The crew here at WAFT agrees generally about most things. It goes without saying that we are unequivocal in our support of Cornell hockey. But, what happens when Cornell does not make the national tournament? Well, below it unfolds.
The contributors at WAFT cannot agree how each game will go in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Unsurprisingly, we both pick different teams to be crowned the ultimate national champion. The bracketology that accompanies the Final Four men's basketball tournament is followed zealously. Why should any corner of college hockey stay out of the fun? The national tournament for men's ice hockey is one of the best tournaments in hockey. It showcases the greatness of college hockey.
We have outlined how we think the brackets will shake out, which team will be handed the national championship trophy in Pittsburgh, and defended our selections in the below sections.
Do you agree with our selections? Is one of us right? Where did we go wrong? Let us know, join in on the conversation, and follow along as each game in the series puts us one step closer to crowning a national champion for 2013.
NCAA Tournament Prediction Version A
First of all, not all of these are games that I’m “rooting” for. I would definitely be rooting for some teams that I think will lose and rooting against some teams that I think will win. That said, let’s go through the brackets and I’ll explain my choices, starting with the West Regional.
West Regional Semifinals
Yale - Minnesota at Friday, March 29 (2:00 pm)
I think this game will be tight. It was definitely one of the harder games that I had to choose. I do think Keith Allain will get the Bulldogs back to scoring, but I think this game will be high scoring with Minnesota pulling the win out by the end of the game. Admittedly, it is equally likely that the result is a 2-1 final, given that both Yale and Minnesota were shut out of their last game (even if Yale looked like they scored twice…) in their conferences. Yale also has a lag time, not having appeared in the Tournament last year. They have two years of classes not used to this. Hopefully it will be a great game.
Niagara - North Dakota at Friday, March 29 (5:30 pm)
Again, one of the easier games I have chosen. No offense meant to Niagara and the amazing feat it has been to get two Atlantic Hockey Teams in the tournament, but they got one of the hardest teams to play against in the first round in spite of their #3 seed. North Dakota wants this badly and they are one of the best teams in the nation. I do not think this will be a huge blowout of a game, but I do think North Dakota comes out with the win, especially if Minnesota wins earlier in the day.
Northeast Regional Semifinals
Wisconsin - UMass-Lowell at Friday, March 29 (4:30 pm)
Once again, I think a four seed will knock off a one seed. Lowell has done an amazing job this season, winning their first Hockey East Championship, but they have the misfortune of coming up against Wisconsin in the first round. Since their abysmal start, Wisconsin has been terrifying. They are red hot and had to win the WCHA to make the tournament after a loss to Penn State dropped them down. Wisconsin has the history to take a tough game from Lowell. This will be probably the tightest 1 vs 4 game, perhaps even going into overtime, but I think Wisconsin will absolutely pull it out.
Denver - New Hampshire at Friday, March 29 (8:00 pm)
Call this a gut feeling, but I think UNH pulls this out. This is the only game that is a re-match of the year. The other games that have happened before are the Q-Pac/Canisius game from 2011-12, the North Dakota-Niagara game in January 2010, then Miami and Minnesota state in 2004, and Yale-Minnesota in 2002 round out the games in the 21st century. Before that we have two games occurring in the late 90s, Lowell-Wisconsin and St. Cloud-Notre Dame. Only one of these games is a first meeting (Union-BC). Many might say that Denver was embarrassed by the 6-4 UNH victory at Magness Arena in November, but I think New Hampshire pulls this one out again. Both teams have made the NCAA three out of the past four years, but my gut goes with the Wildcats for this one.
Midwest Regional Semifinals
St. Cloud State - Notre Dame at Saturday, March 30 (1:30 pm)
This game was one of the ones I was most certain about the outcome. (Let the wrongness commence!) St. Cloud has some of the same problems as Quinnipiac. They won a share of the regular season by doing well early on but could not close the deal in the stretch. St. Cloud was eliminated by Wisconsin in the semifinal round of the Final Five. Notre Dame on the other hand, won their conference after a tight game with juggernaut Michigan. I think Notre Dame is in the right mindset for this one and pulls it out rather easily.
Minnesota State - Miami at Saturday, March 30 (5:00 pm)
Minnesota State comes in well, with a bit of rest after losing to Wisconsin in the Final Five Quarterfinal. Miami was in a similar situation, being eliminated by rising Michigan in the semifinals of the CCHA Tournament. This is Minnesota State’s second time in the NCAA as a DI team. The last time they were in the Tournament, they had the misfortune of meeting Frozen-Four bound Cornell in the first round. Ten years later, they’re back. While they have been here before, I think that the bright lights will get to them. Miami on the other hand is relatively recently made a run to the Tournament. Since the current format, Miami has made it nine times, eight in the last eight years, which is now the second longest NCAA appearance streak. Every person on the team save for the freshmen have been to this dance and know that it is not just about being there. I think that will give the RedHawks the edge in this one.
East Regional Semifinals
Canisius - Quinnipiac at Saturday, March 30 (5:30 pm)
Yes, Quinnipiac is the number one overall seed. Yes, Canisius is “an Atlantic Hockey team.” Regardless, I think the Griffs pull this one out. Canisius is 8-0-0 in their last games and their goaltender is amazing in net. Scoring has not been an issue recently for Canisius, given that even in their losses, since February 16, they have scored two or more goals. Their last eight wins have seen the Griffins score an average of 4.5 goals per game. The Bobcats have a record of 4-3-1 in their last eight games, average only 3.25 goals, and have had a rough time scoring in a fair amount of them. When it comes to goaltending, which I hit on briefly, Capobianco is a stud. His overall numbers and Hartzell’s don’t seem significantly different. But if you look at them over time, Capobianco is getting better and Hartzell’s numbers are getting worse. In the conference tournament, Capobianco has a save percentage of 0.951 and is in the top ten goaltenders of the country. Hobey Baker Candidate Hartzell is at 0.920, 25th in the country, and behind ECAC goaltenders Grosenick, Borelli, and Iles. On top of that, Capobianco has faced over double the amount of shots in that time. Only one of those goaltenders is in the Tournament.
Union College - Boston College at Saturday, March 30 (9:00 pm)
This game was one of the toughest to call. By an eyelash, I predict Union. They’re hitting their stride at the right time, sweeping Dartmouth, shutting out Yale, and beating a rising Brown team. Not only are they finding a way to score, up until the third period against Brown, Union scored goals in 18 consecutive periods. On top of that, Grosenick has been on fire. He has had the best save percentage in conference tournaments, bar none, at 0.969. His GAA is 1.00 which can be attributed not only to Grosenick but the solid defense on the team. Boston College is no slouch, especially as a defending national championship, but their season has been subpar. Even with Jerry York back, I think the Dutchmen eek this one out, due to solid defense and sheer force of will.
West Regional Final
North Dakota - Minnesota at Saturday, March 30 (4:00 pm)
An NCAA game with a rivalry! Huzzah! My attrition of one seeds keeps going, as I think North Dakota and their current NCAA leading appearance streak (11) shows, they have history of success in the Tournament. I think NoDak pulls this out.
Northeast Regional Final
Wisconsin - New Hampshire at Saturday, March 30 (6:30 pm)
As may seem odd, I have a lot of faith in this Wisconsin team. Call it their similar jerseys, but I think that the Badgers have the edge over New Hampshire. Admittedly New Hampshire has had more rest, but Wisconsin has been playing playoff hockey for longer. They won their championship. UNH has a history of making the Tournament and never winning. I think Wisconsin pulls this one off.
Midwest Regional Final
Miami - Notre Dame at Sunday, March 31 (4:00 pm)
And so the attrition of the one seeds continues. Call this a gut feeling, call this an out-there call, but I think Miami makes the Frozen Four. I think Miami is better suited, with their eight-in-a-row appearances.
East Regional Final
Canisius - Union College at Sunday, March 31 (6:30 pm)
Many could say that Canisius beating 1. Quinnipiac would be the biggest upset of the Tournament. I personally think this game will be the biggest upset of the season. Whether because Union suffers from a hangover of beating what they consider to be a great Boston College team, or because Canisius plays an amazing game with their star goaltender, I feel that Canisius is going to pull this one out, but it will be a tight game.
Frozen Four Semifinals
Canisius - Miami
Call it the bright lights factor or the elation factor, but I think Canisius’s Cinderella Story ends here. The Griffins will put up a hell of a fight, but I think the Red Hawks walk away with the win. Miami has made the Tournament, the Frozen Four, and the National Title Game before and they want it badly. I don’t think Capobianco will be equal to every Miami challenge, but I do think he could very well be the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. I predict a tight, low scoring win for Miami.
Wisconsin - North Dakota
WCHA team vs. WCHA team, future B1G team vs. future NCHC team. This game could say an awful lot about history and the future. But North Dakota has been stifled this season in the WCHA Final Five. Wisconsin had to play three games in the X to win. Wisconsin has certainly been playing playoff hockey longer. This is one of the tougher games to choose, but I think Wisconsin pulls this one off with solid goaltending and Zengerle and Kerdiles being able to solve Saunders or Gothberg more than Knight and Kristo are able to solve Rumpel.
National Championship Game
Wisconsin - Miami
Whether I subconsciously chose red teams to get to the National Title Game because I wish Cornell were there, or because I believe solid defensive hockey is going to prevail, I predict Miami to meet Wisconsin in the deciding game. But Wisconsin is a four seed, you may say. When is the last time that a four seed won a national championship??? 1981, Wisconsin defeated Clarkson, Northern Michigan, and Minnesota to win their third national championship. This will be a tight, low-scoring game, with Miami wanting their first championship badly, but I think history prevails and Wisconsin wins number seven.
How the 2013 NCAA Tournament will look:
NCAA Tournament Prediction Version B
West Regional Semifinals
Yale - Minnesota at Friday, March 29 (2:00 pm)
The national tournament kicks off with a game that I think will be a must-see game. The game has all the trappings of a great game. Yale's Allain and Cornell's Schafer are the only ECAC coaches who have proven to be consistently competitive against WCHA programs. Allain's bulldogs defeated Colorado College and Denver during a swing through the Mountain Timezone. I was very big on Minnesota headed into the 2012-13 season. In my mind, they were the team to beat, the one team that seemed above the rest early in the season. Minnesota did not do much for most of the season to disprove that. However, the Gophers have proven that they may be more gilded than golden. Much has been made about how skilled Wilcox is in fending Minnesota's crease. I don't think goaltending will make the difference. Having said that, if either Malcolm or Wilcox implodes, the high-octane offense of their opponents will make their team pay. This is one of the three hardest games for me to choose and it is one of two of those in the regional semifinals. I could see Yale pulling off the upset against a major WCHA program like it did in 2010 against North Dakota despite Yale's 1-2-0 record against WCHA programs in the national tournament. Ultimately, I think the Gophers will be too much for Yale and sending the Bulldogs heading East with their tails between their legs. The real question is: will Keith Allain give a press conference this time? Minnesota wins.
Niagara - North Dakota at Friday, March 29 (5:30 pm)
A preeminent national powerhouse meets Atlantic Hockey's first at-large bid in Conference history. I have thought that Niagara's statistics have been inflated all season for several reason. They have a very good goaltender in Chubak, but his statistics are elevated by playing very well in the early part of the regular season against opponents typically regarded as less competitive than those from other leagues and in a conference in which programs plan for playoffs runs because at-large bids for the conference (up until this season) were unheard of for Atlantic Hockey. I think Chubak is good, but the real question is how will he stack up against some of the best scorers in the nation in Knight and Kristo in playoff hockey? In Niagara's last outing, Chubak surrendered five goals to eventual Atlantic Hockey Champion, Canisius. He has amassed a 0.912 save percentage during the playoffs. Whether it is fatigue or a lack of comfort playing teams that are playing with a passion to continue their season, Niagara does not seem to have second life in the playoffs. Niagara's situation is exacerbated by the fact that they played no WCHA opponents this season (through no fault of their own, I am sure, but nonetheless a weakness). To the chagrin of Minnesota fans who would like me to predict that a purple-clad Atlantic Hockey team would upset the Gophers's archrival, I predict that North Dakota will prevail. North Dakota wins.
Northeast Regional Semifinals
Wisconsin - UMass-Lowell at Friday, March 29 (4:30 pm)
Some commentators have said that the winner of this game likely could be the ultimate national champion. Both teams are extremely good. Both are very hot and coming off winning their respective conference championships. Wisconsin defeated Colorado College to claim its first Broadmoor Trophy in 15 years. UMass-Lowell became the first non-big four team to win the Hockey East championship. Wisconsin was required to dismantle faster paced teams and systems en route to the Broadmoor. The RiverHawks went through Maine, Providence, and Boston University. None of those teams present challenges that are similar to those that the Badgers will present. Wisconsin was to the WCHA as Cornell is to the ECAC with its defense-first mentality. I do not think Bazin cannot adjust to play teams of different systems over a week. That is foolish. He is a great coach. I do however think that the fact that Denver and New Hampshire are in the bracket with Wisconsin exacerbates matters because preparation for those teams will be very much unlike preparation for the Badgers. I know coaches claim "one game at a time," but if anyway preparation has flipped the page to look at future challenges, I think that Wisconsin is decidedly favored. Last season was UMass-Lowell's first appearance in the national tournament. The RiverHawks played very talented Miami and Union teams. However, playing a team with a history of success in the national tournament and a trophy case full of national championships like Wisconsin raises the stakes. I think that Bazin's achievement of winning the Hockey East championship may have been viewed on some level as an end in itself and I am not sure the RiverHawks will bring the effort that is needed to defeat a Badgers team. Colorado College's Owens mentioned that Wisconsin is exuding confidence in every aspect of its game. I advise against picking against a program with a national pedigree that is feeling buoyed by history. Wisconsin wins.
Denver - New Hampshire at Friday, March 29 (8:00 pm)
I wish that I could make this selection in one word. I am a fan of New Hampshire and I hope on many levels that they become the next program to join "the club" of programs that have national championships. I do not think this is the year for Umile's squad to join those ranks. The Wildcats ran into an elite goaltender in the Hockey East Quarterfinals in the form of Gillies. New Hampshire forced the series to a deciding game three after the Providence Friars took a strangehold of the series in game one. Providence would win the series. I think that Denver may be living on borrowed time with a bench as short as it has. However, the unexpected week off before the WCHA Final Five may be a blessing in disguise as a team that has barely enough players will be well rested. The Pioneers's Olkinuora is among the two best goaltenders I have watched this season. Unsurprisingly, the one game in which he tended the pipes for Denver in the Colorado College playoff series, the Pioneers won. The 'Cats could not beat a hot Providence goaltender, I predict the same fate for them in this semifinal. Denver wins.
Midwest Regional Semifinals
St. Cloud State - Notre Dame at Saturday, March 30 (1:30 pm)
The Huskies have fallen flat since they won the MacNaughton Cup. They managed a sweep of Alaska-Anchorage but have done little to impress since they claimed a share of one of the WCHA's most prized trophies. St. Cloud State is 6-5-0 since mid-February. I am not one to ignore strength of schedule, so it needs to be acknowledged that over that span St. Cloud State split with Minnesota, Colorado College, and Wisconsin. Those are respectable results. Jeff Jackson's Fighting Irish just passed what he believed would be the hardest test of the CCHA post-season: beating Michigan. Both teams are stellar. I think that this is one of the hardest games to predict and I think that it will be one of the hardest games that I project Notre Dame will compete in. The trajectory of Notre Dame seems to be upward and one knows that Jackson knows how to win in the national tournament. I predict a close game, but not a toss-up. Notre Dame wins.
Minnesota State - Miami at Saturday, March 30 (5:00 pm)
I hate picking against coaches whom I respect. I think this match-up forces me to do that. What Hastings has done with the Mavericks in one season is nothing short of astounding. He took a team one season removed from a 0.342 record and has brought it to the national tournament with instilling a sense of pride. The Mavericks do the little things right and believe deeply that they will not be more talented than any of their opponents. Hard work typifies Hastings's team and program. I expect great things out of them when they continue in the reorganized WCHA. Blasi's RedHawks have a roster dotted with 13 freshmen. Miami was embarrassed in CCHA Semifinals when a resurgent Michigan dominated them 6-2. That game saw the RedHawks surrender the greatest number of goals they have this season. I do not think maturity will be the problem in this game. I think that Blasi will have an encore effort after that loss to attempt to right the ship. It is hard to pick against a team that has known great success in the national tournament in recent memory. Miami wins.
East Regional Semifinals
Canisius - Quinnipiac at Saturday, March 30 (5:30 pm)
I think that statistics best demonstrate why I chose the way that I did in this match-up. On paper, this is the match-up of the best team in the nation against the insurgent winner of the Atlantic Hockey championship. I think the game will come down to goaltending. The forwards of neither Canisius nor Quinnipiac are awe-inspiringly talented. I think the distinction is awash between the likes of Gibbons and Langlois. Smith has control of his Golden Griffins and has their minds in the right place focusing on unseating a number one overall seed. Anyone who watched Quinnipiac's ECAC Semifinal game between Brown and the Bobcats can draw their own conclusion about whether Pecknold still has control of his team. The Golden Griffins are 8-0-0 over their last eight games. That winning streak includes Canisius's upsetting of perennial Atlantic Hockey power Air Force in Colorado Springs and dismantling Niagara in the playoffs. Quinnipiac is 4-3-1 over the same span. That streak includes losses to Harvard, Cornell, and Brown with a tie to the Brown Bears. Additionally, as mentioned in a previous post, Quinnipiac on its playoff jog benefited from three questionable goal calls in game three against Cornell going in its favor and two disallowed Yale goals in the consolation game. It has been a long time since the Bobcats have dominated an opponent without question. Some point to the time when it finally obtained the number one national ranking as the inflection point. That seems accurate. The team viewed obtainment of a number one poll spot as a goal in itself. What is apparent is that they are not playing their best hockey in the playoffs. Quinnipiac's Hartzell, a Hobey Baker finalist, has not been in playoff form as he produced only a 0.901 save percentage in the playoffs. He twice dipped below 0.850. Not much has been made of Canisius's Capobianco. I think that will change Saturday night. His playoff save percentage of 0.951 dwarfs that of Hartzell. The Golden Griffin netminder has faced 247 shots in the playoffs. In no game has he faced fewer than 35 shots. These considerations all weigh in favor of Canisius pulling off yet another Atlantic Hockey first-round upset. Canisius wins.
Union College - Boston College at Saturday, March 30 (9:00 pm)
This is the hardest game to choose in the first round. I had Union penciled in as the clear winner until early in the week. Much like the Denver-New Hampshire game, it seems like one name is sufficient for the rationale. The difference between the two series is that I am pretty sure the integral person to the Union College-Boston College game will not be lacing his skates up. It is clear that Boston College is an entirely different team when Jerry York is not behind the bench. Earlier in the week, it was uncertain if Jerry York would lead his team into the weekend or even be at the game on Saturday. Union is clearly the better team if the Eagles do not have that intangible boost that drives Boston College to success. I do not think that Boston College is bound for a repeat national championship and I do think that Union College is as sound as they were last season when they made the Frozen Four (what the Dutchmen lack in individual talent they more than compensate for in dedication and team work). I like this Union team a lot. I am glad that they became the third and final Harkness-influenced program to defend their first Whitelaw Cup. I do not see the Jerry York-led Eagles losing on Saturday to Union. Boston College wins.
West Regional Final
North Dakota - Minnesota at Saturday, March 30 (4:00 pm)
This should look familiar. North Dakota and Minnesota meeting in the West Regional to decide which team will advance to the Frozen Four. It happened last season. I predict a similar result. Not in the way that many will expect. Last season, two-seed Minnesota upset one-seed North Dakota. I predict that second seed, North Dakota will topple the Golden Gophers. Both teams are supremely talented this season. Minnesota took a win and a tie out of North Dakota during the regular season. Rivalries are a volatile thing. The law of averages applies more than ever to such games. I cannot see Lucia's Gophers winning a rematch of last season's West Regional Final. The transitive property is not one that I overvalue in college hockey, but I do think it is telling that the Colorado College Tigers and Howe managed to shut out the Gophers but wrested victory from North Dakota only in overtime after allowing three goals. Minnesota's Wilcox is highly lauded but I think that North Dakota's stable of goaltenders including Saunders can match the best efforts of the Gophers in this high-stakes game. Minnesota has refused to come to terms with North Dakota about an extension of the Minnesota-North Dakota rivalry after B1G-NCHC realignment places the traditional rivals in different conferences. I think that North Dakota gives the Gophers a proper send-off to the heated rivalry. North Dakota wins.
Northeast Regional Final
Wisconsin - Denver at Saturday, March 30 (6:30 pm)
Denver's 2-1 game against Cornell shows that defensively oriented teams can tame the Pioneers's offense. Cornell was very much in that game. Wisconsin can defeat a Denver program that has little depth due to injuries and early departures by grinding them down. The Badgers before they were red hot took a win and a tie out of Gwozdecky's Denver. Wisconsin is afraid of no one. Denver is burdened by the fact that their short bench likely will have caught up with them by the time the regional final arrives. The game will not be a high scoring affair because Olkinuora, if Denver goes with him over Brittain, will ensure such. Wisconsin's style is suited for gritty, low-scoring affairs. The Badgers average making the Frozen Four every other time that they appear in the national tournament. I expect them to break this pattern and make the Frozen Four this season with a close, hard-fought win over the Denver Pioneers. Wisconsin wins.
Midwest Regional Final
Miami - Notre Dame at Sunday, March 31 (4:00 pm)
Much like Denver, I think that the situation for Miami on its roster has it playing on borrowed time when the regional finals arrive. Blasi is a great coach but I believe it will prove too burdensome for even a coach as talented as he to have a roster that freshmen dominate, including both goaltenders, ready to close the deal of making the Frozen Four. Notre Dame's Jackson has a more seasoned roster and is just two season removed from a Frozen-Four appearance. 15 players from the Fighting Irish's last Frozen-Four berth are still on the roster. I think that the experience and familiarity of the Notre Dame roster with games on as big of a stage as this game will be played will tilt the result in favor of the Irish over the more immature RedHawks. Notre Dame did split with Miami over the regular season.The RedHawks gave the golden-domed icers their last loss of the pre-national tournament season. Miami's 6-2 loss to Michigan showed more than vulnerabilities. Mental fatigue on a very young roster had begun to take its toll. Notre Dame will reappear in the Frozen Four. Notre Dame wins.
East Regional Final
Canisius - Boston College at Sunday, March 31 (6:30 pm)
Everyone loves a Cinderella Story. The media relishes in it. Fans whose teams have been eliminated join the bandwagon. As good as I think Canisius is and as much as I think the Golden Griffins will surprise those who have not seen them, I do not think they can best the Eagles in a regional-final clash. It is not Boston College's year for a repeat. But, I do not think that Canisius will be able to endure the inevitable drop-off after the emotional high of eliminating the first overall seed. I do not think an Atlantic Hockey team will return to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2010. Boston College wins.
Frozen Four Semifinals
Boston College - Notre Dame
Spectators in Pittsburgh will get to witness an installment of one of college hockey's better rivalries when "the Holy War on ice" faces off at the Consol Energy Center in the national semifinals. I believe firmly that this season will not see the first repeat national champion since Denver achieved that feat in 2004 and 2005. The road ends for Boston College in the Frozen Four. Boston College is a team that relies on its offense to win games. Last season, Parker Milner was lights out against most opponents but his play has been wavering as the Eagles headed into the 2013 playoffs. His form has not returned to the level it was during the 2013 national-championship run. I think that he will be able to elevate his game for the first two games of the national tournament. I think that in the game against Notre Dame fate catches up with Boston College. It will be difficult for the Eagles to outcompete the Union Dutchmen in the regional semifinal and very difficult for Milner to outduel Grosenick, but I think Boston College emerges out of that series victorious because the Eagles's forwards will more than compensate for mediocre netminding. I think that no such overcompensation will occur in the national semifinal. Notre Dame's Summerhays has performed better than Boston College's Milner putting up a 0.917 and 0.912 save percentage respectively. Neither statistic is impressive, but Notre Dame is the better team. Notre Dame's defense is more stifling so even forwards as skilled as those of Boston College will be limited in opportunities with Jackson's holistic approach to the game. The Eagles will have little room to maneuver and the Fighting Irish will advance to the national championship game. Notre Dame wins.
Wisconsin - North Dakota
Wisconsin has not been to the Frozen Four since 2010. North Dakota has not been since 2011. The North Dakota team that last made the Frozen Four was the one that many in the greater Grand Forks community thought would win North Dakota's eighth national championship. The Wolverines of Michigan had other plans in mind as junior goaltender Shawn Hunwick made a 1-0 lead count until Michigan tallied an empty-net goal to end North Dakota's run. The 2012-13 North Dakota team may not be as talented as Hakstol's 2010-11 squad, but history has shown that the teams that are expected to achieve the highest accolades often fall just short. Ask Michigan fans about their 1997 or 2012 teams. The former of which was bookended by two less talented national championship teams. No four seed has won the national tournament since the current format was adopted in 2003. In fact, the last four seed to win was Wisconsin under a previous format in 1981. I think the Badgers's triumphant run into the playoffs will end in Pittsburgh when North Dakota snaps their run in spectacular fashion. I think that the skill of Hakstol and his assistants will have deciphered and exploited the emerging flaws in the systems and efforts of Eaves's Wisconsin teams. Dave Hakstol is one of the best coaches and strategists in college hockey. I am sure that it will show. Late-season national tournament pushes from key players like Knight and Kristo will overwhelm Wisconsin when it matters most while North Dakota's defensive core including senior Joe Gleason will be equal to the task of ensuring that North Dakota gains its first berth to the national championship game in 2005. North Dakota wins.
National Championship Game
North Dakota - Notre Dame
Rules are made to be broken, right? I have the general rule that it is unwise to pick against a college hockey program with history and pride that motivates it. Few college hockey programs have a richer tradition or a more passionate fanbase than North Dakota. It is dangerous to choose against such a program in my opinion. I am led to do it nonetheless. A championship match-up between North Dakota and Notre Dame would represent the second appearance for both Dave Hakstol and Jeff Jackson in the national championship game with their current programs. The game will be a toss-up where I can see either team winning. As an extension of my generally outlined rule, I find it unwise to predict that a new team will join "the club," but on an instinct, I think Notre Dame will win. This predicted game and the scheduled game between St. Cloud State and Notre Dame were the hardest on Notre Dame's route to the national championship for me to decide. Neither Notre Dame nor North Dakota has put up gaudy numbers in all categories since the mid-February. North Dakota has averaged nearly four goals per game. Notre Dame averages one complete goal less per game. The Fighting Irish allow almost exactly one goal less per game (0.70). Both teams have been in a dead heat for scoring differential since college teams have been gearing up for the playoffs. Notre Dame's power play has been clicking at a rate one percent higher than the power-play unit of North Dakota. Surprising, in light of systems, is that over the same span North Dakota has killed off 83% of opponents's power-play opportunities while Notre Dame has killed off fewer than 80%. That statistic bodes poorly for the Fighting Irish who rely upon their power-play unit to generate 26.9% of the goals that they have scored. North Dakota is less penalized. The statistics bear out that North Dakota likely would be the favored team in a match-up that is relatively close. I still find myself favoring Notre Dame as the victor despite the statistical evidence.
If this championship game occurs, I love the idea of a pairing off of Anders Lee, Jeff Costello, and T. J. Tynan against Corban Knight, Danny Kristo, and Rocco Grimaldi. The work of offensively minded defensemen like North Dakota's John Gleason (who is one of my favorite non-Cornell players) and Sam Calabrese would make the game a spectacle that all in Pittsburgh and nationwide would enjoy. I admire the talent and strategy of both Jackson and Hakstol. Both would have their teams ready for a national title game well worth remembering. The deciding factor that I think tilts the balance in Notre Dame's favor is that I do not see Jackson appearing in another national title game and leaving empty-handed. I think the game will develop as a low-scoring, gritty game of attrition much like the 2011 Frozen Four clash between Michigan and North Dakota. The teams will be evenly matched and the game close. If forced to choose, I would predict that Notre Dame wins its first national championship rather than North Dakota claiming its eighth. Notre Dame wins.
The way that I predict the 2013 NCAA Tournament will develop:
The dust has settled. The beginning of the national postseason is on the horizon. The Whitelaw Cup for the 2013 season has been awarded. It was neither the end most of us expected at the season's beginning nor for which we hoped.
The publication of this post was delayed because I decided that it was best to allow time to pass so that the passions of the moment would not motivate too heavily, either direction, my views of the events of the 2013 ECAC Quarterfinals. Also, on some level, it seems wrong on some visceral level that Cornell's season is finished.
This post will recap the weekend that was against Quinnipiac and what I believe it taught as its final lesson to Cornell fans about the 2012-13 team and season. WAFT will then direct its coverage to the 2013 NCAA Tournament later this week through the Frozen Four. When the college hockey season has concluded, WAFT will provide a reflective post of how we think that the 2012-13 season will be remembered in the annals of Cornell hockey history.
It was the playoffs. Quinnipiac was the number-one seed. As the week approached, the narrative shifted to a focus upon the league's runaway points leader confronting the conference's historic power that had been very hot through the end of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. Fans in Quinnipiac's circle began to emphasize that it was Cornell that had more on the line as the historic power of the ECAC and a team with its season on the line. Cornell and Schafer emphasized that it was Quinnipiac that would bear the burden of carrying the yoke of expectations and would need to prove that it could carry such a heavy burden.
Quinnipiac stood between Cornell and the Big Red's 13th Whitelaw Cup which would bring with it guaranteed entry into the national tournament. Cornell would have it no other way. Generations of players for the Big Red have defined themselves by their abilities to win championships regularly and to slay Goliaths of the college hockey world more prestigious and prodigious than the likes of Quinnipiac. Even in the Bobcats's best season.
Cornell took the ice in the sterile confines of Quinnipiac's corporately named venue on Friday. The Bobcats struck first. The ice that had tilted in favor of Quinnipiac for the first six minutes began to give way. The expectant build-up the week before for Cornell was about to be unleashed in a full onslaught. The Bobcats had awoken a sleeping giant.
Quinnipiac took a one-goal lead into the first intermission. It would not last long. Cornell's Ferlin struck just 23 seconds into the second period. The Bobcats would battle ferociously to fight back with Kellen Jones tallying another would-be go-ahead goal. Madison Dias had an answer less than three minutes later. Dias, in a play reminiscent of the one that yielded his goal against Dartmouth earlier in the season, skated an arc to the point and blasted the puck beyond Hartzell.
The second and third period of game one became a clinic in perfectly executed Cornell hockey against a dangerous opponent. The third period ended with Brian Ferlin scoring his second goal of the period and putting Cornell atop the home-standing Bobcats, 3-2. The sense in the air as Cornell made that goal stand as the go-ahead goal for the remaining 6:16 of the second period was that Cornell could defend this one-goal lead for the remainder of the game.
Cornell did exactly that.
Cornell challenged when it had clear and undangerous chances in the third period but it could not find the back of the net. It would not need to. Cornell's defensemen and forwards with Iles backstopping both forced all shots to the periphery and Iles was equal to the challenges that got through. Iles delivered a spectacular performance and a well-executed neutral zone trap allowed Cornell's players to return to their hotel rooms with a stranglehold on the 2013 ECAC Quarterfinal series against the top-seeded Bobcats.
An often overlooked event occurred during the first game that likely reverberated throughout game two and game three of the series. Quinnipiac's Van Brabant took a questionable hit behind the play on Cornell's senior captain Erik Axell. The senior Cornell forward left the ice excruciatingly slowly and would not return for what would be the remainder of the season.
Van Brabant's hit did not result in a penalty during the game. However, the Conference upon post-game review of the hit decided to impose a one-game suspension for the hit. Van Brabant was absent from game two of the ECAC Quarterfinal as was Axell.
The writing was on the wall early in game two. It was not Cornell's night. Quinnipiac found the back of Cornell's net just 24 seconds into the game after a blown play. Cornell was appreciably unsettled after that early goal and never regained its game. It was hard not to think back to the 2012 NCAA Regional Semifinal against Michigan in which Michigan got a quick goal against Cornell. Strong leadership pulled the team out of that tailspin. It was Erik Axell who centered and led that line in Green Bay, WI. His presence on the ice was sorely needed but painfully unavailable due to the injury he sustained in game one.
Cornell never regained control of the game. Quickly, Cornell and Schafer began to regroup mentally and physically for the game three that would occur the next day. Most starters for Cornell were benched to avoid fatigue and injury while Quinnipiac engaged in a display of chest-beating as they ran up the score to 10-0 by the time regulation elapsed. Hartzell was the only starter that Quinnipiac benched during the third period.
The interesting conclusion of game two was the reaction not of coaches Scott, Syer, and Schafer, but those of Pecknold and his assistants. The former group was almost unsettlingly calm toward the waning minutes of the third period. It appeared to focus on game three. The latter group transitioned drastically from hubristic and self-indulgent glee to dread. When the game ended, it appeared on the faces of the coaching staffs that Cornell had won the game, at least on some mental level.
Game three loomed for both teams. Quinnipiac felt in some way like they had been bested despite a resounding defeat of Cornell. The reputation and timber of the Bobcats was at stake. Cornell knew that it could close out the series.
Cornell would not wait long to make its ambitions known. Senior captain and defenseman Braden Birch decided that he would take the burden of the team on his back as he stickhandled beautifully between Quinnipiac's defenders and beat the much-lauded Hartzell. It was astounding to see arguably Cornell's best defensive defenseman outmaneuver and handle Quinnipiac's defense almost singlehandedly to put Cornell ahead 1-0 just 48 seconds into the game. Could this Cornell team be denied?
Cornell would kill off two penalties before the midpoint of the second period. Quinnipiac would equalize the game by that point. Ferlin, just two days removed from putting two goals up for Cornell, responded within 1:04 after Quinnipiac's equalizer to put Cornell ahead once more.
The play that resulted Cornell's second goal had distinct glimpses of greatness that had those who began the season with the highest expectations lamenting what could have been. Cornell was in the middle of a line change. Junior forward Dustin Mowrey saw a play developing down ice. He chose to remain on the ice in Quinnipiac's zone. Mowrey checked a Quinnipiac defender off the puck. Ferlin received the puck in the slot with two Bobcat defenders too dazed to react. He tickled the twine with a blast of a shot.
Cornell needed to kill off two more penalties in the second period. The Big Red did that with relative ease and poise. It seemed as though the game would be decided in the third period.
The feeling around the game was not altogether dissimilar to that which surrounded game one when the third period began. It became apparent early in the third period that Cornell had resolved to defend the 2-1 advantage that it owned at the opening of the third frame. The calm confidence that overcame Cornell fans throughout the third period of game one was absent. Apprehension replaced it.
Cornell made this uneasiness seem misguided for most of the third period. Cornell stood up most Quinnipiac rushes in the neutral zone and those who bypassed the Big Red blockade were met with shutdown defense in Cornell's defensive zone. More than ever, Cornell treated the final 60 minutes of regulation as though it was all a penalty kill. This approach worked well until the final two minutes of regulation.
A lapse in Quinnipiac's defense during a line change led to an odd-man rush. Cornell's Ferlin and Lowry found themselves rushing in on Hartzell. Ferlin had solved Hartzell three times already in the series. Cornell knew that Quinnipiac's last-gasp push to prevent elimination in the 2013 ECAC playoffs would be coming soon. If the Ferlin-Lowry rush could beat Hartzell, Quinnipiac's push likely would be for naught if it occurred at all and the game effectively would be over.
The duo that had combined for several flawless goals over the course of the season would not do it one last time. The pair did not convert. It was not a marvel of goaltending from Hartzell that prevented them. The play did not connect. This play shows but one opportunity where the ultimate result could have been averted. Ferlin scarcely can be faulted for this play as he scored 60% of the goals that Cornell notched against the Bobcats in the playoff series.
Cornell transitioned and retreated into its defensive zone. Hartzell raced to the bench with around 1:30 remaining in the game. Cornell and Quinnipiac battled viciously along the blue line as the Big Red was excruciatingly close to getting the ever-important clear as seconds ticked away. Quinnipiac kept the puck in Cornell's zone. The Bobcats found the equalizer with 1:04 remaining in regulation.
The game continued in overtime. Quinnipiac notched the deciding tally 34:08 and 29 phenomenal saves from Iles later.
When asked what will I remember about this series, what will I say?
I've asked myself that question over the last week and a half. Three things have influenced my general perception of the weekend. One that I wish would not, but naggingly persists no matter how much I try to ignore it. The remaining two I am certain will influence my memories of the weekend whenever I recount it.
The thing that I wished I could forget or, better, wish had not happened so that it would not tinge the memory of even a losing series occurred in game three. Both goals that Quinnipiac scored in regulation occurred under suspicious circumstances. Additionally, a Cornell goal from John McCarron was waived off in the first period.
Quinnipiac's first goal came from Tolkinen. There was a clear crease violation before and while the puck crossed the line. The game-tying goal from the Bobcats's Harvey that pushed game three into overtime was deflected into the net off of a high stick. The first period ended with a scramble in front of Hartzell's net. ECAC official Whittemore positioned himself behind the net. The puck jumped out from the scrum in front of the net into the open ice to the left of Hartzell's pad. Sophomore forward McCarron slipped it into the net. The goal was disallowed because of a whistle that according to accounts from all sides was very premature considering Whittemore reasonably could not have lost sight of the puck.
The ECAC community is populated by fans who think that Cornell's success is a product of systemic preferential treatment from Conference officials. Fans of other programs who explain away the losses of their teams to Cornell in such a manner should consider this game. It is upsetting when a blown call makes the difference in a game. It is tragic when three goal calls are blown in one game. Quinnipiac benefited from three poor calls that gave them effectively a three-goal differential advantage. Had the officials gotten just one of those three calls correct, Cornell would have won in regulation.
A failure of officiating so grand cannot even be simplified to a rallying cry of defiance and remembrance such as "no goal." In such resides another harsh reality.
The things that I will never forget about the 2013 ECAC Quarterfinal between Cornell and Quinnipiac are how Cornell and its student-athletes represented our community. They made us proud. I was asked after the game if I was even proud after the game-two blowout. The answer is simple enough, yes. Was the loss embarrassing on some level? Undeniably yes, but I think that pride can be taken in that the Cornell team had the maturity to accept that game two was not its night and to move on. The leadership of Kanji as he took the ice when a great deal of Cornell's lineup were recalled to the bench showed great resolve and character. The next night, Cornell was ready and showed the compartmentalization and prioritization that is required of all student-athletes and that all Cornellians learn keenly well at the University. So, yes, even despite the game-two loss, this team made us proud.
Games one and three captured the work ethic and tenacity of this team. This team from forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders and on all lines fought for every accomplishment that it enjoyed in the 2013 ECAC Quarterinal. It got nothing easily. It expected nothing easily. The team in the waning minutes of a second overtime never surrendered and fought endlessly. Even when the ice began to tilt more in Quinnipiac's favor in the first overtime, Cornell's core redoubled its efforts. The image of Birch, Ryan, and Willcox taking extended shifts in an already long-running game with battling along the boards, finishing all of their checks, and corralling the pucks out of the corners in hopes of stopping Quinnipiac's best chance and generating a Cornell rush are forever seared into my memory.
The team that had little luck go its way this season battled onward for two additional periods. It knew that it would have to make its own luck as it had throughout the season when it tasted victory. As a group, the 2012-13 team battled until the final tally of the series. This, I will never forget and this will be what defines this series in my memory for this Cornell team.
The other lasting image or memory is that of Andy Iles delivering one of the greatest performances of a Cornell goaltender in recent memory. Scrivens was called on to make 52 saves against Yale in a regular-season game in February 2010. McKee recorded 59 saves against Wisconsin in the 2006 NCAA Midwest Regional Final in three overtimes. Iles's tremendous performance in the deciding game three of the 2013 ECAC Quarterfinal equals or surpasses the performance in either of those games.
Iles seemed indefatigable. Iles made 60 saves during the game over less than two overtimes. He did what was needed for Cornell to keep it in the game when it seemed that it was about to lose control. The few times that little else was going in Cornell's favor, Iles made the difference. Words can scarcely capture how impressive and dominant his performance was. Cornell knew more than ever that it could rely on Iles. Iles gave Cornell more than a chance to win and his efforts in game three should be revered more highly than the two recent performances above cited. In the history of a program that largely is written in terms of famous netminders, Iles's performance against Quinnipiac in game three never should be forgotten.
The loss in the series ended Cornell's season. The series was not without uplifting moments. The team made the Cornell community proud as it did not quit. A team that was undeterred throughout the season by the most unfortunate of circumstances or steepest of odds found the collected strength of moral character to continue to fight until the very end. This work ethic and passion is what I will remember about the 2013 ECAC Quarterfinal series for Cornell. I will remember what this team made us do. It made us believe.
Series Record: 14-7-2
Friday, March 15 & Saturday, March 16
November 10, 2012 & Friday, February 8, 2013
The Bobcats took the series from the Big Red, winning at the Bank as well as Lynah by a score of 4-1 during each game. The Bobcats began an unbeaten run, Cornell began a slide, and after the Big Red has righted its path and the Bobcats have taken a few stumbles, they both find themselves meeting in the ECAC quarterfinals.
Quinnipiac has done some things it never had this season. It went on a program-record unbeaten streak, won the regular-season, and earned a first-round bye. Quinnipiac also found itself tying Brown twice, splitting with both Harvard and St. Lawrence, and ending the season's last six games with a 3-2-1 record. Will the Bobcats be the team it was in the beginning of the season, or the team it was at the end of the season?
Keys to the Game:
There is likely little underestimation that will happen on the Big Red's behalf. Quinnipiac is the top team in the league and swept Cornell this season. But the Cornell team that played Quinnipiac was not the same team that showed up at the Bank in November or at Lynah in February. Cornell has found the back of the net, scoring four in six of the last eight games, and the defensive core has been reliable with Andy Iles solid in net. Cornell seems to be clicking during the right time of year.
Cornell will first need to solve Eric Hartzell. Hartzell has been the difference maker in most of Quinnipiac's games, but he has also given up more goals in the stretch than in most of the season. His save percentage since Quinnipiac met Cornell last has included three games under 0.900. Quinnipiac goes into the weekend with the #1 penalty kill in the nation, at 91.7 percent. The last time they gave up power-play goals was against Yale. Yale's two goals against were on the power play. Interestingly, Cornell has a better power-play percentage than Quinnipiac in terms of percent conversion. So while allowing Quinnipiac power-play opportunities may not seem dangerous statistically, the Big Red will need to limit its penalty opportunities. This weekend, Cornell only allowed its opponent to draw four penalties. Cornell will need to remain calm, confident, and cognizant.
This team is more than capable of beating Quinnipiac. Cornell is clicking on all cylinders and is a better team than its statistics suggest. Quinnipiac has never had a first-round bye, so it will be interesting to see how they react to it. Will they have trained too much? Not enough? It is yet to be seen. Whether in a sweep or a three-game grudge match, it will be a sight to be seen.
The post-season has an interesting history for the Bobcats. For the fourteen years that Quinnipiac has been a Division I program, it has played in three different conferences. It spent seven years in the MAAC and Atlantic Hockey and seven in the ECAC. The playoff series of the MAAC and Atlantic Hockey conferences, when Quinnipiac was a part of them, were single-game elimination series. There was no "first round" and it only took three games to win the entire conference. Quinnipiac's record in the entire tournament over seven years was 11-6-0, however, it only won the conference once in spite of four trips to the tournament championship game. Funnily enough, it met Mercyhurst in every game it played there.
In terms of ECAC tournaments, a different beast than the now-defunct MAAC and AHA, Quinnipiac has had a different experience. This is the first year that Quinnipiac has not had to play in the first round. It is important to note that it will be interesting to see what sort of effect having the week off will have. Quinnipiac has advanced to the quarterfinal round seven times, the semifinals once, and the finals once. Quinnipiac has not made the NCAA tournament since 2002, a game they lost to Cornell.
When looking further into Quinnipiac's quarterfinal record, it has advanced only one time from the quarterfinal round. Five of the seven series have gone to three games. All five of those series went to opponents of the Bobcats. The Bobcats have never won a game three. The two sweeps are a split, with Quinnipiac sweeping once and being swept once. The record in terms of games for the Bobcats is 7-12, which is a winning percentage of 0.368.
For some pre-game entertainment, please skip to 15:34. We can't help but agree with Jordan.
The playoffs arrived. Cornell and Schafer have placed particular emphasis upon the post-season this season even by the standards of Cornell hockey that expect that Cornell will compete for a Whitelaw Cup each season. Cornell ended the regular season red hot and in the first round anticipation was as high as ever.
Cornell traveled southward to meet Princeton in historic Hobey Baker Rink. Schafer emphasized before the series that the Princeton team that his squad would face would not be the same team that Cornell confronted at Lynah Rink in February when the Big Red managed to produce nearly 40 shots on Princeton's net to no avail. The penumbral implication in all those comments was that Princeton would not face the same Cornell squad that it had in February as well.
Hobey Baker Memorial Rink presented its expected ambiance. The building was tomb-like save for the boisterous chants and exclamations of the Lynah Faithful that found their way to the Jersey-bound Ivy. Princeton's pep band appeared the first night and provided what support it could for its Tigers including chants that are better suited for basketball than hockey (see, the rhythmic refrain of "defense" when Princeton was killing a penalty) and a few that were witty including a response to the Big Red Pep Band's chant that "Princeton's in New Jersey" that involved repeating the taunt with altered emphasis to make it seem complimentary.
Needless to say, the first game was played in front of a crowd whose college hockey fan supporters were partisan toward Cornell. A venue that claimed to have filled to 105% capacity during the regular season was lucky if it reached 50% capacity for either game over the weekend. Even though Cornell nominally started on the road, fan support predictably was skewed in its favor when it took the ice at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink.
The opening period was the roughest of the weekend for Cornell. Princeton was determined to deflate a strident Cornell team that had made a mantra of its desire to make a run in the playoffs. Early in the first game, Princeton made great progress toward that goal.
Princeton was the better team for the first period. The Tigers struck iron once in the first frame of the series. The game began to show signs of tilting in Cornell's favor at the end of the first period. When the teams went to their respective locker rooms after the first frame of the series, it was Schafer who would need to right the ship and Prier who would need to buoy his Tigers to keep up the intensity.
Then, the second period began.
Cornell appeared more determined but Princeton remained as dominant. The first period ended with Condon having a stellar game. He was called on several times to prevent conversion on several threatening offensive chances including a cross-pass on a breakaway with the line of Ferlin, Lowry, and Miller that most goaltenders this season have not been able to stop. Cornell would need to continue to generate without showing mental exhaustion from not converting on superb chances. The Big Red did just that.
Joakim Ryan was the first player to score in the first round for either team. Cornell had begun to take control of the game progressively. It seemed with each passing moment that the flow of the game became more Cornell-controlled. Cornell gained the Tigers's offensive zone and hemmed Princeton in. Cornell cycled around the outsides and wore down Princeton as Cornell hockey is properly executed. The anticipation was in the air of Hobey Baker Memorial Rink. One could tell that Cornell was about to score. Then, a pass from Ferlin connected with Ryan in the slot who had a clear look at Condon and beat the netminder cleanly.
Princeton's deflation was not immediate. The Tigers returned to their poised play. Their efforts might not have redoubled as those of some teams do after allowing a goal, but they did not wither. Princeton was very much set to win the game.
The second period marched on with Cornell controlling the game, but Princeton remained unbroken and Condon equal to all tasks. Princeton became more desperate at about the two-minute mark in the frame. The Prier-coached Tigers seemed determined to get a last-second tally in the second period to take momentum into the locker room with the game knotted at one. The Tigers pressed.
Princeton continued to challenge Iles as the last seconds of the second frame ticked to their conclusion. Iles was equal to challenge of a Princeton barrage. It was Willcox who collected the puck off of a turnover and found a racing and ever-skillful Esposito racing toward the Princeton zone. Esposito received the puck and with no Princeton defenders getting back to help Condon. Cornell's senior forward blasted a shot past Condon and put Cornell up 2-0 with 27 seconds left in the second period.
No one knew which Princeton or Cornell teams would emerge from the locker room the second time. It became quickly apparent. Princeton became more disorganized and far less disciplined. Individual Tigers began to play more selfishly than they had. This trend allowed Cornell to neutralize their offensive opportunities more readily than they had earlier in the game.
Cornell's dominance only increased. A play very similar to the one that had given Cornell a two-goal advantage resulted in the Big Red's third tally. The towering freshman forward Hilbrich broke out against Condon and put the Big Red up 3-0. Princeton was deflated before. It was demoralized now.
Just over 14 minutes remained in the game but Princeton showed little resolve to fight its way back into the game. The Tigers showed efforts toward ending the shutout, but never the resolve to bear down and bring the team back from a 3-0 deficit in the first game of the playoffs.
Cornell's defense and nearly flawless execution of its system prevented Princeton from challenging too dangerously. In the waning minutes of the game, Cornell appeared to play to defend Iles' shutout: an achievement his play had more than deserved in the first game of the playoffs.
Prier who has shown that he is never too shy to pull Condon pulled his netminder with two minutes left in the game. Sophomore forward McCarron, who had played an impeccable game in his generation of offense and wearing down Princeton forwards with his physicality, deserved and tallied an empty-net goal in the closing 1:25 of the game.
It seemed that Princeton would return the next day determined to tie the series and force a game three. The very few Princeton fans that made the trip for the first game and Princeton's pep band would not be there to support the Tigers in the second game. Princeton proved that it was ever a basketball school and its pep band who succeeded in irritating some of the Faithful with basketball chants during a college hockey game the night before abandoned its team because the Tigers had a basketball game to lose (at least unlike the other "basketball school" in the Ivy League Princeton did not cancel the hockey program in 1978).
Princeton would be required to claw itself back from the cusp of elimination into the playoffs in front of a crowd that was nearly wholly partisan in favor of Cornell (if one omits the black and orange worn by Flyers fans who apparently got lost on their way to the Wells Fargo Center who showed a gross misunderstanding of the traditions of college hockey). In its own building. The Tigers were not up to the task.
Princeton struck first. Cornell was extremely disciplined in the first game and had allowed one of the nation's best power-play units the chance to take the ice but once. Cornell had killed that penalty with determined defense and a few key saves from Iles. One of Cornell's best penalty killers was called for interference just past the midpoint of the first period.
Cornell cleared the zone and forced all shots to the outside on several occasions. Princeton was unable to find passing or shooting lanes for most of the power play. As time ticked by, it became inevitable that Cornell would kill off a crucial penalty from a great power-play unit. Until it was not. Princeton's Calof rushed down the left side of the ice and got Iles to commit to block the attempt from a player throughout the series had been selfish. Calof's pass found the Tigers's MacDonald who was on Iles's doorstep and redirected the puck neatly behind Iles.
Cornell would be forced to battle back from a deficit if it wanted to complete a sweep at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink.
The first period expired without any additional scoring. Cornell had generated great offense but Condon was there when called upon to make key saves. Princeton had returned to its somewhat successful tactic from the first night of holding up (sometimes figuratively, other times literally) Cornell forwards when they were gaining a net-front presence.
The second period began with Princeton defending the zone that was overlooked by a peering and taunting Big Red Pep Band, and adjacent to an assemblage of the Lynah Faithful in Sections 103, 104, and 105 of Hobey Baker Memorial Rink. The Faithful would have a front-row seat when the "Evil Empire of the ECAC" struck back. Phenomenal forward Ferlin, who WAFT has noted more often for his assists and plays this season than his goals, tickled the twine with a shot from the left face-off circle. Ferlin equalized the game. Cornell never looked back.
Cornell left the ice for the last intermission of the series having killed off a penalty and equalized the game. Senior captain D'Agostino would not wait long to decide the game. The senior defenseman scored twice in the second frame. His first goal was an even-strength goal that bested Condon. Then, just 4:25 later he struck again with a laser through traffic on a power-play goal that gave Cornell a two-goal lead with just over 14 minutes remaining in the second game of the playoffs. Ever the reliable defenseman, D'Agostino put Cornell ahead and tallied with his second goal what would stand as the game winner.
Cornell would be called upon to kill another Princeton power play. The Big Red showed elevated poise and determination in clearing the zone and allowing Princeton no threatening opportunities in the series's last power play. Princeton's Calof who acted through much of the series like he thought that he could defeat Cornell single-handedly found the back of the net with an extra-attacker goal with 45 second remaining in the Tigers' season.
Lowry skated into the untended Princeton zone and gently deposited an empty-net goal that gave Cornell a 4-2 advantage with 13 seconds remaining in the game. Cornell had defeated Princeton and advanced out of Hobey Baker Memorial Rink.
The weekend overall was a success. Eight Cornell players tallied two or more points over the series. Three of those eight were seniors who have shown that they have heeded Schafer's advice that the team needs to cohere as one to do what it knows it can. Cornell killed off only 75% of power-play opportunities that Princeton enjoyed last weekend but Cornell's discipline in not taking penalties adversely affects this statistic because the Big Red allowed only one power-play goal in the series to one of the elite power-play units in the nation. Cornell scored on 25% of its power-play opportunities.
Three individual efforts for and within the team are of particular note. Senior defenseman D'Agostino mounted his current career point total to 71 points with his game-winning goal against Princeton in game two. D'Agostino in so doing passed another famous offensively minded defenseman, Mike Schafer, who tallied 70 points over his career at Cornell. Senior forward Miller's three-point game in game two against Princeton brought him with three points of reaching the 100-point plateau. The senior forward continues to average more than one point per game. Andy Iles was stellar with his characteristic, but unorthodox, saves that involved pad and toe saves that just closed the door on rushing Princeton forwards or a quick flash of the leather of his glove from one-timers from the slot. He earned a hard-fought and well earned shutout in the series's opener and a save percentage of 0.958 over the series. It could be said easily that his phenomenal play early in the first period of game one fractured the Tigers's resolve and exhausted them mentally, and gave Cornell an edge in the series that the Big Red did not relinquish.
One of the greatest signs throughout the close of this game as it was in the RPI game when Miller was working on a hat trick was the way that the player close to reaching a hat trick put his own self-interest aside and played his role within Cornell's system. D'Agostino was crucial to ensuring that Princeton did not equalize the game as the Tigers pushed ferociously for the equalizer. He dumped the puck twice but never abandoned his defensive post for the chance of gaining an empty-net, hat-trick-completing goal at the cost of possibly allowing a momentary two-man advantage in Cornell's zone. This selflessness and investment in the team played no small part in Cornell's victorious emergence from its first playoff series. It has been one of the hallmarks of this team throughout the season.
Last weekend was amazing and enthralling for all those following Cornell Women's Hockey. But there is still more to come. Let's look at what happened last weekend and what we have to look forward to this weekend.
In spite of the fact that Cornell had outscored SLU 15-3 in three games earlier this season, this game was much tighter than the last three. St. Lawrence knew that it was its last chance to continue its season and Cornell knew that it had some revenge to exact for SLU taking the ECAC Championship away last season. The first period was all Cornell, as Taylor Woods scored two goals (though the second looked like Barley-Maloney on video), putting the Lady Rouge in the lead for the frame off an even-strength and power-play goal apiece. The second period the Saints struck back as Rylee Smith scored two goals of her own toward the end of the period. It was knotted going into the third with each team taking a penalty (or three in the case of the Big Red) including a soft call for a 5-on-3 in St. Lawrence's favor. The game could have been decided then and there, but the Lady Rouge would not let that stand. They killed off both penalties and another before freshman Taylor Woods scored her third of the game, her first career hat trick, to put the Big Red ahead, 3-2 with less than two minutes left in the game. With forty seconds left, Woods assisted Jenner on an empty netter to ice the game. Final score 4-2. It was an incredibly tight, well fought game by both teams and it is a shame that St. Lawrence's season ended there. But that was not the end of the weekend for the Big Red.
Saturday, Harvard beat Clarkson with the same score as the Big Red beat the Saints for Harvard's first win over Clarkson this season. Winning when it mattered put the Crimson in the title game in a heated Ivy rematch. Cornell and Harvard had split the season, each winning 3-1. The game was incredibly tight, in spite of the shot count. The first period saw Brianne Jenner score less than five minutes in, and the Big Red looked like it was ready to win. Harvard, however, was not giving up without a fight. They put a goal in toward the end of the period to even up the score and once again the game was tied, this time at one. The second was tight, with Harvard killing off a 5-on-3 and the period ending with the Lady Rouge on the kill. The next period started with the score tied 1-1. The Big Red killed a penalty and then Harvard killed one of their own. The game looked poised to go into overtime when Harvard was called with a slashing penalty with just over three minutes left in the frame. Toward the end of the penalty, the Lady Rouge took several close shots on Maschmeyer, one from Saulnier, and one from Fulton, when finally Jessica Campbell found the puck on her net and she put in a beauty of a shot to put the Big Red up 2-1 with 100 seconds left. The defense and Lauren Slebodnick made some monster plays, some beautiful blocks and saves in order to end the game with their one goal lead. The women took the trophy back to give these seniors and this program their third ECAC championship.
The Next Step
The NCAA tournament has been set with Cornell coming in at number two in the country behind only undefeated Minnesota. Three ECAC teams were represented, the most of any conference. Here is what the matchups look like:
North Dakota at 1. Minnesota
Mercyhurst at 2. Cornell
Harvard at 3. Boston College
Clarkson at 4. Boston University
Three of the four pairings have played each other at least once this season. Minnesota has beaten North Dakota five times this season, with their last game being a 2-0 win for the WCHA Championship. Cornell defeated Mercyhurst 4-0 at Lynah. Boston College defeated Harvard 2-1. Only Boston University and Clarkson have not played. Whether statistics and previous results say anything about outcomes is yet to be seen, but it is interesting nonetheless. Now let's look at Cornell's quarterfinal opponent, the women who stand between the Lady Rouge and the Frozen Four.
Mercyhurst, the champion of the CHA, is not unfamiliar to the Big Red. Mercyhurst and Cornell began playing in 2001-02 season. The record including this year is 5-13-1, but that should not alarm the fans of the Lady Rouge. All five wins have come since 2010. That means that this senior class has a record of 5-4 against Mercyhurst; the juniors have a record of 4-2; the sophomores have a record of 3-1; and the freshmen have a 1-0 record against Mercyhurst. While Mercyhurst should by no means be taken for granted, this team and Coach Derraugh have found ways to beat them, especially on big stages. The only time Cornell and Mercyhurst have met in the post-season was in 2010, marking the seniors's and Cornell's first win over Mercyhurst.
As far as this season, let's look at what Mercyhurst has done. Mercyhurst has had a fair number of mutual opponents including two games a piece against Quinnipiac, Yale, and Boston College. Mercyhurst pulled a win and a tie out of QU, two wins out of Yale and a split with Boston College. Mercyhurst is not a team to be taken lightly, even if Cornell beat them 4-0 earlier in the season. As we have seen in the past two weekends, teams play harder in the playoffs, especially when they are the underdog.
Here is what Cornell is going to have to do to beat Mercyhurst this weekend. Mercyhurst has an impressive goaltending tandem, a penalty kill of 87.1%, and a power play of 21.4%. Those statistics are staggering if you don't look at what Cornell has. Cornell has a solid netminder in Slebodnick and reliable backups in Pippy and Moak, a penalty kill above 90 percent, and a power play that is clicking in the post-season more than its numbers suggest. These teams are well matched and each of them are going to be fighting hard. Cornell will need to stay out of the box, as Mercyhurst is great on the power play, but they will also need to take advantage of every scoring opportunity they can, even strength, shorthanded, or power play because Mercyhurst is one of the few teams in the country more penalized than the Lady Rouge. If the Big Red play THEIR game, don't underestimate the Lakers, and play with their hearts, there will be a trip to Minnesota in the works. Let's Go Red!
Big Brother, Little Brother.
Here is a fun article about John McCarron's younger brother Michael and looking at how they played against one another back in October at Lynah. It's a fun read, and as John tweeted,
Another Red Hot Hockey, A New Coach
While there are a plethora of articles out there, from USCHO and College Hockey News, to BU, to ESPN, the articles are pouring out. Whether it is because Parker was pushed out or he chose to leave voluntarily, we will never know, but this does affect Cornell in some way. Red Hot Hockey was announced and there will be a new coach opposite Mike Schafer when the puck drops in MSG next year.
In other conference news, the Big Ten has released one of the trophies it will be giving out next season. The author thinks it will be the regular-season trophy rather than the conference one, but regardless, here it is in all its...glory.
It certainly is not traditional, but should a new conference get a classic trophy? Any thoughts?
For the third time in four years, Cornell has claimed an ECAC Championship in the Tournament. In a nail-biter against archrival Harvard, Cornell pulled out the win, the autobid to the national tournament where they (#2) will face Mercyhurst (#7). While the women are undoubtedly preparing for next weekend, let us look back at some of the celebratory pictures from last weekend. And if you want to re-watch the game, here it is.
Series Record: 81-51-8
Friday March 8 & Saturday March 9
November 10, 2012 & February 9, 2013
The two games where Princeton and Cornell have met this season have looked very different, in spite of their similar result. The Tigers took the wins, but Cornell was at two very different points in its season. The first game between the two resulted in Cornell's first loss of the season. Princeton dominated Cornell for most of the game, with Princeton up 2-0 going into the third period. Cornell turned on whatever switch wasn't properly working and scored three goals in less than five minutes. That was not enough, though, as Princeton managed to score three unanswered goals of their own in order to win the game, 5-3.
The second game was the last loss in Cornell's mid-season losing streak. Both teams appeared to be quite different. Mike Condon put up a stellar showing in net, stopping near-goals where it did not look possible, including what Coach Schafer later referred to as a "cluster bomb" in front of the net at the end of the period. The Tigers of Princeton were one of the best teams that the Big Red faced, regardless of their record. In spite of countless chances, the game ended 1-0 in Princeton's favor off of a fluky goal to give Princeton the series sweep.
The Tigers this season have at once under- and over-performed expectations. No one gave this team a shot, but they have played one of the better team games this season. They are crisp and have pulled league sweeps over Cornell, Colgate, and Harvard. They also have three of four points with RPI and Dartmouth, both of whom are sitting in the top of the league with number two and five seeds respectively. The Tigers apparently thought home ice so advantageous that in their last regular-season game, in overtime against Harvard, they pulled their goaltender. It resulted in a win and put them one point ahead of Cornell and Clarkson in the standings, grabbing the last home-ice spot in the first round. Junior Andrew Calof scored his 100th point in order to secure the win.
Keys to the Game:
Princeton is by no means an unbeatable team. Yet at the same point, they may be the most difficult team that Cornell will face in the playoffs, and not because the Tigers swept them this season. Princeton plays an incredibly disciplined game with an aggressive penalty kill.
In terms of statistics, Princeton does not take many penalties, at 12 minutes per game, coming in toward the bottom half of the country. Their power play is better, coming in at 21 in the country, with an 18.4% conversion rate. In terms of penalty kill, the Tigers are even more impressive, ranking at 13 in the country at 85.5% kill rate. The "Combined Special Teams" ranking puts Princeton at number four in the country, the highest that Cornell has faced. Denver is the closest remaining, at six. Interestingly enough, Princeton averages scoring the same number of goals that Cornell does, 2.41. Princeton averages allowing 2.79 goals per game, more than Cornell's 2.55.
But statistics do not say what will happen, only what has happened in the past. Cornell will need first and foremost, to solve Condon. Condon bested the Big Red through both luck and skill in the last match, not allowing a single goal against, but Condon has not remained unsolvable. The Big Red put three goals on him in November. After Condon left Cornell, he was apparently sick with the flu. He sat out when Princeton played host to the North Country and lost. Condon was back in against Brown and Yale, losing both games in spite of a 0.919 save percentage against Brown. Condon skated to a tie against Dartmouth with a 0.9375 save percentage, and played in an overtime win against Harvard last weekend. Condon might not have been the magic winning formula that Malcolm was for Yale, but he certainly has done well in net for the Tigers, as he was in net for eight of the Tigers's ten wins and four of their five ties.
The Big Red are a team to be reckoned with, and as offensively talented as any other in the league. They will need to remain disciplined, taking as few penalties as possible, and deal with any in-game adversity with poise as it comes. Whether it is a botched power play or an early whistle, the Big Red will need to play their best in spite of the calls this weekend.
Cornell and Princeton have met in six separate years in the ECAC playoffs: 1968, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2001, and 2009. They met a total of eight times and have a record of 5-2-1. Four of the games have gone to overtime, with the most recent playoff game going to two overtimes before Cornell ended the game. They have played in many different rounds of the ECAC, including but not limited to a first-round two-game series wherein one can tie, a single game first round series, a single game quarterfinal series, a play-in game, as well as a semifinal game. So this first-round series is not the first that the Tigers and Big Red have played against one another.
Except for two of the eight games, each match was within one. The 1968 quarterfinal series saw a 6-1 Cornell win and the 1998 play-in game at Lake Placid was a 6-2 Princeton win. Of the eight games, four were played at Lynah, two at Hobey Baker, one in Albany and one in Lake Placid.
The two teams have played one another since 1901, when they met in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Ice Palace. The first time either team played on campus was their tenth meeting, at Princeton's outdoor rink in 1914. Hobey Baker Rink was first played in by the two teams in 1924. The Tigers did not venture to Ithaca until 1926, when they played on Beebe Lake. The Tigers played in Lynah first in 1957.
These meetings will be the 141st and 142nd meetings of Cornell and Princeton to decide which team continues in the real season.
Last weekend marked the first ECAC Playoff weekend for the Lady Rouge and seven other ECAC teams. Cornell hosted Colgate, Clarkson hosted RPI, Harvard hosted Dartmouth, and Quinnipiac hosted SLU. Let's take an in-depth look at what the Lady Rouge did and a brief look around the league before we look at the upcoming semi-final weekend for the Big Red.
Cornell hosted Colgate for the third and fourth time this season in what was a very different series than the one that took place mid-November. In mid-November, Cornell shellacked Colgate by a combined score of 18-2. Each game was decided by a single goal. Also, not characteristic of the previous series, Cornell had to come from behind for both wins this past weekend. Friday's game was very different from previous ones against Colgate. Cornell led in shots in the first period, 12-4, but when the buzzer marked the end of the first frame, Colgate held the goal advantage, 1-0 on a power-play goal from a 5-on-3 situation. The second period fared slightly better for the Big Red. Brianne Jenner scored her first of the night, from Barley-Maloney and Leck. Colgate would not be silenced, though, scoring an even-strength goal less than two minutes later. The third period was just as back and forth as the second. Colgate scored a power-play goal less than two minutes into the frame. Barley-Maloney answered back, assisted by Jenner and Fortino, on a power-play goal of her own. Jenner scored her second of the night, again on the power play, to tie the Big Red up with Colgate. Colgate was not ready to give up and scored a fourth goal with less than three minutes left in the game. Cornell would not be denied, as Monika Leck scored the equalizer with less than a minute remaining in regulation, pushing the game to overtime. Overtime in the playoffs is not unfamiliar to most of the Big Red players, but it was not as long as their overtime game against BU last year. Brianne Jenner got her hat trick just 39 seconds into overtime from Rougeau and Leck. Cornell outshot Colgate 48-19 over the entire game, with 'Gate's goaltender stopping 43 shots. Penalties were more than a problem for both teams. Cornell got eight power-play opportunities, scoring on three of them. Colgate got three power-play goals of their own, of the six they were given. Cornell's 25 penalty minutes, including a major, were a huge problem for the Red.
The next night, Cornell was much more disciplined in terms of penalties, taking only 10 minutes of penalties, to Colgate's 17. The game started off just as ugly as the previous night, with Colgate scoring two goals in the end of the first, one on the power play and one on the penalty kill. One notable difference that first period was that it was the only period where Colgate came anywhere close to matching shots with Cornell, with an 11-10 edge to the Big Red. The second period was scoreless, in spite of almost 20 combined shots, and the Big Red once again went into the third period down, this time 2-0. The third period, however, was all Cornell. Freshman Taylor Woods scored just fifty-two seconds in the final frame, to put the Lady Rouge on the board. With one minute left in the period, Cornell was still down by a goal. At 19:07, senior defenseman Lauriane Rougeau scored the equalizer from Brianne Jenner. The game looked destined to go into overtime for the second night in a row when junior forward and Patty Kazmaier Top-10 Finalist Brianne Jenner shot a blast at the net from Taylor Woods and Emily Fulton with one second remaining on the clock. The goal went in and Cornell decided the series. Cornell led for a total of one second of the entire series, but won both games this weekend. This was not how the team typically wins, but they found a way to do so under great adversity. They advanced once again to host the ECAC Semi-final and Final games next weekend.
The other teams in the ECAC had their weekend series decided as well. Number two seed Clarkson took on seventh seed RPI. Their first game went to overtime, with RPI having a strong outing. In spite of that, Clarkson outshot the Engineers almost 2-1, scoring the game-winning goal 8:51 into overtime. RPI did not show as much fight the next afternoon, as Clarkson skated to a 5-2 victory to advance. Number three seed Harvard hosted number six seed Dartmouth in what was the most dominant series, as well as the only one of the weekend not to go to a single overtime. Harvard won the first game 3-0 and swept the Big Green in the second game with a 4-0 score in spite of the fact that they tied the Crimson earlier in the season. The final quarterfinal game was number five seed SLU at number four Quinnipiac. While Quinnipiac was the numeric favorite, beating and tying the Saints earlier in the season, the Saints had something the Bobcats did not: a historical reason to win. That is why the Saints will likely be one of the biggest tests the Big Red have in the tournament. The Saints are the reigning champions of the ECAC, beating the Lady Rouge last season in the ECAC Championship game. The first game was incredibly even, going to overtime, tied at 0. The Saints scored the game winner almost 11 minutes into the overtime period. The second game was even more impressive, lasting the length of two games. Regulation ended knotted at 2-2, with four times the number of goals scored in regulation as were scored in almost 71 minutes. But the game was still ongoing with the first and second overtimes being scoreless. Quinnipiac, this time, scored the unassisted game-winning goal, almost nine minutes into the third overtime, pushing the series to a third game, the only quarterfinal matchup to do so. The third game was decided early. For as incredibly tight as the previous two games were, the Saints had control of this entire game. SLU scored the first two goals in the first frame and MacDonald was more than equal to all 34 of Quinnipiac's shots the entire game. SLU skated to a 2-0 victory, advancing to the semi-finals.
Cornell has faced SLU more times in the regular season than any other team, sweeping the Saints in all three games with a combined total of 15-3. This, however, should not be any sort of relief to the Big Red, especially given what Colgate put up against the Big Red last weekend. Moreover, the last time the Saints met the Big Red, which resulted in a 6-0 Cornell victory, was in mid-January. Here is what the Big Red will need to do in order to solve the Saints.
Take Fewer Penalties
Prior to this weekend, the Lady Rouge had been much better at eliminating unnecessary penalties and time in the box. The women took 35 minutes in penalties over two games last weekend, far outpacing their average of 11.3. The Saints average only 8 penalty minutes per game, one of the fewest in the country for the women's teams. The SLU power play is not stellar, but if they are given that many opportunities, they will find the net. Notably, two of their three goals against the Lady Rouge earlier in the season were on the power play in spite of Cornell's more than 90 percent penalty kill. In their last three games, SLU had a combined 16 penalty minutes in what averages about 4 PIM given the overtime periods. SLU will not give many penalty opportunities of their own. Which leads us to the next point.
Find the Net
Finding the net is not always an issue for the Lady Rouge, but detractors had said it might be after their 0-0 tie with Dartmouth and the loss to Quinnipiac. However, the Lady Rouge average almost four goals per game. But SLU only averages giving up 2.38. Cornell has played in many tight games, but they will need to solve whichever SLU netminder they find playing. MacDonald seems to be the netminder of choice for SLU, almost starting every game, though not finishing every one. Regardless, Cornell has faced each of SLU's netminders this season. MacDonald was twice chased from the net, and Mazzocchi and Thomspon were both solved. Regardless, Cornell will need to take the opportunities it can, which leads into our final point, which is true for the rest of Cornell's postseason games.
Do Not Underestimate the Opponents
Cornell needs to do one thing above all in the rest of its games this season: not underestimate its opponents. This is the time of year when everyone plays her best hockey and Cornell will face different teams than it has previously in the season. SLU sits in the PWR but not highly enough that they will receive a bid to the tournament without either a win over Cornell or an automatic bid. Cornell sits highly enough that in spite of a loss, it might still receive a bid to the tournament. That, however, is not definite. The top women's teams are close enough that one could well be sitting on the outside looking in without an automatic bid. Each win is important to the Big Red for this very reason. Not only will bids be up, but seeding as well.
Potential Final Matchups
Harvard and Clarkson both play at 4pm Saturday afternoon to determine which team advances to the ECAC Championship Final. Clarkson and Harvard both have a lot to gain or lose in this game. The last time both teams made the NCAA Tournament was 2010. For Clarkson, it was the only NCAA tournament it has made since the format existed. For Harvard, it was merely the most recent. Harvard has made eight tournaments, with no championships at the NCAA level. Clarkson, meanwhile, has no NCAA wins, losing their first game to Minnesota in overtime.
History is also important for potential matches. Clarkson beat Harvard twice this season, but Harvard wants a win. Both teams have the option of making the tournament if they lose, but the options are increasingly slim. Regardless who wins, if Cornell advances, they will have a tough opponent. Cornell split with both Clarkson and Harvard this season, losing on the road and winning at Lynah. Clarkson takes considerably more penalty minutes than Harvard, but neither take as many as the Lady Rouge. Harvard has the number one penalty kill in the country, Cornell has number three, and Clarkson has number five. In terms of power play, Clarkson is at 20.4%, number nine in the country, Harvard is at 18.8%, number thirteen in the country, and Cornell is at 17.5%, number fifteen in the country. Each team is in the same band and each team could win on each night. Cornell will need to win not only special team battles if it wants to defeat Harvard or Clarkson. It will have to win even-strength battles, as well as be ready to play their game.
When it comes to history, these three teams have a lot of post-season history. Cornell and Harvard met in 1998-99. Harvard beat Cornell for Harvard's first ECAC Championship. In 2002-03 and 2003-04, Harvard beat Cornell. In 2003-04, it was when Harvard was en route to their second Tournament Championship. In 2004-05 and 2005-06, Harvard beat Clarkson in the playoffs en route to another ECAC championship. In 2007-08, Harvard eliminated both Cornell and Clarkson en route to their ECAC Championship. In 2008-09, Harvard eliminated Cornell in the semi-finals. In 2009-10, Cornell beat Harvard in the semi-finals and Clarkson in the finals en route to Cornell's first ECAC Championship.
Cornell has played Harvard five times in the playoffs, Harvard played Clarkson twice in the playoffs, and Clarkson played Cornell only once in the playoffs, but it was en route to Cornell's first championship and the furthest that Clarkson has gotten in the playoffs in the eight years it has had a program. These teams all have history in the playoffs and reasons to play harder against one another. That will undoubtedly play into this weekend's games.
If you cannot make it to Lynah this weekend, there is another option of viewing the games. ESPN3 will be airing the games. The Cornell-SLU game is available here; the Clarkson-Harvard final is available here. The championship final will be aired on ESPN3 as well, with the link available here.
There are some years that seem as though they will be remembered forever in the annals of Cornell hockey history. There are many great games and seasons to be found among the 12 ECAC Championships that Cornell has won. Harkness helmed Cornell as it won its first ECAC Championship in 1967. The 1970 ECAC Championship is unquestionably on the list of memorable ECAC-Championship years. The 1986 and 1996 ECAC Championships will be long remembered as the bookends and consecutive ECAC Championships earned with Schafer as senior captain and first-year head coach respectively. The 2003 season is secure with being the year of Cornell earning a berth to the Frozen Four in the first year of the modern era of the NCAA Tournament after claiming a Whitelaw Cup. The 2010 ECAC Tournament will be remembered as the year Cornell completed a 4-0-0 sweep of archrival Harvard en route to winning Cornell's 12th Whitelaw Cup with allowing only one goal in the ECAC playoffs.
This seemingly exhaustive list omits one of the greatest and most unlikely of triumphs in the ECAC post-season in the history of Cornell hockey.
Another historic game and achievement in Lake Placid, NY that occurred within a month may overshadow the significance of Cornell's unexpected playoff run and ultimate championship.
The 1979-80 season began after the graduation of now legendary point producer and goal scorer Lance Nethery. Nethery totaled 271 points over his four years at Cornell. He scored 91 goals over his career. Those totals place him first and third in each respective category for all-time records for Cornell.
It would seem in cursory retrospect that Cornell would worry about a dearth of offense headed into the 1979-80 season. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nethery may have departed but Cornell's roster was flush with abundant talent. Sophomore forward Kerling and junior forward Tredway were continuing careers that would join them with Nethery as the only three players in Cornell history to tally 200 or more points over their careers. Tredway and Kerling are ranked first and second for goals scored in a career besting Nethery's 91 goals with totals of 113 and 93 goals respectively.
It is startling to think that the 1970s and 1980s are often mistakenly regarded as decades of dormancy for Cornell hockey.
The 1979-80 season began in the shadow of the preceding season's ECAC Tournament. Cornell had been eliminated from the 1979 ECAC Semifinals with a 5-2 loss to New Hampshire. The Big Red was overlooked for a bid to the 1979 NCAA Tournament.
The early season goal for Cornell in the 1979-80 season was to improve upon the 21-8-0 record from the previous season and win Cornell its sixth ECAC Championship. Cornell had the offensive talent to propel such a run. Sophomore goaltender Brian Hayward returned after playing in 25 of Cornell's 29 games during his freshman season. He won 18 of the games in which he tended the pipes. Freshman Hayward recorded a save percentage of 0.884 and goals-against average of 3.88. Goaltending may have seemed a point of intrigue but not weakness in that season. Cornell had Darren Eliot incoming as a freshman.
When Cornell first took the ice, the team suffered setbacks with respect to its lofty ambitions. The Big Red proceeded to drop its first three games. Opponents of Cornell outscored the Big Red 16 to 11 over that span. This early season slide included a two-game series against Notre Dame and a game against Brown. Cornell's offense was producing but the sown seeds of a goalie controversy appeared to be ripe for reaping even early in the season.
Cornell trudged on through the season. Passage to the postseason and success in the Elysian Fields thereof began to seem unnavigable. The 1979-80 Cornell team twice more found itself in the midst of three-game and four-game losing streaks.
A great deal of the frustration and controversy of the season played out when Cornell confronted the Harvard Crimson at Bright Hockey Center, a complex that had just months before been known as Watson Rink before renovations were complete and hosted the 1980 men's ice hockey team from the United States. The February 8, 1980 clash between the Big Red and Crimson had an interesting tone because both programs that had known great success in the ECAC (Cornell had won five ECAC Championships and Harvard had won two ECAC Championships at that point) found themselves on the outside looking in when the ECAC and national playoff picture was discussed at the close of the regular season for the 1979-80 season.
Cornell and Harvard both needed the win, but it was the host that would emerge victorious. Cornell had gotten hot of late having won four of its last five games. The Cleary-led Crimson were ice cold. It was confronting Cornell after having just squandered a three-goal lead to fall to Boston College 4-3 in the 1980 Beanpot.
Harvard followed a similar approach against Cornell and bested Cornell's freshman goaltender Eliot four times in the first frame. The young Eliot who had gained a tenuous grip on the starting goaltender position over sophomore Hayward was chased from the crease. Hayward entered the game in relief, tending the pipes that were once his. He would allow no more goals in that outing. Unsurprisingly, it was Kerling who would cut the Crimson's lead to 4-3. The late-game surge would prove for naught as Harvard defeated the Big Red. Cornell would lose to Dartmouth and get shelled 9-4 by RPI in the Big Red's next two outings.
It was mid-February. Cornell still remained locked out of the playoffs. Cornell and Harvard would continue to duel directly and indirectly as the two historically successful programs jockeyed for the last spot in the 1980 ECAC Tournament. Cornell's next clash against the Crimson came on February 20, 1980. This time Harvard would brave Lynah.
Darren Eliot got the chance at redemption as he got the nod against the Crimson at Lynah. It is uncertain at what point in the season that it may have occurred or had ill effects, but Cornell's head coach Dick Bertrand disclosed after the 1979-80 season that Hayward's diagnosis with mononucleosis had tilted the balance of the goaltender competition between Hayward and Eliot in the latter's favor. Eliot proved more than able to handle the Crimson in front of the Lynah Faithful. Harvard dominated the shot count in the first period. Eliot held them to one goal in the first period and that was all the Crimson would tally.
Cornell's offense erupted with tallies from scorers including Dan Duffy, Brian Marrett, Ken Kirley, Brock Tredway, Karl Habib, and Larry Tobin. The Big Red's dominance left Cleary and his Crimson red-faced with a 6-1 loss at the close of regulation. The Lynah Faithful's raucous serenade of the departing Crimson with "Goodbye, Harvard, we hate to see you go" added insult to injury. The most important result was not redemption in an increasingly heated rivalry. Cornell's win over the Crimson placed Cornell in the last spot for the 1980 ECAC Tournament while the Crimson were relegated to being the first team out of the playoffs.
Cornell would make quick work of Northeastern defeating the other Boston-bound school by a margin of 4-1. Cornell's grip on the playoffs grew ever so slightly more secure. There were four games remaining in the regular season. There was scarcely any margin for error as the Crimson were attempting to mount a hot pursuit of Cornell's covetable position.
Harvard dropped a decision to Colgate that resulted in a skid down the ECAC standings. The skid brought Harvard into a tie with Cornell's other archrival, Boston University, for status as teams two places removed from the last playoff berth. Cornell meanwhile clawed one rung higher in the ECAC seeding with its win over Northeastern. Five teams remained in contention for the last two playoff bids with just four games remaining in the regular season.
Cornell had the hardest remaining schedule of the five teams in contention for the ECAC's last playoff spot. Cornell needed to play Vermont at Gutterson Fieldhouse, Princeton and Providence at Lynah Rink, and Boston University at Walter Brown Arena to close out the regular season. The only opponent that Cornell was to meet in its last four games of the 1979-80 regular season that was out of the playoffs was Princeton.
The Friars and the Catamounts were performing impressively and had clinched a playoff berth. A victory over either Providence or Vermont would be a Herculean undertaking. Boston University would be playing against not only its archrival in Cornell when the Big Red met the Terriers, but also for its right to advance to the post-season. The Terriers would be home-standing. They would be hungry to defeat their rival and redeem themselves in the playoffs after getting eliminated in the 1979 ECAC Semifinals at the hands of Dartmouth.
The Catamounts bested the Big Red at Gutterson in the opening game of the final four regular-season contests. The result was disappointing, but not entirely unexpected as Vermont was uncharacteristically dominant that year. Cornell focused its sights on the Tigers of Princeton. The contest should have been a given with a lackluster Princeton squad that had little to play for in Lynah Rink. The Tigers trounced Cornell 7-6.
Cornell's clawing into the playoffs began to seem for naught. Cornell had dropped the first of its final four games that would serve to gain passage to the playoffs. The Big Red slipped in the ECAC standings. The only two teams that remained were Providence and Boston University. The former was among the elite in the ECAC that season, the latter was still gnashing to get in the playoffs and hardly could find more of a satisfying means of achieving that goal than defeating Cornell at home.
Providence ventured to Lynah Rink to confront the "heathens on the Hill." Cornell flagellated the Friars by a margin of 5-2. There was no acceptable setback allowed in the next game. If Cornell had lost, the Big Red likely would be out of the playoffs.
Goaltending gave way for both Cornell and Boston University. It was not an affair like the preceding Providence game where Cornell bested a good team at both ends of the ice. Cornell vaulted to a five-goal lead. As one would expect, the Terriers would not go quietly. The Terriers struck around four minutes into the second period. They were relentless for the next 20 minutes of game play during which Boston University tied the game. Cornell had allowed five unanswered goals in a game whose result could decide the post-season future of the 1979-80 Cornell squad.
Cornell mustered the ability to defend over the last 15 minutes of regulation. The Terriers would score no more. The game was pushed into overtime. It was there that Cornell's Marrett solved the Terriers's Barich and put the Big Red past the Terriers with the determinative tally. Cornell had reclaimed a 0.500 record with its last regular-season game and win.
Cornell's reward? It extended its season. Cornell earned a bid as the last seed in the 1980 ECAC playoffs. Boston College, Providence, Dartmouth, Vermont, Clarkson, RPI, and Colgate populated the remainder of the playoff field. Cornell's archrivals Boston University and Harvard were left out of the playoffs. It was the third consecutive time that Harvard had missed the post-season.
Cornell would meet top-seeded Boston College in the first round of the playoffs. Cornell would begin its playoff run on the road.
It goes without saying that last-seeded Cornell was heavily disfavored to upend a top-seeded Boston College program that had won its second ECAC Championship in 1978. The Big Red and the Eagles had met once in the regular season. The game was a high-scoring affair that saw 11 goals and Boston College emerge on the better end of a 6-5 decision.
Eliot began Cornell's playoff run between the pipes. Cornell's forwards would not wait long to join the rally. Cornell struck first at 3:10 of the first period. Brian Marrett scored two goals as Cornell scored four additional unanswered goals to which the Eagles would have no response until 13 seconds remained in the game. Cornell had obliterated the top-seeded Eagles at their home in McHugh Forum in its first post-season outing of the 1980 ECAC Tournament.
Cornell advanced to Boston Garden for the 1980 ECAC Semifinals. The 1979-80 Cornell squad would reunite with the Providence Friars there. Less than a week had elapsed since the last meeting between Cornell and Providence.
The Lynah Faithful flocked to Boston Garden. The stage was set for the clash of last-seeded Cornell and second-seeded Providence. The game unraveled quickly for Cornell and its sizable contingent of Faithful at Boston Garden. Providence dominated play and seemed unstoppable. The Friars began the third period with a seemingly very comfortable 4-2 lead.
The final frame began. Cornell was determined to fight its way back into the game. Providence scored less than one minute into the ultimate stanza.
Cornell would have seemed to have lost any momentum it gained from Brock Tredway's four-on-four goal in the last 32 seconds of the second period. Tredway had beaten the Friars's Fiske with a wrap-around goal into the back door of the net. The goal had seemed to insert Cornell back into the game, but allowing an easy goal would have seemed to have stemmed the possible rising red tide.
The Big Red was undeterred. Cornell refocused and redoubled its efforts. The Lynah Faithful reasserted themselves into the game and let their presence be felt on the ice. Cornell closed that gap in just over 12 minutes. David Chiappini, Jeff Baikie and Dan Miele tickled the twine in sequence. The roar of the Faithful grew seemingly with each additional tally.
The 1979-80 Cornell squad's second-most prolific point producer would notch the marker that would stand. Roy Kerling, who would end the 1979-80 season with 52 points behind only Brock Tredway who produced 60 points, wristed a shot past Providence's Friske on a power-play opportunity for Cornell. The game clock still had 5:47 remaining on it.
Providence could not solve Eliot in that span. Kerling's goal stood. Cornell advanced to the 1980 ECAC Championship Final. Dartmouth had defeated Clarkson 6-4. The two deciding tallies that put the Big Green beyond the highly touted Golden Knights of Clarkson were fluky goals. Clarkson dominated most of the game but Dartmouth's netminder did what was needed to make the two fortuitous goals stand.
The 1980 ECAC Championship Final between Cornell and Dartmouth was the first all-Ivy final since Cornell defeated Harvard for Cornell's third ECAC Championship in 1969. The Big Red would need to overcome a Dartmouth squad that appeared to have good luck on its side and a goaltender who was hot at the right time in the season in Bob Gaudet.
The stage was set for the 1980 ECAC Championship Final to be a goalie duel. Dartmouth had entered the 1980 ECAC Tournament seeded third. Expectations were that Dartmouth would be able to handle Cornell. Most thought that Cornell had expended any karmic luck that they had in reserve to overcome a three-goal deficit to defeat Providence late in the semifinal's game. Dartmouth had swept Cornell in their two-game, regular-season series by a scoring margin of 12 to 6. The Cinderella story seemed more likely to be abridged than realized with a clash against Dartmouth.
All speculation stopped as soon as the puck dropped. It did not bode well for Cornell. Dartmouth appeared to take territorial control of the game almost immediately. The Big Green began peppering Cornell's Eliot. Eliot was more than equal to all challenges from Dartmouth in the first frame. Despite suffering from unfavorable disparities in terms of territory and possession, Cornell's forwards capitalized on seemingly all of the opportunities that they were given.
Cornell struck first. Cornell forward Tredway capitalized on a turnover and sprinted in on Gaudet on a breakaway. The Cornell forward bested the future head coach of the Big Green and put Cornell up 1-0. The Big Red's attack was relentless as Gaudet found himself collecting another puck from his net just a few minutes later when Tredway assisted on a goal for his linemate Jim Gibson.
Cornell's scoring was not done in the first period. Cornell may have bested Dartmouth with finesse on its first two tallies, but before the frame was over, Cornell would best its fellow non-urban Ivy in terms of grit when Brian Marrett tucked the puck into Dartmouth's net after a pile-up in the Big Green's crease. The buzzer that ended the first period sounded with Eliot not allowing the goal and Cornell scoring three.
The second period would prove fatal for Dartmouth. The Big Green decided that they needed an extra player to stop the Big Red onslaught. The officials decided that it was untoward and penalized Dartmouth with a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. The penalty was awarded 16 seconds before the first period ended. Dartmouth took the ice determined to kill of the undisciplined penalty. It was to no avail.
The Big Red converted on the Big Green's penalty. Cornell extended its lead to four goals just 58 seconds into the second period. John Olds converted from the slot as the 46 seconds remained on Cornell's power-play opportunity.
Eliot held firm throughout the second period. Cornell would not score again in the second frame, but due to Eliot's stellar play the Big Red and Big Green left the ice of the Boston Garden for the last intermission of the 1980 ECAC Championship Final with Cornell ahead of Dartmouth by a four-goal margin.
Dartmouth solved Eliot in the third period after 2:11 of the ultimate frame elapsed. The Cornell netminder's play gave the Dartmouthians no chance at fighting their way into the game. The official time showed that 17:49 remained in the game, but Cornell's early game outburst had deflated and defeated Dartmouth early.
Dartmouth would not score again. Eventual 1980 ECAC Tournament Most Valuable Player Darren Eliot had an answer for every subsequent challenge that Dartmouth could level. Cornell's Kerling would tally another goal with 13 second remaining in the game to make the final margin of the game 5-1. Cornell denied Dartmouth a chance to win its first ECAC Championship. Dartmouth still has not won an ECAC Championship. The Big Red earned a berth to the Frozen Four. Cornell left Boston Garden in 1980 victorious with its sixth ECAC Championship.
The 1979-80 season began with high expectations. Cornell's roster enjoyed abundant talent. Cornell's goaltending may have had its elements of controversy, but they resolved themselves throughout the season and Cornell entered the 1980 ECAC playoffs with dependable goaltending. The Big Red clawed its way into the playoffs to claim the last seed in the 1980 ECAC Tournament. Cornell began the ECAC playoffs on the road. Its first opponent was the highest seeded team in the ECAC Tournament. Each game that Cornell played in the 1980 ECAC playoffs took on a different disposition and challenged the 1979-80 Cornell team in different ways. Each time, Cornell was up to the task. The path to Cornell's sixth ECAC Championship required Cornell to topple the highest seeds in the 1980 ECAC Tournament. Cornell's feat of winning the ECAC's greatest seasonal accolade when starting the post-season as the last seed in the playoffs is one that has not been equaled or surpassed in terms of relative or absolute seeding of a winning ECAC team since that evening on March 15, 1980. Harvard has come close on a few occasions, but Cornell remains the only program in the 51-year history of the ECAC Tournament to have won the ECAC Championship starting in the playoff's eighth or last seed. The 1979-80 season should be remembered among the fans and teams who witnessed it as a triumphant season in which a talented Cornell roster overcame great obstacles to claim playoff glory, and within the program as a point of pride that demonstrates the resiliency and hard work of Cornell hockey as an institution whose history can buoy success against the gravest of odds.
All this has happened before. And all of it will happen again.
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.