Senior forwards Dick Bertrand and John Hughes, and senior defenseman Dan Lodboa captained the 1969-70 team. These leaders were determined to improve upon the astounding 27-2-0 record of their junior season. A national championship was the goal, but a perfect season was the motivation. The team from Harkness through the sophomores that had just graduated from the freshman Big Red roster knew to reclaim ultimate glory in the season that the 1969-70 roster would need to achieve the unimaginable. It would.
Five of Cornell's top-ten point producers from the previous season returned. Brian Cornell and Pete Tufford who totaled the highest and second-highest totals of points respectively in the preceding season were lost to graduation. The team returned the highest goal scorer from the previous season in the form of 1969-70 captain John Hughes who found the back of the net 23 times in his junior campaign. Clutch goal scorer Kevin Pettit of 1969 ECAC Tournament fame returned for his second campaign with the varsity squad.
It was apparent that Cornell's offensive role-players would need to elevate their game to overcome the key losses to Cornell's attacking game. When the season came to a close, sophomore Larry Fullan from the freshman team would join the team's top point producers atop Cornell's scoring sheet. The five top point scorers who returned, John Hughes, Brian McCutcheon, Kevin Pettit, Dan Lodboa, and Garth Ryan, would rise to the challenge. Each of these Cornellians would score an average of four to five goals more over the course of the 1969-70 season than they had during the 1968-69 season.
One gaping hole remained from the 1969 postseason run. Its silhouette actually may not have been four stories, but to many it seemed as thought it might as well have been. Cornell would call upon junior Brian Cropper to tackle the task of filling the void that Dryden's departure would leave in Cornell's game behind the blue line.
Cropper was not wholly inexperienced. His role as a starter and workhorse goaltender for Cornell was no less of an unknown. The junior goaltender had been credited with two wins during the 1968-69 season. He produced a goals-against average of 2.21 and a save percentage of 0.887 during that small sample size of games. This presented many questions. Could Cropper elevate his game enough to help backstop his team to the success that Dryden had enjoyed? Could Cornell's offense increase its production enough to mask any shortcomings of a less experienced netminder?
Cornell's answer to both questions was a resounding yes.
Detractors gathered. They began to speculate whether Cornell could produce another championship year. Most thought that Cornell's reign as perennial ECAC Champion was vulnerable to upheaval. No one outside of East Hill believed that the 1969-70 team was of national timber. The gaps were too great. The team was too inexperienced. The loss of Dryden would cripple the team. While detractors supported these narratives, Cornell fixated on one thing: the perfect beginning to what they hoped would be a perfect season.
RPI handed Dryden one of his four collegiate losses at the opening of the 1968-69 season. That loss stood as the only regular-season blemish on the 1968-69 Cornell team's record. The 1969-70 ECAC season began for Cornell against RPI at Lynah Rink. The Big Red would not allow Harkness' former team to best them again.
Lynah Rink was filled with nearly 4,500 fans when RPI braved East Hill. Many questions were answered. John Hughes scored two goals. Then, Kevin Pettit did the same. Then, Dan Lodboa joined the fun with his two markers. Bill Duthie and Brian McCutcheon found the back of the Engineers's net too. An octet of Big Red goals snapped the Engineers.
Brian Cropper's talent shone. His debut performance against an ECAC team as Cornell's starting goaltender saw him turn away 28 of 30 shots. The two tallies that he allowed were when the Engineers enjoyed a man advantage. Cornell unleashed 50 shots on RPI's netminder. It seemed that Cornell's offense and goaltending were poised for great success. The first ECAC contest of the 1969-70 season proved not to be an aberration.
The ECAC-opening contest illustrated the arrival of a new normal. Cornell outscored its opponents nearly four to one over the course of the ECAC regular season. The Big Red bested opposing goaltenders 156 times over the course of the regular season while opposing teams did the same against Cropper just 40 times. Cornell had defeated ECAC powers and archrivals Boston University and Harvard by a combined margin of 21 goals scored to eight goals allowed in four meetings.
The 1970 ECAC Tournament welcomed Cornell as the first seed for the third consecutive season. The Big Red would face Saint Lawrence in the ECAC Quarterfinals for the second time in as many years. The Larries left their oaken building in the North Country and endured Lynah Rink for another postseason.
Cornell would not prolong their visitors' suffering. Brian McCutcheon opened Cornell's scoring in the 1970 ECAC Tournament less than halfway through the first period. Cornell would tally two goals in each period. Cornell's dominance was apparent. What was noteworthy to many of the Lynah Faithful was the degree of discipline of the 1969-70 team compared to its predecessor 1968-69 squad. The ECAC had altered its rules before the 1969-70 season so that any player ejected from a game for fighting would be required to serve a one-game suspension.
St. Lawrence realized that its fate in 1970 resembled that of 1969 early in the contest. The Larries who hoped to foil Cornell's run to a fourth consecutive ECAC Championship began to attempt to draw the Big Red skaters into fights that would result in one-game suspensions. Cornell was resolute not to draw any. Cornell advanced past St. Lawrence with a final score of 6-1 with St. Lawrence souring Cropper's shutout bid with fewer than three minutes remaining.
Cornell and Harvard met for the first time in the postseason in 1969. The successful trajectories of both programs indicated that these meetings would become a common fixture in the postseason of college hockey in the East. Cornell traveled to Boston Garden in March 1970 for the second postseason installment of the Cornell-Harvard rivalry.
Harkness anticipated that the Cornell-Harvard clash would be "a sensational game, especially since both teams have been playing up to their potential lately." Harvard was coming into the contest hot after eliminating Boston College. Harvard was a team that entered the season with high expectations but had underperformed throughout the regular season. Most agreed with Harkness that the Crimson were finally producing the results of which it was capable. Harkness predicted that the field at Boston that would attempt to prevent Cornell from claiming its fourth ECAC Championship was "maybe rougher than last year."
Harvard took control of the contest against its archrival early. In uncharacteristic fashion, Harvard dominated the physical game and pushed Cornell back on its heels early. Upperclassmen guided Cornell to this point in the season. It was up to them to ensure that the success continued against their vaunted Ivy-League foe.
Kevin Pettit scored the first goal of the contest despite Cornell’s loss of ground in the physical game of the 1970 ECAC Championship Semifinal. The dominating Cantabs could not be held off for long as they would score twice in the first frame. Harvard would go up 2-1 before the first intermission. This sequence represented the fastest set of goals Cornell had allowed during the entire 1969-70 season.
Cornell's defense seemed to be imploding, its checking was hapless, and Harvard was shutting down the feeble offense that the Big Red generated. Boston University fans who found themselves among the Lynah Faithful in the stands of Boston Garden wondered aloud how Cornell could have gotten this far, let alone with a perfect record. Harvard had Cornell and the hopes of the Big Red's perfect season on the ropes.
Things would not get better. Harvard scored less than two minutes into the second period. The Crimson enjoyed a two-goal advantage. Cropper was not delivering his best game. He was outside of his net when a diving Harvard forward tucked the puck into an empty net. Cropper's defensemen were providing even less stellar support.
Cornell had not been down by a two-goal margin all season.
Cornell trudged along. Its defense improved steadily. Minutes ticked by without Cornell surrendering another embarrassing margin-opening goal. Cornell began to check and grind down Harvard as was the Harkness tradition. It was not sudden, but Cornell began to become "the Cornell hockey machine" once again. John Hughes got a goal back for Cornell at 8:48 of the second period.
Lethargy and unsteadiness still plagued the improving Red skaters. Cornell had regained momentum and Harvard no longer dominated. The Crimson were poised to protect its lead for the remainder of the game. It would take something drastic to shift the game in Cornell's favor.
Something drastic happened. Cornell and Harvard were both called for penalties. Two Cornellians were sent to the box while one Cantab took up residence there. Play resumed with Harvard enjoying a four-on-three advantage. The game was about to change.
Defenseman Dan Lodboa collected the puck down low in Cornell's defensive zone. He advanced to the blue line. He would not dump it. He saw an opportunity. He split Harvard's defenders. The bested Cantabs raced after him. It was to no avail. Lodboa unleashed a directed shot through the five hole of Harvard's netminder. The tying tally was the defenseman's third shorthanded goal of the season.
Cornell's captain had gotten his team back in the game. The second intermission would not interrupt the shift in the dynamic of the game. Cornell would be up 5-3 on Harvard by the time ten minutes remained in the contest with two early tallies in the third. Harvard seemed undeterred. The Crimson were unable to respond to Cornell's improved play for much of the second and third periods. It found the resolve in the closing ten minutes.
The game was renewed with 8:49 remaining. Harvard had bested Cropper twice in 71 seconds to knot the game. The specter of overtime in the 1969 ECAC Championship Semifinal loomed. The most opportunistic team would win.
Cornell benefited from a power play in its favor in the closing eight minutes of regulation. The Big Red managed to generate sustained pressure in front of Harvard's net. Cornell cycled around the periphery. Sophomore Larry Fullan managed to penetrate down low. Steve Giuliani saw Fullan. He slapped the puck from the corner over to Fullan who netted the game-winning goal. Harvard fell to the Ivy-League upstart of Cornell in the ECAC Tournament for the second time in two years. The final score was 6-5. Cornell advanced.
Cornell would meet a relatively unknown commodity in the 1970 ECAC Championship Final. Cornell had not played against the Golden Knights during the regular season. Cornell had played Clarkson only six times during Harkness' tenure. The Golden Knights were one of the few programs to enjoy success against the legendary coach's squads. Clarkson earned a 4-2-0 record against Harkness-coached teams. One of those four losses denied Cornell an ECAC Championship in 1966 when Clarkson won its first ECAC Championship.
The 1970 ECAC Championship Final would be very unlike the semifinal contest that witnessed 11 goals scored. A contest after which Harkness remarked that Cornell's defense "played its worst game as a unit this season." Spectators who saw the beginning of the game would not predict such after the opening face-off. Clarkson struck first. Cornell waited just 39 seconds to rally. The Golden Knights added a power-play goal before the first period ended.
Cornell was stifling in the second. Clarkson scarcely could gain the zone. When North Country natives managed to cross the blue line, the offensive opportunities that they enjoyed were poor. The Cornell crowd was waiting to erupt. Sophomore Ed Ambis gave them reason to do so. Ambis tallied the game-tying goal at 12:38 of the third period. His goal ended a more than two-year drought. No American player had scored a goal for Cornell since Jim Wallace's goal against Princeton in March 1968.
Ambis fought ferociously for another goal in the third period. He would not find it. Captain John Hughes would end scoring in the 1970 ECAC Tournament. Hughes struck with just 14 seconds remaining in the game leaving the Golden Knights little chance at rebuttal. The margin of 3-2 would stand.
The victory over Clarkson that evening at Boston Garden in March 1970 symbolized the end of two eras. It would be the last ECAC Championship that Harkness would win with the Cornell hockey program. It would be the last ECAC Championship that Cornell won in its first run of consecutive Conference titles. Harkness would leave Cornell after the 1970 NCAA Tournament for the Detroit Red Wings.
His departure would not be before he helped prove to the program that the loss of one man or a group would never be fatal to the greatness of Cornell hockey. Harkness helped Cornell hockey as an institution realize that it could survive the departure of Dryden. This lesson taught the program that it could survive and flourish after Harkness' departure just a year later.
The 1970 ECAC Tournament ended with Cornell outscoring its opponents 15 goals to eight goals. John Hughes bested Clarkson netminder Bullock for the championship-clinching goal. Brian Cropper generated a goals-against average of 2.67 and a save percentage of 0.882. Cornell won its fourth consecutive ECAC Championship on March 14, 1970.
Bob Aitchison, Ed Ambis, Dick Bertrand (C), Craig Brush, Brian Cropper (G), Mark Davis, Bill Duthie, Larry Fullan,
Rick Fullan, Steve Giuliani, Jim Higgs, John Hughes (C), Dan Lodboa (C), Gordie Lowe, Brian McCutcheon, Ian Orr,
Bill Perras, Kevin Pettit, Bob Rule (G), Garth Ryan, Ron Simpson, Doug Stewart, Dave Westner
- Navigate the Rafters -