You’re not going into a game looking out for…I can’t pronounce his name.
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 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.