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 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.