-way tie at 32 points for Cornell, Harvard, and Union, the type that would happen if Union ties Colgate on Friday and Harvard gets as many as two points out of its senior weekend, would result in SHagwell handing Cornell some sawftware before Saturday night’s senior festivities. This presupposes that Cornell will sweep its senior weekend.
Frankly, Cornell needs to sweep its senior weekend. This contributor rarely puts things in the must-win category. But, what good is home ice in the playoffs if the Red has not dominated its ice with a weekend sweep since December? This team has swept no conference weekends at home.
There is no better time to prove this team’s worth and build this team’s confidence than to sweep two quality teams now. Union is, well, Union. RPI is flush with talent and waving the bloody shirt of preferential officiating like a flag during its goal celebration after Cornell’s late power play put carnelian over cherry at Houston Field House. Oh, yeah, the team that last prevented Cornell from defaming ECAC Hockey’s regular-season trophy was RPI in February 2012. If Cornell cannot sweep Union and RPI, it does not deserve to be in the conversation for the bedpan.
Here’s hoping we all can lap a highball after an anacelebration on Saturday night.
Your time is up, my time is now
This 2016-17 edition of Cornell women’s hockey is getting ready for the best worst time of the year. Yes, readers, that is what the playoffs are. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. All of one’s wildest dreams can be answered in the playoffs. And all of the scariest nightmares can come to life with your hopes and dreams dashed in an instant. The playoffs truly are the best worst time of year.
This team has had some big ambitions. ECAC Hockey Championships. Frozen Four Championships. Where does that all begin? Lynah Rink.
A lot of big talk was had last weekend about showing up big against the North Country teams. The first two periods of the weekend looked like it was all talk. It almost would have been better if we couldn’t have seen the first two periods of hockey on Friday night at Lynah. The third period, though? Now, that was a period that felt like this team’s time was NOW.
Many speak about leadership from upperclassmen. No doubt is leadership essential, but this third period was fueled by the freshmen and sophomores. Jaime Bourbonnais lit the lamp and Amy Curlew kept the fire raging as the game was reset.
Friday’s game is a ready-made metaphor for exactly what happens in the playoffs and it is exactly the “learning lesson” that this youthful team was in sore need of. If the first two periods are how this team plays, the final game of their seasons, of the seniors’s careers, will tick down on Saturday. If this team puts 120 minutes together as solid as the last 20 on Friday evening, their season will still be alive. If it doesn’t?
Their time will be up.
I’m slaughtering stale competition, I got the whole block wishin’
Who stands in the way of the Red’s trip to championship weekend other than its Central NY travel partner, the toothpaste itself. Crest is better, but Cornell will have to brush with Colgate if it wants to continue its season.
The Red-Raider series this year is a mirror. The Raiders came away victorious at Riggs Rink in a 2-1 decision while the Rouge took away its own 2-1 victory at Lynah. The tightness of this season’s series belies the difficulty that the Raiders will bring to Lynah Rink. Cornell and Colgate have the same number of league wins this season. The difference in standings is the number of ties that the Red has racked up.
Colgate has been a team of streaks this season, not suffering a loss until its 14th game. The Red did not even go two whole weekends without suffering its first loss. But that’s not to say that the Raiders have cooled down while the Red heated up. Cornell has had no more than seven games without a loss, its longest streak of the season, just snapped Saturday. Colgate’s last streak lasted nearly as long and also was active until this past weekend. The Raiders may be a number six seed in the playoffs, but the difference between Cornell and Colgate is less stark than the three vs. six implies.
Colgate also has done something that this Cornell team has not accomplished this season: It has beaten St. Lawrence. Colgate is not to be trifled with. Goaltending is not a weakness for the Raiders. Both their typical starter, sophomore Julia Vandyk and their freshman back-up, Liz Auby, have solid save percentages and results. Vandyk has started the lion’s share of games and, in spite of recording every loss this season, she holds a 0.924 save percentage. Auby has seen fewer starts by almost a tenth, but she has yet to lose a game.
The penalty kill for the Raiders is strong: almost 91%. How does that compare nationally? Only behind Boston College and another familiar foe for the Red: Wisconsin. Colgate’s penalty kill is more than just “solid,” it is amongst the best in the nation and has scored as many short-handed goals as Cornell has. Special teams are not going to be an easy way to beat the Raiders. Cornell edges Colgate in terms of power play, but barely. The 1.5% of edge that Cornell has on Colgate accounts to just one more power-play goal in 66 opportunities. Given that Cornell has only had twice that many opportunities in the entirety of the season, that sort of edge is unlikely to be beneficial in a two-game series.
Cornell sits in an unenviable seven spot in the PairWise Rankings. Beating Colgate (11) will likely do little to push the Red in. Losing to Colgate will certainly end the Red’s season for good. The time is past for Cornell hoping for an at-large bid to make the NCAA Tournament. If this team has Frozen Four ambitions, there is only one sure-fire way to make it there: earn a spot.
Is Cornell’s time up…or is it now? Only time will tell.
The unthinkable has happened. Or, that is how many observers of ECAC Hockey would have us believe. When the dust settles on Saturday evening and seeding for the post-season is set, two teams written off as middle-of-the-pack players will be among the two teams that enjoy a week of coveted rest before our sport’s most important month. Those same teams are both contending for the regular-season title in the conference’s last regular-season weekend.
Our boys in carnelian and white constitute one of those teams.
This begs for particular consideration. Now, a series of fortunate events beyond Cornell’s control will need to go the Red’s way for Cornell to tie for or earn the greatest number of conference points. However, on Saturday, when the Dutchmen of Union seek vengeance, Cornell could be playing for ECAC Hockey’s regular-season title.
The last time that Cornell vied for this particular tchotchke this late in a season was 2012.
A half-decade tends to dull recollection. An entire graduating class of players and Lynah Faithful have come and gone without the Red contending for this prize. A refresher in Cornell’s protocol if the unlikely happens on Saturday is in order.
As with all things in ECAC Hockey and Cornell hockey, a brief history provides context. ECAC Hockey named the prize that it gives its top conference point getter(s) (yes, if there is a tie, all participants get their own version of it) on March 16, 2001. Each season’s point monger has gotten the “Cleary Cup” to do with it as it wishes (more on that soon) since the end of the 2001-02 season.
Readers and followers of Where Angels Fear to Tread know that contributors refuse to use that term to refer to the boondoggle physically presented to the team that earned the greatest number of points in a regular season. Our writers elect instead for more accurate terms like “spittoon,” “bedpan,” “participation trophy,” or, when discussing something of real value, “first seed.” Why do they engage in such ritualized practice?
Bill Cleary resembled Lex Luthor to more than coiffeurs. The Lynah Faithful saw in him for 19 years the very embodiment of evil. The Harvard man turned coach oversaw the era during which the Crimson re-discovered their roots and hurled fish at Cornell skaters, and drunken denizens of Cambridge lobbed wine battles at netminders from Ithaca. Cleary was the opposing coach who showed so little regard for Cornell hockey that he disparaged its accomplishments in the media and waved his defeated teams from congratulating the Red in handshakes on the ice.
His villainous permagrin made him Joker. Bill Cleary was the entire rogues gallery in one. Cornell found a suitable antihero in Cleary’s waning days at Harvard. A blueliner with the audacity to challenge an opposing team’s bench boss. A defenseman whose clearing attempts occasionally veered up the boards and into Harvard’s bench near Bill Cleary. Stick-breaking Mike Schafer was that player.
Coach Schafer as an assistant helped Cornell growl at Harvard, “why so serious?” in the 1990 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal that ended Bill Cleary’s career on Lynak Rink’s ice. Coach Schafer as a head coach led Cornell in the first regular season after which ECAC Hockey would give a named trophy to the league’s regular-season champion.
Cornell won the first name regular-season trinket. Then, the second. Each time, like all those subsequent, including when the Red clinched the regular-season title during the 2004-05 season, Cornell remembered nearly two decades of disrespect that Bill Cleary as head coach at Harvard had paid the carnelian and white.
The captains of Cornell refused to accept the regular-season trophy. They left it on the ice. No players touched it.
Now, Quinnipiac tried something foolishly similar during the 2012-13 season. It is not the accomplishment that is tainted as the Bobcats misinterpreted. It is the namesake. Cornell refuses to celebrate an award affixed with a figure who did so much to disregard and demean its program.
If the Red wins the bedpan on Saturday, the skaters of this team and their coach will remember to refuse it and leave it on the ice. In the event that Cornell and Union tie for the regular-season title, I advise that the leaders of this team encourage the Dutchmen to take the tarnished accolade with them rather than wait to get their own version at Messa Rink. There are far nobler prizes to win on the ice ahead for this Cornell team.
You laugh at the prospect, right?
Why is the unlikely impossible when the unthinkable already has happened?
The marathon is over. The finish line has been crossed. Well, one of those finish lines, anyways.
Three more finish lines are glossed over the macadam on the horizon for Cornell University’s carnelian warriors. Eyes need to survey the course ahead and the potholes that pock the pavement before those demarcations. Nevertheless, while this team guzzles what any regular viewer of ILDN assumes must be Big Red Refuel, the Lynah Faithful can reflect upon the grueling terrain traversed in the last two weeks of play.
Coach Schafer said it several times between face-off with Union on Friday, February 3 and the post-game press conference on Sunday, February 12. The members of this team were going to get a taste of professional hockey. They did get just that. Collegiate athletics are the passion of the contributors here at Where Angels Fear to Tread, if you could not tell, but with the frequency with which this team’s last run of games was compared to those of their professional peers, perhaps a look at the professional ranks is in order.
Only ten teams in the NHL played as many games as did Cornell between February 3 and February 12. No team played more games than did the wearers of the carnelian and white. Yes, only one-third of the franchises in the NHL sent their paid athletes into competition five times in that span. How did those teams fare?
Those ten NHL clubs went 25-16-9. A winning percentage of 0.590 is respectable…if you do not play for Coach Schafer or on this team. The Red won at a rate 52.5% greater than did professionals in producing its 0.900 winning percentage during its five-game run. Only the Washington Capitals won every one of their five games.
The NHL runners-up to Cornell’s blitz through its five-games-in-nine-days stretch were the St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins. The two tied for a 0.800 record in two different ways. The Blues went 4-1-0. The Penguins went 3-0-2. So, were Cornell an NHL team over that run, only the appropriators of the anthem “red!” would have outperformed the icers of New York’s land-grant university.
The most talented hockey players in the world play in the NHL. A grueling schedule of five games in nine days takes its toll. Conditioning erodes to fatigue. Mental acuity dulls. It must have an effect on the offensive output of even the most talented franchises. It certainly would at the collegiate level with the demands of the academy.
The Lynah Faithful from Schenectady to Ithaca celebrated 20 goals over five games. The offensively replete aquatic birds of the Steel City scored only 17 goals on the same calendar. The Penguins own one of the NHL’s four best records. The grapplers of the Beltway constituted the only club to outscore the 77-year elder Red.
Oh, yeah, the Caps currently lead the NHL in the hunt for the boondoggle of the Presidents’ Trophy.
Cornell was the second-best team in the NHL. This team is far from proving that it is the second-best or best team in college hockey. They were a solid nine days. Coach Schafer’s charges and he chilled one regrettable point on the ice in a very winnable contest against Keith Allain’s Yale. The professional hiatus retired.
The road ahead is no easier. If anything, it is more grueling. The players on this season’s roster have made their intentions known. Mitch Gillam, channeling the panache of The Bambino, most pointedly called his shot (save?) for his team when publicizing its goal to play in the 2017 Frozen Four Final.
A hack-the-Pairwise-at-all-costs mentality pervades the team. As reassuring as Cornell’s recent 4-0-1 run is, one needs to consider the quality of the opponents relative to the Red’s ambitions of gaining entry to the national tournament. The average of the projected Pairwise Rankings of Union, RPI, Colgate, Yale, and Brown is 40.6.
The average result that Cornell notched in that five-game run was equivalent to defeating a team that was roughly 26 spots out of the projected field for the Frozen-Four tournament. Meanwhile, somewhere on Route 11 between Canton and Potsdam must be 22.5 in the Pairwise Rankings. Cornell can check on its trip to Cheel on Saturday.
Friday night’s pitch at Appleton Arena pits the nation’s third-best home team against the nation’s third-best road team. St. Lawrence has dropped just four conference games. Three of those setbacks occurred on the road. The Saints have failed to win at home only thrice this season. Cornell has endured just three non-wins on the road.
One of those threes will become a four on Friday. It will be a very tall task for the Red to be victorious. Gavin Bayreuther unexpectedly returned three weeks ago. Immediately, he inspired St. Lawrence’s three-goal rally to defeat Union at Appleton. The defensive dynamo has recorded two points in three games.
The Saints have played two weekends without a win. Laurentians will demand penance for that sin against their program’s history this weekend. The Ithacans will need to bring with them all of the tenacity that they took to Messa Rink with none of the mental miscues if they want to force Canton’s equally raucous sylvan sanctuary and its talented denizens to part with points.
All the soothing history that fans of ECAC Hockey have come to expect and the disproportionate asymmetric loathing that serves as a salutation for the Lynah Faithful at select away venues attend the trip to Cheel. Clarkson-Cornell match-ups for the Whitelaw Cup are the second-most common championship pairing for the Eastern prize (tied with Clarkson-St. Lawrence meetings, if one is curious). Only Cornell and Harvard have met more frequently.
The last time that Cornell lost such an encounter to Tech was the Red’s first modern championship game in 1966. Clarkson and Cornell last met to decide a title when the bench boss of Friday’s opponent led the program in Potsdam. Three carnelian-and-white victories over green and goldenrod occurred between those meetings. The Red double dipped in 1970 with victories in the Whitelaw Cup and Frozen Four Finals.
Cornell bears little blame for this plight. The Golden Knights are evidently engineered as runners-up. No program has appeared in more Frozen Four Finals (three) without winning a national title as Without a Peer once reminded Clarkson’s fans. Fret not, champions of Clarkson, Quinnipiac is doing its best to usurp that ignominy.
Clarkson recently defeated St. Lawrence and Quinnipiac. It lost none of the opportunism that required heroics on East Hill to salvage a point for Cornell in January. The scoring specter that Coach Schafer exorcised from this team against Brown needs to haunt the barns of the North Country.
The Lynah Faithful should thank Anthony Angello. The sophomore forward from Central New York found the antiserum for Mitch Vanderlaan’s snake bite. Vanderlaan went nine games without scoring a goal. He scored seven goals in the season’s first 11 games.
The winger from New Brunswick has played phenomenally lately. His defensive game against Yale is proof. He plays the puck responsibly. Opponents are all but incapable of keeping him in his defensive zone. Toxin still coursed through his veins until his classmate upped the ante in taking Vanderlaan’s lead in goals. He responded. Vanderlaan’s goal against Brown could be the last piece fitting for his complete game this season.
A mainstay of Cornell’s defense seemed dazed all last weekend. These lapses will prevent the Red from earning truly historic victories if they continue this weekend. Appleton and Cheel are no places to make mistakes.
Harvard is the only team to have swept in the North Country. If that Harvard team can do it, why not this Cornell team? The rivalry lives in the North Country. The Red can prove it is the Crimson’s equal or superior this weekend.
Cornell began its stretch of five games with a public proclamation that it was going to Union to claim this team’s first signature win. It got it. Why should the sights of this team lower to a mere signature win? Why not seek out a signature weekend? It will take at least three signature weekends to punch a ticket to Chicago.
Assistant director of athletic communications Brandon Thomas made the Lynah Faithful and this team aware of a historic reality. No Cornell team has swept four road weekends in ECAC Hockey since the league has employed its travel-partner system in 1984. No, not 2002-03. Nope, not 2004-05 either.
The members of this Cornell squad already aim to one-up (two-up, more appropriately) the 2002-03 team when April arrives. Why not get started on the task early with foreshadowing penned against St. Lawrence and Clarkson?
The war for seeding has but four battles remaining. Well, four battles for each team. The final 48 regular-season games in ECAC Hockey will answer and raise questions in the minds of the league’s fans. Cornell has a challengingly advantageous path before it. Two of its next four games are against opponents that are tied with or standing above the Red. The first such game is on Friday in Canton.
Cornell and St. Lawrence are tied in ECAC Hockey’s standings. The readiest way to pass a team in a battle for seeding is to defeat that team directly. A victory against the Saints also would serve to give Cornell a tie-breaker over St. Lawrence which may prove beneficial on February 25. Cornell can clinch a top-four seed if Quinnipiac loses and Cornell earns three points this weekend. The Red could end the weekend as high as first or as low as a tie for fourth. This writer knows as a trained endurance athlete that the race is always in front of you. If Cornell is worried about the Bobcats, it has lost already.
Cornell women’s hockey did something unprecedented this weekend. It clinched (outright) a thirteenth Ivy title. A thirteenth Ivy title that broke the previous record of 12 Ivy titles. Held by Cornell. That’s right, these women broke a title set by this program. That is a pretty impressive feat. Cornell’s thirteen titles consist of a variety of different types of titles. And no, reader, I do not mean “shared” and “outright” titles alone. Certainly, those are two different types, but the Ivy League championship in women’s hockey initially began as a tournament. In the 1975-76 season, several seasons after the Red had begun play in earnest, the Ivy League hosted its first championship tournament. Naturally, the Red won that one. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. That is right, the Red won the first five Ivy titles in a row, not only “outright” but on the ice in a championship. Yes, readers, you may remember that the Ivy title was initially awarded in a tournament. You may also remember that for the Red’s sixth Ivy title, the Red and the Pandas of Brown played to a 4-4 draw in four overtimes in a game that was eventually called for the safety of the players.
Cornell won five Ivy titles in a tournament. Cornell won its sixth Ivy title in a tournament game that ended in a tie. Only one other team in the League won a tournament title on the ice: Princeton.
The remaining seven titles include six outright wins (including the one clinched on Saturday) and one acrimonious tie. The next nearest team? Everyone’s favorite overrated team from Lynah East nips on the Red’s heels with 11 titles.
Winning an Ivy title matters. It is something that predates the ECAC Hockey title (c’mon, guys, shouldn’t we have a cool name for the tournament and regular-season trophies? The historic Whitelaw Cup exists for the men. Why can’t the women have a fun one? The Duthie? The Digit? The possibilities are endless.). It is a part of the women’s history that shows how much older East Coast hockey is than the neophytes out West.
However, it is not the end-all, be-all. The Ivy League title is a regular-season title contested among a subset of our hockey home. Does it indicate success? Absolutely. Does it foretell post-season success? No.
Cornell owns a hefty share of titles. Thirteen Ivy titles. Four regular-season championships. Four tournament championships.
Numbers that should be familiar to all Faithful will be the years in which these titles occurred:
Ivy: 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1990, 1996, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2017
Regular Season: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Tournament: 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014.
To me, dear readers, those numbers are awesome. They inspire both admiration but also fear. More often than not, an Ivy title denotes that the Red can go on to win more championships in the coming weeks. In 2010, 2011, and 2013, the Red won all three trophies. In 2014, without winning either the Ivy League or the regular season, the Red won a triumphant and memorable tournament trophy in Potsdam. An Ivy League title does not foretell success.
But what of 2012? Cornell in 2012 rolled in hard. They went into the post-season having won the Ivy League and won the regular-season title, handily. Cornell went into the ECAC Hockey playoffs with only three losses on the season. No ties. A magical first seed guaranteed the Red the ability to host the playoffs as long as they remained alive. The first weekend saw the Red beat Brown in a series to earn the spot hosting the semifinals and final game in Lynah. After defeating Quinnipiac without too much of a thought, the Red, backstopped by the goalie tandem of Amanda Mazzotta (now assisting at the Bobcats) and Lauren Slebodnick faced St. Lawrence in the ECAC Hockey Final, looking for three ECAC Hockey championships in as many seasons. In spite of all of the firepower of former and future Olympians from Rebecca Johnston, Lauriane Rougeau, and Laura Fortino to Brianne Jenner, Jill Saulnier, and Catherine White, Cornell dropped only its fourth game of the season, snapping a 10-game winning streak. The Saints were the ones celebrating on Lynah’s ice as the seconds ticked off of the clock.
An Ivy League title does not automatically accompany post-season success.
But, hey! They did get TWO titles that year, right?!
Yes, they did. Cornell captured both the Ivy League and regular-season titles.
Time for some harsh reality, readers. Buckle up. That is not possible this season. Cornell sits with 30 points in the ECAC Hockey standings at third place. Cornell cannot fall below fourth place, guaranteeing the Red the ability to host the first round at home. But, first place, the regular-season trophy, is out of reach for these intrepid players. Clarkson is sitting pretty with 36 points. They look to run away with the regular season if St. Lawrence gets anything but a sweep this weekend (a tough feat in Central New York, especially given that St. Lawrence escaped last weekend at home with just a single point and has scored no more than two goals in its last four outings). Cornell, however, can gain all four points this senior weekend and still fall short. The highest that the Red can climb is to number two. That is one trophy that is impossible to get this season for the Rouge.
The post-season tournament trophy (the one that screams to Cornellians as THE trophy) is still up for grabs. The ECAC Hockey post-season is what people remember. This writer vividly recalls the ECAC Hockey championships won during her time on East Hill. A demolition of Dartmouth capped off an exciting run in what still stands as the largest recorded crowd at a women’s game at Lynah. A shutout by Amanda Mazzotta ’12. Two goals by Chelsea Karpenko. Both of their likenesses adorn doors at Lynah. These are moments that are remembered forever, etched in history.
How does that happen for these players? The road goes through the North Country whether in jockeying for better seeding this weekend or possibly on championship weekend.
After this weekend, only two games are guaranteed at Lynah. Cornell will host a playoff series. These seniors can have a real senior night, going out of Lynah in two playoff games. So while this weekend is a celebration of Hanna Bunton, Brianna Veerman, Sydney Smith, Kaitlin Doering, and Paula Voorheis, complacency is not the way to give these seniors a truly lasting legacy. These seniors have already won their first ECAC Hockey title. They just engraved their names into the Ivy title for the first time. Let’s give them a second ECAC Hockey title during their time on East Hill. After all, the road to St. Louis begins by making the NCAA Tournament. How can you guarantee that the committee has to choose you? By winning the conference.
The moment had not hit this writer in a while. In one part, it was because of self-effacement or some feigned version of journalistic style. Another part was the mere lack of feeling it, whatever it is. However, it returned last weekend.
Regrettably, the principal contributors of Where Angels Fear to Tread were unable to make one of their favorite trips on ECAC Hockey’s calendar last weekend. Those contributors assembled at their lair to watch Cornell’s games against Union and RPI. It happened in earnest on Friday. Then, during a conversation in the waning minutes of the contest at Houston Field House, it struck this writer as it crept into his speech when discussing the game.
This writer since founding Where Angels Fear to Tread avoided the use of self-inclusive pronouns on this and all associated platforms. This practice became routine in his casual discussions about Cornell hockey. So, roughly since this contributor was a senior at Cornell University, he never took ownership of the team in a way that made him utter that word.
You know, fans do it all the time. How rightfully do they do it? How much does one standing on a bleacher actually do to earn defeat or victory in any sporting contest? Can fans take ownership of the result as though they contributed?
That is what makes this 100th team to represent Cornell University distinct from more recent team. It is taking the Lynah Faithful along with them on its journey. The Lynah Faithful finally again that they are not just auxiliary to the team and program, but part of the program and team. When this team won last weekend, we won.
This author’s sentimental renaissance came at a striking time. The too-long drive back from dual losses against Harvard and Dartmouth were an incubator for critical analysis of this team’s potential. There is no denying its talent. There is little reason ever to doubt its hard work or resilience. Nevertheless, this contributor voiced concern in the 8,625 minutes between the loss against the Big Green and the victory over the Engineers.
There was something missing that was not tangible. It even defied ready qualification. Winners and champions have that edge or killer instinct. This team seemed to lack it. Yes, the sweep at Lynah Rink is reasonably excusable because of bad luck and miserable officiating. Winners and champions still find ways to defy the odds of such outrageous fortune. They make no excuses. They bear down. They go for the jugular.
This team seemed good enough to beat any team in the nation before and after its last regular-season stand against Harvard and Dartmouth. It seemed contented with putting forth valiant efforts and endurance. Good teams endure and prove their resiliency. Champions persevere with an edge that produces victory at any cost in the contest because it is in their nature to go for the kill. Cornellians are chosen for that instinct.
Cornellians justly demand that their on-ice champions vivify the same. Cornell University is a rebellious institution. It is the only great Eastern university with the daring frontier ethic so engrained into its institutional character. Cornellians must strive valiantly and dare greatly. This requires them to snatch victory to from the clutches of disadvantage and misfortune. Failure may come, but victory must be pursued relentlessly at any price in the contest.
Think this is foolish rambling? Ken Dryden ’69 does not. Dryden, a great political-identity theorist, knows that Cornell hockey must play in harmony with the ethos of its represented community to be victorious. He noted that three players from his 1967 Whitelaw Cup and Frozen Four championship team reified Cornell’s ethic most.
“Mike Doran, Dave Ferguson, [and] Doug Ferguson were…[p]layers that needed to find a win and players who played with them knew that they would find a way to win.” Did this team have that edge, killer instinct, pulsing carnelian blood through its veins, or whatever else you may call it? This contributor doubted it. Until last Friday.
Fittingly, it was the sight of Alex Rauter scorching down the ice on a break-out play that gave Cornell a 1-0 lead at Messa Rink that began to change this writer’s mind. Rauter competes every shift. He stood in the arena with an opportunity. He plunged the dagger…err…puck past a dazed Jake Kupsky. That is when it began to become a “we.”
The Red retrieved absolute victory from uncertainty with two late pushes against Union and RPI. Cornell quadrupled its rate of scoring third-period earned goals from January in just two games in the Capital District. The skaters for Cornell University erred and fell short at times during both contests. They won.
We are playing like Cornellians headed into the pivotal end to the regular season. Lake Placid and Chicago loom large already for this team. Where Angels Fear to Tread is damned proud to be along for this ride.
An element of proving that programs invariably reflect the values of the universities that they represent is present in Friday night’s clash between carnelian and azure. Yale’s offensive clout is as diversified as the institution it represents is economically diverse. Score keepers attributed 11 points to the Elis last weekend. One point was given to a skater not named Frankie DiChiara, John Hayden, or Joe Snively.
DiChiara, Hayden, and Snively produce one-half of Yale’s goals. Yale blue quickly will fade to Columbia blue on Saturday if the charges of Coach Schafer and Associated Head Coach Ben Syer can contain and stifle not-Andrew Miller and his two lethal pals. Cornell failed to neutralize Union’s Mike Vecchione. John Hayden poses a similar but less potent threat. The Bulldogs depend on Hayden for one-quarter of their offense.
Yale’s offense exhibited as little chemistry as one would expect of a university that is obsessed with producing columnists and poets at the expense of physical scientists and professionals (it is apparently zero-sum in New Haven). The Bulldogs still averaged 2.00 goals per game. Their bite cannot be undersold too greatly.
One of its two goals against Quinnipiac occurred while Yale was killing its second five-minute major against its archrivals. Frankie DiChiara brilliantly struck to return the lead to his team during a stretch of 17:45 when Yale was forced to kill 10 minutes of penalties. Yale lost both of its games last weekend. It has signs of the promise for a playoff run. The Elis come to Lynah Rink very hungry for victory.
The game on Saturday likely will be heated. Cornell humbled the removers of names on their own campus. Yalies loathe Cornellians with such vitriol that they once produced buttons emblazoned with “Ned Must Go” and dubbed the Cornell-Yale series the “ice war.” It always remains just an opportunity for two precious points for the Red.
The Sunday matinee now will feature the Red meeting the eighth Ivy. Cornell will play in its second-oldest active series on Saturday night. Brown holds the distinction of being the last Ivy-League hockey program that Cornell met in intercollegiate competition. The Cornell-Brown series is 48 years younger than Cornell’s next youngest series against an Ivy-League member. The Red and Bears first met in 1959.
Brown is an enigma. The Bears do little to defeat themselves. They seem epitomically unlucky. The last spot in ECAC Hockey’s standings belongs to Brown. Brendan Whittet’s team did manage to defeat a Dartmouth team that Cornell could not best. Additionally, Brown held a Quinnipiac team that is accustomed to scoring three goals per game to one goal just last weekend. Misfortune seems to have bogged down the Bears. Lady Luck rarely wears carnelian lately.
Cornell presents a balanced attack for its tardy visitors from New England. Alex Rauter, Mitch Vanderlaan, and Trevor Yates are top goal producers on East Hill. They combine for 38.3% of the Red’s goal scoring. The next highest goal producers who have played every game, Anthony Angello, Patrick McCarron, and Jake Weidner, contribute 24.7% of Cornell’s goals. This balance with neither a single line nor a star is emblematic of what has made all championships teams on East Hill the embodiment of selfless, team-oriented domination.
Trevor Yates. Say it again. The junior forward sneakily has climbed into a tie for the lead as the team’s gaudiest goal scorer. Yates has become a reliable contributor even if he lacks discernible flash. His preferred flash is the light lit behind his opponent’s sullen netminder. The maneuverings of Yates’s carnelian-and-white 15 honor the way in which champion captain Colin Greening wore the same sweater.
The talents of Yates and Jake Weidner with his Moulsonian knack for occupying the pesky areas around the opposition’s net, especially on the power play, will be needed to erase doubts this weekend. Cornell has lost as many games at Lynah Rink as it has on the road despite having played five fewer games on East Hill. The Red wins at a rate 1.23 greater on the road than it has in front of the home-standing Lynah Faithful.
Cornell needs to reclaim its home ice. This team is pushing for one of the top four seeds in the Eastern post-season. What bounty will it claim if it achieves that goal? Home ice in the playoffs. It falls to this team and the Faithful to prove the value of such an advantage. Lake Placid would be just two wins away if Cornell grabs one of those spots.
But first, Cornell must prove that we can win at home.
The sling-shot effect on which Cornell has been relying to catapult itself to the top of ECAC Hockey’s standing vanished on Sunday at a little after 6:00 pm. Every team in ECAC Hockey will have played 18 games when the weekend resolves. Weighted standings no longer will be needed. The standings become actual. The potential of the weekend captures the volatility of the standings at this point.
The Red could end the weekend seeded as low as fifth or as high as first. Quinnipiac would pass Cornell if the Red earns no points this weekend and the Bobcats defeat Clarkson. A tie between Union and Harvard on Friday, a Union loss on Saturday, a St. Lawrence loss or tie against Princeton, and a Cornell sweep would put Cornell in a tie or three-way tie for first. The importance of future games against St. Lawrence and Union becomes immediately apparent when considering the very real scenario of such a tie. Now, it is time to play hockey again.
Was the glass of last weekend’s play half empty, half full, or full of something else entirely?
Classes just commenced on East Hill, but a curve befitting Cornellian banter and lore is racing toward our preferred hockey team with a certain foreboding. Union will be the best team that the Red has faced all season. If you are in search of empirical support, the still-too-early Pairwise Ranking may be your guide. The Dutchmen would be seeded sixth overall and be a very strong second seed were the Frozen-Four tournament to begin today.
The only team that would make the NCAA tournament’s field that Cornell has played this season is Harvard. And, well, I assume if you are reading here, you know how those two games played out for the Red. Trust this contributor, a fate far darker and much worse than even last Friday might befall our beloved Ithacans in Schenectady (and Troy, for that matter).
Crimson doubled up the Red over two games. Garnet can do much, much worse.
Quick. Which team in ECAC Hockey has two forwards who rank in the top 15 of all players in college hockey in goals-per-game production? It is not Harvard. It is those resurgent and swashbuckling Dutchmen whom the Schafemen will face this Friday. Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo are those two players.
Vecchione and Foo (does that not sound like an interesting fusion dish?) respectively rank first and third nationally in absolute number of points tallied this season. Sebastian Vidmar is the third head of these hounds of Hell. His contributions and he are not to be underestimated. Numbers 21 and 15 may get most of the attention, but number 27 is a well-rounded threat.
Vidmar contributed to two go-ahead goals against Boston University at Agganis Arena. He put the first in the net on his own. He was the helper on the second. The latter would have stood as the winner over the currently projected third-ranked team in the Pairwise Ranking before the usual creativity of officiating in Hockey-East venues flipped the result. Taking down programs with silver and gold seems to be something for which our crab-named foe has developed a knack. His assist helped put Union over Michigan. At Yost. Again.
Speaking of Pairwise Rankings, Union, Michigan, and Yost, one thing sprints to the forefront of this writer’s mind. He finds it foolishly early to consider Pairwise Rankings at this point. They matter once: the moment before John Buccigross reads a team’s name on Selection Sunday. That’s the only time. However, the players on this team whether they admit it publicly or not are keeping an eye on the Pairwise Rankings after narrowly missing the Frozen-Four fields of 2014 and 2016.
How has Cornell fared lately? Well, after dropping two at home, the Red tumbled from a projected third seed in the NCAA tournament to the fourth team out of the projected tournament today. Losses to Harvard and Dartmouth bearishly plunged Cornell’s stock from an estimated 11th to 17th in Pairwise Ranking. How does this relate to Union, Michigan, and Yost?
The last time that Cornell made the national tournament was 2012. It was on the kamikaze of taking three points out of Union that the Big Red was lofted to a destined encounter with the Wolverines in the 2012 Frozen Four First Round in Green Bay. Why was tying Union at Messa Rink and defeating Union at Lynah Rink worth so much in the 2012 Pairwise Ranking? The Dutchmen were perched highly in anticipated Pairwise Rankings because they had taken a victory from the skaters with winged helmets at Yost in October. The situation is nearly identical this season.
So, for any members of this 100th hockey team to represent Cornell University who have their focus on engineering a Providence- or Yale-like hacking of the NCAA-tournament field en route to the Red’s elusive third modern national title, the time is this weekend. Union is quite the sexy piñata of Pairwise goodies sitting at sixth in the currently meaningless Ranking. This team has two whacks at it. If it wants to all but guarantee a trip to the 16-team jamboree at the end of March, one-up the 2011-12 team and take four, not three, points out of the Dutchmen.
There is another game that is arguably more crucial this weekend for the same considerations.
Where Angels Fear to Tread tweeted and referred to the Engineers as a “bear trap” last weekend. This is not to imply that RPI is a trap game in the tradition sense. It is more to highlight the fact that Seth Appert, for all the things that he may be faulted as a bench boss in Troy, has ensnared Harkness’ glorious rebound consistently as of late. Cornell has not defeated the Engineers in its last six tries. No player on this current roster has ever defeated them.
This plight becomes more grave when one considers the tournament-hacking ambitions of this current team. RPI is currently 57th (yes, 5-7) of the 60 teams ranked in the Pairwise. It does not matter what Cornell does to Union if it surrenders a point to RPI. This contributor much rather would prefer the purer way of earning a berth to the national tournament, winning something (i.e. the Whitelaw Cup), but if the skaters on this team want to make the tournament at all costs to test their mettle, surrendering even a point to the Engineers is a dangerous proposition.
The most alarming part about RPI is that it carries that Pairwise albatross while having flush potential. Lou Nanne, one of the most entertaining skaters to watch in ECAC Hockey, Evan Tironese, and Riley Bourbonnais, a clutch player from Western New York who is quietly on a goal-scoring streak over his last three games, still are institutionalized. RPI defeated Clarkson and Harvard; things that Cornell could not do. Coach Schafer tabbed the Engineers as beginning to come on lately. The concern is that Appert may flip the cherry switch and further derail this carnelian freight train to the rabid cries of the fans at Houston Field House.
Derailment is truly the concern nowadays, is it not, reader? Disappointment, heck, even despair, began to set in last weekend during the second third-period debacle. Yes, this writer knows fully well that the unraveling against Dartmouth was not on this team but a horrible series of calls from officials. However, slumps around this time of year damned the talent of the 2014-15 team and the trajectory of the 2015-16 team. The fear is real.
The excuse of bad bounces and bad breaks is neither good nor legitimate. Sometimes, when one sits down for a prelim, a professor will ask something that he promised expressly he would not ask. One never chooses the terms of examination. Their revelations of character remain true. This team wants to seek a fourth national title for Cornell. It is all but a fixation.
Ask Jack Eichel how one bad bounce prevented him from carrying his team to a national title. Last weekend was a shame, but great teams are defined by winning when the odds, including the arc of poor officiating, are against them. Excuses graduated with the Class of 2013, the last team to hoist a Whitelaw Cup.
One loss became two losses. It cannot be allowed to become three or four losses. The Lynah Faithful hold their breath as Cornell plays its last novel set of travel partners this weekend in its greatest tests to date.
Cornell has the talent to achieve its goals, but will an unraveling occur?
Alex Rauter is a hero of near-Paolinian proportions. He delivered a stellar goal against Harvard that was memorable. He is becoming a leader in offensive generation in ways that likely were not expected to fall to him. He does all of the little things at each end of the ice on seemingly every shift. However, Sam Paolini won. If this team seeks a favorable legacy, it needs to find a way to win and vault itself into a more secure spot in ECAC Hockey’s standings.
Reader, this writer has to be honest. The trends of the last two years with slumps in January and February have him concerned about the tasks that lie before this team on Friday and Saturday. Union is alarmingly good. The Dutchmen are playing at a level and with a consistency that makes them more fearsome than their 2013-14 edition that won the Frozen Four. Cornell has not found its upside. Union has found its form.
This coming weekend is certainly unsettling. This contributor is hopefully concerned.
This writer is unabashed in admitting that, right now, Cornell-Union is the best non-Harvard series in which Cornell plays. It is great hockey. It brings great history. Even better, it brings recent and relevant playoff history. It has great fans.
Cornell sits currently fourth in the effective standings for ECAC Hockey. Union is first by virtue of the Dutchmen holding two games in hand over St. Lawrence. The Red has the benefit of holding onto three games in its palm. Cornell needs to shore up its status as a top-four team if it wants to make a trip to Lake Placid. Harvard plays one game this weekend. A Harvard loss and a Cornell sweep would put the Red above the Crimson again. However, proving how much ground Cornell ceded last weekend, Cornell cannot pass the Crimson this weekend without the Cantabs giving the Ithacans an opening.
Cornell is entering the final stretch of the regular season. With only six games remaining for every team, the Red has clinched a playoff spot. Home ice, however, is still up for grabs. The top eight teams look to be crystallizing, but there is still room for the Red to fall as low as #8 if it fails to garner a single conference point in its remaining games. The playoffs may begin at the end of February, but the race for seeding continues. Which teams would be in the playoffs and which matchups would occur if the Red hosted playoffs this weekend instead of a Headway Foundation and Do It for Daron doubleheader?
Number one overall seed Clarkson, still with the Red as its lone ECAC Hockey loss, would host the Engineers of RPI in the first round. Fellow North Country team St. Lawrence would host Yale. Cornell at number 3 would host travel partner Colgate. And the feline travel pair would see their games at Hobey Baker Rink. While these games would undoubtedly be exciting to watch, nothing right now is set in stone. One-conference-loss Clarkson could fall as low as #7 in the standings. It is possible for six different teams to finish #1. Even though it looks as if the eight playoff teams are decided, even 12th place Union, Cornell’s first opponent of the weekend, could still climb as high as a tie for #7. That’s right, readers. Union could climb to seven with Clarkson being able to fall that low.
No one is eliminated yet, and no one should be taken lightly. Cornell’s remaining six games will be a tough test to help ready the Red for the most wonderful time of the year. Aforementioned Union begins the six-game test. RPI ends our weekend. While the Engineers are below 0.500 both in conference and overall, one of their six conference wins comes against the Red in a tight 1-0 loss at Houston Field House just before Halloween. If you think you see Red goal lights, take heed of the warning. The other team who shouts “Let’s Go Red!” (Or in their case, “Let’s Go, Red!”) is looking for the series sweep for only the second time in history. It would be a good tin anniversary for the Engineers. Let’s not be so generous.
The final regular-season road trip for the Rouge finds our intrepid women traveling to Yale and Brown. Yale is presently on a nice little tear, having won four games in a row. The Elis and the Brownies face a tough test with a trip to the feline petting zoo this weekend, but that will make the Red’s trip to Ingalls and Meehan all the more challenging. Every opponent is battle tested and Yale looks to climb from its spot at number seven to the possibility of home ice while Brown looks to claw its way into the tournament.
How would we prefer our regular season to end other than with a chance at number one? (Possibly beating Harvard, but it would get old if that happened every year, right?) Yes, the Red will have the North Country visit Central New York when Senior weekend occurs. If the number one overall seed is still in contention (rooting interests: Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Quinnipiac, Colgate), the Red will have its home ice to seek a possible sweep of Clarkson and a much-needed split with the Saints.
The regular season is shaping up to have an exciting ride. We all know what Cornell hockey is built for, but enjoy the road there. These next six games should have a special feel to them.
The playoffs are coming. Are you ready?
You’re not going into a game looking out for…I can’t pronounce his name.
You heard it. This contributor heard it. The great college-hockey community heard it. We all heard it.
The chants of “we want Harvard” rang out in Lynah Rink.
They chased away quickly the uplift felt from a hard-fought and exhilarating battle against the Saints of St. Lawrence University. St. Lawrence is the class of ECAC Hockey this season. The North Countrymen at Canton’s juncture on Route 11 climbed to the top of the conference’s standings. They have ceded little ground to any program. Union is the exception, but the Dutchmen are on a tear through the conference this season.
St. Lawrence has met defeat in only two conference games this season. One occurred last Saturday. Can you name the other? The poles of ECAC Hockey’s greatest rivalry are the subset of ECAC Hockey teams that have defeated St. Lawrence. Even Union settled for a tie on its own ice.
You sure you want Harvard?
The Crimson are coming to town on Friday no matter whether its presence is desired or shunned. Harvard climbed to its all-time highest ranking in the popularity contest that are the polls. Remember what Mike Shiner said in Bird Man about popularity? Well, never mind, if you do not. Harvard proceeded to lose its next three contests.
Those games occurred over a five-day span on the road. Hey, when your program represents Harvard University, why bother send your student-athletes to class? Opponents nearly tripled up the Crimson over that stretch run. The stumble began with a 4-0 shutout against RPI. Polls matter.
Harvard regained its footing last weekend with a win over a Brown team that the Lynah Faithful must remember is far better than its record. Ted Donato’s team settled for a tie in its last outing.
Cornell and Harvard enter this contest, the 149th of The Game, in similar situations. Neither is quite as heralded. Special teams tell this disparate tale. Harvard is the team with the most lethal power play in the nation. Check the statistics. It is true.
Harvard is reliant upon its power play for offense. Nearly one-third, 32.9%, of the goals that this talent-flush Crimson squad has scored have benefited from the advantage of at least one extra skater. The health of the Crimson power play is the success of its team. The recent 1-3-1 skid is a product of opponents neutralizing this advantage of the Cantabs. Harvard’s power-play unit has grown complacent in the season’s second half.
Harvard’s lethality on the man advantage has suffered a 47.6% setback relative to its season’s average since the Engineers shut out the then-second ranked Crimson. Harvard has been only the nation’s 38th-most dangerous team when playing on the power play since January 13. Harvard converted only once on seven opportunities last weekend.
The carnelian and white have little reason for confidence despite the recent decline of Harvard’s power play. The penalty kill of East Hill has floundered as of late on the ice even if it has not yielded significant statistical decline. Cornell too readily could help Harvard find its stride on the power play.
The North-Country pair that visited Lynah Rink last weekend made opponents pay for their infractions 16.24% of the time before they played Cornell. The Red allowed the Golden Knights to convert midway through the second period on the man advantage. Cornell ended the weekend allowing the travel partners from Potsdam and Canton to convert on 16.67% of their power-play opportunities.
The Red penalty killers allowed Clarkson and St. Lawrence to improve their rate of capitalizing when given a power play. Yes, perhaps Cornell’s allowing the Golden Knights and Saints to convert 0.43% more frequently is insignificant considering the small sample size of opportunities provided in one weekend and the large differences in percent that result from but slight changes.
Reader, you think this is needless alarmism? Consider if a skate, not a kick, directed the puck into the net against an early exposed penalty-killing unit for Cornell against St. Lawrence. Then, Cornell would have allowed the North Country to more than double its man-advantage efficiency over the course of the weekend.
Cornell’s penalty kill seemed lost when called into service once against Quinnipiac. Figures tease out the reality that Cornell delivered only an average penalty-killing performance against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Average play will not defeat Harvard. Average performances do not win championships.
The forecheck of the Red continued to impress with its relentless assault against St. Lawrence on Saturday. The defense has its lapses at times. Clarkson would not have been able to leap out to one-goal and two-goal leads if it did not. Cornell’s defensive schemes held in check and frustrated a St. Lawrence team that systematically has dominated the neutral zone against most opponents with its penchants for two-line passes and break-out plays. The Saints grew noticeably irritated with Cornell’s suffocation of that sustenance of their offense.
Friday presents Paddy with another opportunity to shine and prove that he is ECAC Hockey’s best blueliner. Harvard’s freshman defenseman, Adam Fox, leads all blueliners in terms of his rate of producing points per game. Cornell’s senior defenseman checks in at third in the same category. Both recorded a point when they first met. Friday’s contest will present both with the chance to settle which defenseman best runs his offense from the blue line.
Coach Schafer’s unfamiliarity with Lewis Zerter-Gossage’s name cannot become a trend in this series. Harvard is the program of selfish, individual efforts and glory-seeking plays. Cornell is the program of selfless team work that often sacrifices the individuals acclaim for the benefit of the program and University. It is Cornell, not Harvard, that should produce the unexpected stars in this game. If the Red cannot, it likely will fall again to Harvard this season.
Anthony Angello is far from an unexpected star. If anything, he is one of the usual suspects. The sophomore forward had not found the back of the net since Cornell’s first game against Miami in December. Thankfully, he found it again. It will continue hopefully Friday and days subsequent.
It was Angello’s defensive responsibility in the Clarkson game in particular that stood out to the contributors of Where Angels Fear to Tread. He thwarted break-away attempts. He grinded out opponents and wore them down with aggressive backchecking and forechecking. His first goal in seven games was a much-deserved product of such efforts.
The elation of a victory or deflation from a loss against Cornell’s nemesis at Lynah Rink can doom the Red’s efforts in a Saturday contest against Dartmouth. This Cornell team cannot afford a letdown that gives the Big Green from Hanover points. The Paradox of 1911 could ensnare the Big Red this weekend as it has for far too long.
How long has it been since Cornell defeated Dartmouth on East Hill? If you said five years, you are correct. Dartmouth has left Lynah Rink with points in every meeting in Ithaca for the past half-decade. That drought needs to be inundated this weekend.
No matter the result on Friday, Cornell needs to prove that it can look past the outcome and narrows it focus on the next opponent. Like last Saturday, the sense among the Faithful and within the program should be the same. The Lynah Faithful and players alike must enjoy the struggles of the moment and the satisfaction of victory. However, once hands are shaken, only one questions remains no matter whom was last vanquished: Who’s next?
Speaking of droughts without wins, has it really been two years since Cornell defeated Harvard? The Red has gone 0-2-2 since Eric Freschi got the better of Steve Michalek with just 41 seconds in lingering regulation in an instant-classic tilt between the historic foes.
Who’s the next hero? It is time for another instant classic. It is time to beat Harvard again.
Yes, we do. We want Harvard.
Cornell won the first of the five games against teams that occupied a higher rung in ECAC Hockey’s standing when the Red began its season-closing conference slate. The second of those five games comes on Friday. Harvard’s recent slide places the Crimson just behind the Red in the effective standings weighted by rate of earning conference points. A victory over Harvard would jettison Cornell farther above their rival. All the positives of that can be undone on Saturday if the Paradox of 1911 leads to another loss to Dartmouth. If Cornell had mustered but one more point against the Big Green in Hanover, the Red would be outpacing the requirements of the Law of Schafer (earning points at a rate equivalent to sweeping at home and splitting on the road) and positioned second in the effective conference standings.
Cornell can undo that damage this weekend, especially with St. Lawrence’s hosting Union amid rumors within the Saints’s program that Gavin Bayreuther may not return this season. The path to Lake Placid is a treacherous, ice-covered one. Cornell still has half of its conference games to etch into stone or erase all hopes of a bye.
Where Angels Fear to Tread is a blog dedicated to covering Cornell Big Red men's and women's ice hockey, two of the most storied programs in college hockey. WAFT endeavors to connect student-athletes, students, fans, and alumni to Cornell hockey and its proud traditions.