Those great achievers who dared to dream the unthinkable, the perfect season, who did more than dreamt, in realizing it, return to their forever home of Lynah Rink on Saturday, July 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm to observe the sapphire anniversary that unites all generations of Lynah Faithful. The presence of the Faithful at this game will make this commemoration all the more meaningful. All true Lynah Faithful deserving of the name who can find a way to East Hill shall.
Dick Bertrand '70, star winger, eventual head coach, and captain of the 1969-70 team, offered generously to serve as a guide for us, the contributors of Where Angels Fear to Tread, in better understanding this triumphant team on the 45th anniversary of its greatest accomplishment. The co-captain of perfection confirmed what many more recent generations of players and Lynah Faithful surmised. Perfection was the goal.
"The dedication, team goals set and met, teamwork, motivation, desire to win...seemed to be natural to us," summarized Bertrand. Unchecked ambition and unbounded desire drove the legends of the 1969-70 team to brave the impossible. Ardor distinguished this team from perhaps all other hockey teams in the history of the game.
"[C]aring and support for one another, just seemed to be natural to all of us...Coach Ned Harkness was the master at molding us together, teaching us to excel beyond expectation, and by instilling pride, desire, character, hard work, fear of failing and humility in us." A galvanized unity and unbreakable fraternity, forged by Harkness and undiluted by time, connects these near-mythic figures.
Many members of that team, after having reached a zenith of hockey, chose to use their talents in endeavors other than hockey. "[A]ll 23 players and our managers are still alive after 45 years since graduation, and have done well in contributing to society with their Cornell degrees." The community of Cornell University relishes its most successful student-athletes being among its best student-athletes.
The spirit of that team was harnessed individualism for an unselfish whole. In keeping with that spirit, this writer will do his best to attempt to give context to the contributions during the immortal season of the 16 players and three managers who will participate in the ceremonial puck-drop for the second annual Racker Big Red Rivals game on July 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm. Attendees will understand better the role of each as a result.
Each player and manager was not only important, but essential, to ultimate success. For those who enviously experienced this miracle, consider the tales of these greats as fond reminiscence. For the generations who lived those moments only through scattered photographs, stories, and video footage, consider these tales as a means of making real the too easily presupposed legacy and retrieving inspiring specifics from the reductionism that too often accompanies greatness.
One thing is certain. No matter your era, as Lynah Faithful, they are our team.
Bob Aitchison '71, forward, #8
Bob Aitchison '71, Bill Duthie '71, and Dave Westner '72 pigmented the Orange Line as an offensively multifaceted threat. The line connected for the first game-winning goal of Cornell's 1969-70 season. The team relied upon Aitchison in the fifth game of the season to deliver a special performance. Boston University did not know the script for the season. The Terriers scored first and refused to allow the Big Red a lead. Bob Aitchison editorialized. The possibility of loss was erased with two goals from the junior right winger. A wrap-around goal shoved into the side of Boston University's net was his game-winning flourish. Aitchison enjoyed other noteworthy multi-goal games. Dartmouth suffered the brunt of one of his historic efforts. Four goals and one assist left his stick against the Big Green at Lynah Rink on March 4, 1970. Such a game puts Bob Aitchison in élite company for his scoring prowess. However, his role as copyeditor of Ned Harkness' masterpiece, from the early contest at Boston University to his primary assist on the game winner against Wisconsin, was most essential.
Ed Ambis '72, forward, #17
How could a player whose point production in his first varsity season amounted to just three points become an instant fan favorite? He discerned his moments. Ambis called "Buffalo's first suburb" home. The denizens of Lynah Rink no less adopted him as one of their own. He was the pride of the Lynah Faithful. Ambis was the lone American on the 1969-70 squad who saw considerable ice time. His first varsity goal came in the 27th game of the season. The smaller, faster, and more precise play of Cornell vaulted the Big Red over the Golden Knights. The penchants of Ambis's line to pummel opponents and buzz opponents's nets earned them the honorific "the bumblebees." In full swarm, Ambis sunk in the stinger when he corralled a loose puck lying in front of Bruce Bullock and plunged it into the net. Eddie Ambis tied the 1970 ECAC Hockey Championship Final. The 12,396 voices of Boston Garden erupted in one of the loudest uproars in the venue's history. Some attendees thought the exuberance for Ambis's goal surpassed that for the winner. Ambis made honey that evening in steamy Boston.
Dick Bertrand '70, forward, #19
There is romance in Dick Bertrand's story. He came to Lynah Rink first as an opponent. Years later, he was a captain and head coach. Harkness labeled Bertrand the East's fastest, most skillful skater. Dick Bertrand developed himself for one final championship push. The senior winger was "100% improved," the words of Harkness. Everyone knew where to find Bertrand: around the net. Dick Bertrand had a nose for the net and knack for capitalizing on rebounds. Instinct and persistence pushed Bertrand into a three-way scoring lead at 42 points with his fellow captains when just two regular-season games remained. Bertrand's assist in the 1970 ECAC Hockey Championship Final began the rally that brought the Lynah Faithful a fourth consecutive Eastern championship. The NCAA ruled Bertrand ineligible for the 1970 Frozen Four on a technicality. His role evolved. Dick Bertrand, as the team's orator, led his teammates to victory. As Bertand and Lodboa hoisted Harkness above their heads in Lake Placid, they marveled at what the team accomplished for each other.
Craig Brush '72, forward, #11
The wear and tear of seasons force the emergence of new heroes. Craig Brush was such a hero. The readiest way to determine the legacy of a player is how fans like the Lynah Faithful engage them. The moment that the amount of playing time began to increase for Brush's line, the Faithful began calling them affectionately "the mini line." This trio of sophomores included Ed Ambis '72, Craig Brush, and Doug Stewart '72. Brush found the back of the net in the fourth game of February, when his line's workload increased. It was not the last time. Brush and Stewart joined the regular-season scoring rushes when opponents needed to be kept far out of contests. Despite familiarity on his Green Line, Brush would play in the stead of Bill Duthie '71 or Dave Westner '72 when needed. It was in the stead of the latter that he centered one of Cornell's four lines during the 1970 Frozen Four in Lake Placid. The biggest point for Brush in the 1969-70 season was his assist on the goal that tied Clarkson in the 1970 ECAC Hockey Championship Final. He did the smaller things in big ways.
Mark Davis '72, forward, #3
Depth realized the unthinkable for Ned Harkness' last Cornell hockey team. The defensive depth of a team with the talents of Steve Giuliani '70, Dan Lodboa '70, Gordie Lowe '70, and Ron Simpson '72 was unthinkable. Another defenseman on the team stood out, more than literally (Mark Davis was the tallest member of the 1969-70 team at 6'2"). Ned Harkness used the services of Davis semi-regularly to rest the others of his corps and to develop Davis's talents. This alone was praise high enough for a sophomore newcomer to the roster until Gordie Lowe suffered a severe injury before the first week of February. Cornell was a mere 15 wins into its historic 29-win season. Notwithstanding the challenges this posed to the goal of perfection, seeding for the ECAC Hockey tournament remained undecided. Nothing was decided. Mark Davis slid into the line-up as the Red's fifth defenseman. He served in this capacity for 11 games. Observers noted that Davis confused the line-up choices for Harkness with giving him "the best crew of defensemen he ever had." Davis protected his team's opportunity.
Bill Duthie '71, forward, #16
Ned Harkness was known well for converting defensemen into forwards. The assets of Bill Duthie enticed him to try the reverse. Bill Duthie began his career as a blue liner. He played in every position but goaltender throughout his career. During the 1969-70 season, Duthie found his place as a wing. When the services of Kevin Pettit '71 were unavailable, it was Bill Duthie who filled the void. The reputation of a hustling battler preceded Duthie. He instilled these very virtues into the women's hockey program that he would build at Cornell just years later. "Wild Bill Duthie," as he was celebrated at times, scored only three goals in the first 25 games of the 1969-70 season. He ended the season with five. His first playoff goal of the season was Cornell's fourth goal against Harvard at Boston Garden. It took six goals to defeat the Crimson. Six days later, Duthie's goal mattered most. Bill Duthie stared down Wayne Thomas of Wisconsin alone in the slot with less than nine minutes remaining in the contest. The wild winger lofted a backhander over the Badger from 15 feet. It was win #28.
Larry Fullan '72, forward, #18
First-year varsity center Larry Fullan was the pivot between Dick Bertrand '70 and Garth Ryan '70 during the season of seeking perfection. The newcomer proved his worth immediately. Fullan scored the first goal of the season 1:46 after the opening puck-drop. Fullan scored 28 goals in 12 games on the freshman team. Nothing was lost in translation to varsity. The hardest shot on the team belonged to Larry Fullan. Whether he was setting up plays for his linemates to have second chances or breaking out on rushes of his own, Fullan used his slap shot to devastating effect. Seamlessly, Bertrand and Fullan dropped passes to or alternated setting up dirty goals for one another. Larry Fullan and Steve Giuliani '70 took about four minutes to find an answer to Clarkson's early strike in the 1970 NCAA Championship Final. It was not the first time that the Lynah Faithful cheered that connection. A centering pass from Giuliani met Fullan's slap shot for the game-winning goal against Harvard in the 1970 ECAC Hockey Semifinals. Larry Fullan proved more than a fulcrum of a line in crucial moments.
Steve Giuliani '70, defenseman, #15
Steve Giuliani was one cranium of the four-headed monster that was Ned Harkness' core of his defensive corps. A Brownie boarded Giuliani, spraining Giuliani's back on December 6, 1969. Recovery time was three weeks. Harkness knew that "with even one of them out, it ma[d]e things a lot tougher." Giuliani did not conscience his team's losing two defensemen. Three days, not weeks, later in the Red's next game, Steve Giuliani remained in the line-up against Boston University. The blue liner played through recovery. Eventually, the Lynah Faithful recognized in his play the glimmer of the style of Harry Orr '67. Giuliani became a de facto member of the Black Line with frequent contributions to its goals. Offensively minded defensemen have distinct weapons. Giuliani surveyed the ice and saw lapses that lent themselves to two- and three-man rushes from the Big Red's own end. Fans in Lake Placid fortuitously witnessed Giuliani's best games of the season as he developed plays on Cornell's first and fourth goals against Clarkson. Steve Giuliani's opportunism became his team.
John Hughes '70, forward, #21
"The most costly check in Cornell hockey history" broke John Hughes's arm. Central New York's flashy center missed the entire 1969 postseason. Hughes pledged his senior season as the capstone to his hockey career. "The best center in the United States - bar none," critiqued Ned Harkness. At that time, Stan Mikita, Bobby Clarke, and Phil Esposito called Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston home, respectively. The great coach minced no words. Fierce forechecking and an inimitable ability to kill penalties single-handily earned the "blond bomber" this reputation. Hughes scored three goals at Boston Garden in March 1970. The game winner of the ECAC Hockey Championship Final came off of John Hughes' stick with 30 seconds remaining in the game. The marker was disallowed. John Hughes tucked between Bullock's pads a less pretty effort with 14 seconds spared. John Hughes and Brian McCutcheon '71 met Dan Lodboa '70 on a three-one-one breakaway for the last goal of the season. Hughes, like that goal, was an insurer of perfection.
Dan Lodboa '70, defenseman, #14
Ned Harkness converted Dan Lodboa from a forward to a blue liner after Lodboa's sophomore season. No player took better to a rotation of role than did Lodboa. He became the first and only blue liner to lead a Red team in point production. Brown forced a sudden-death overtime in the season's fourth game. Lodboa capitalized on an errant clearing effort for the winner in the first extra minute. The "chairman of the board" ensured that no other games were as close. A forward's scoring touch and impulse to break out on length-of-the-ice rushes never abandoned Lodboa. Few events in sports can be viewed in singularity. Dan Lodboa's performance in the 1970 national-title game is an exception. It was on the grandest stage that Lodboa delivered The Hat Trick. Lodboa scored a power-play goal, two-man-down goal, and four-on-four goal in barely more than seven minutes. The second goal, the most unlikely, stood as the game winner of Cornell's 29th victory. Harkness described Dan Lodboa as the "Bobby Orr of college hockey" in 2006. Ned Harkness made few mistakes. The analogy may be reversed.
Brian McCutcheon '71, forward, #9
John Hughes '70, Brian McCutcheon '71, and Kevin Pettit '71 were supposed to replace the retired Tufford-Hughes-Cornell line of the 1968-69 season. Through six games, it was obvious that McCutcheon and his linemates were up to the task with scoring 17 of Cornell's 38 goals. Brian McCutcheon averaged a goal per game. The line was relentless. One skater pounced. The others never tired. On the rare occasion that the first chance did not find the back of the net, the second, third, or fourth chance would. McCutcheon's facility on the ice rendered him lethal in this role. His characteristic smoothness never came with the price of softness (some Faithful may remember he, not his linemate, threw the first punches of the season). The sly winger scored Cornell's first goal of the postseason. He assisted on the last. The former was his last goal of the season. He fretted not. He still ended the season leading the team in goals scored with 25. The opening goal of The Hat Trick originated from McCutcheon's pass from the corner. Smoothness carried the Big Red in its moments of greatest ease and tribulation.
Ian Orr '70, defenseman, #22
Sharing the surname and playing in the shadow of an all-time great defenseman is no easy task. Yet, Ian Orr managed to do just that. Ian, the little brother of national championship-winning and all-time great Red defenseman Harry Orr '67 (thought I meant someone else?), served as a constant for his teammates during his career. Orr's talent was great enough that Harkness experimented with playing him as both a defenseman and forward interchangeably. The blue line suited Ian. The iconic coach of modern Cornell hockey regarded Ian Orr as "a very solid back-up defenseman," if not the best in the country. True to his word, Harkness, when exhaustion and dehydration riddled his roster, entrusted the ice time of Bruce Pattison '69 and Dan Lodboa '70 to Ian Orr in the 1969 NCAA Championship Final. Orr delivered when he played alongside teammates like Skip Stanowski '68 and Gordie Lowe '70. He paired well with greatness for he was great.
Bill Perras '71, forward, #5
Bill Perras played only a handful of games at the varsity level, 12 to be exact. All were consequential. At least five were playoff contests. One of the others was the January 1971 game against Harvard when both Cornell's fifth consecutive Ivy League championship and 47-home-game-winning streak (it extended ultimately to an unrivaled 63 wins) hung precariously in the balance. Later that year, Bill Perras replaced an injured John Fumio '74 mid-game in the ECAC Hockey tournament. He scored his first two goals in downing Providence. Perras was a noted well-balanced attacking center from his time on the freshman squad. The NCAA ineligibility of Dick Bertrand '70 for the 1970 Frozen Four forced Ned Harkness to shuffle lines. Bill Perras was trusted to slide into the regular place of Craig Brush '72 when the stakes were steepest for the 1969-70 team. Perras's efforts made sure that his teammates and he cashed in on all the promise of that season in Lake Placid.
Garth Ryan '70, forward, #6
Fans know it. Teams need a player who energizes the entire line-up. That player was Garth Ryan. Garth Ryan forechecked and made plays. He killed penalties beautifully. The indefatigability of Ryan knew no limits. The senior forward threaded goals along inside posts or rushed in on unsuspecting goaltenders to establish screens. Even his deflections lacked sedation. Garth Ryan was "perpetual motion." Cornell mounted comebacks in three of its five 1970 playoff victories. Unbounded energy drove the first goal of two games's rallies into the opponents's nets. The Golden Knights waited 39 seconds for Ryan's response in the 1970 ECAC Hockey Championship Final. The Badgers waited longer. Garth Ryan rifled the puck at Wayne Thomas from close range with lightning effect before the Wisconsin goaltender could neutralize the puck. The third strike tied the Badgers. Garth Ryan distinguished himself as the only Cornell player to score a goal in each game at Lake Placid. Garth Ryan underwent surgery days later. Ryan did not stop moving to notice his injury. He moved his team forward constantly.
Doug Stewart '72, forward, #10
When the typical tactics were not igniting Ned Harkness' squad, he looked down the bench and called the names of three sophomores. Harkness knew which three players provided the spark that he would need. To Harkness, they were the Green Line. To their admiring fans, they were the "minis." Ed Ambis '72, Craig Brush '72, and Doug Stewart '72 were absolute newcomers whom the Red bench boss trusted implicitly for the trait that united them since the beginning of the 1969-70 campaign: speed. Swiftness did not come at the expense of efficacy. Cornell never suffered a setback from trusting Stewart and his regular line with more ice time. When contests opened up, like those against Penn during which Stewart scored his first goal, Stewart and his line factored prominently. Stewart immolated Boston Garden in March 1970 when he provided the primary assist on Ambis's game-tying goal against Clarkson. Stewart was often the right match to strike.
Dave Westner '72, forward, #20
Dave Westner scored the first game-winning goal of the 1969-70 season. The sophomore forward would score in many other situations throughout that iconic campaign. A particular adeptness at finding all-important chemistry with linemates typified Westner's play. Dave Westner was a contributing and scoring force whether he was playing with Bob Aitchison '71 and Bill Duthie '71 or Brian McCutcheon '71 and Kevin Pettit '71. This afforded him the skill to substitute for John Hughes '70 when situations required. No substitution compared to the one with which Ned Harkness tasked him in March 1970. Dick Bertrand '70 was ruled ineligible for the Frozen Four. Westner filled the star's and mainstay captain's position on the wing next to Larry Fullan '72 and Garth Ryan '70 in the most consequential weekend of the season. Dave Westner rose to the challenge in Lake Placid. He recorded a point in each game. He scored the goal that gave the Red its first lead over the Golden Knights in the national-title game. Dave Westner was the catalyst that forged an unbreakable bond despite great entropy.
Championships are conceived in the off-season. They are sustained in the season. They are realized on the ice. The efforts of those on the ice are not the absolute essence of the team. The unseen labors of many nourish the potential of the greatest teams. A perfect season of the order that the 1969-70 season was would be impossible without the tireless, nearly flawless, contributions of managers and trainers.
Alf Ekman and Doc Kavanaugh were the trainers who tended to the needs of the 1969-70 team. The latter warranted praise no less than "the number one trainer in the universe." The managers who served the team were Rick Fullan, Ken Gilstein, Steve Gorkin, Monica Perry, Artie Roth, and Mike Teeter.
Mike Teeter served as an equipment manager during road contests. The team kept him busy in his other capacity at home as well. Teeter moonlighted as a goal judge. His legend as a dedicated and passionate member of Cornell hockey and athletics for more than 40 years deservedly precedes him.
One knows the importance of a figure when those who know her well insist upon prefixing her name with "great." Monica Perry, or "the great Monica Perry," helped Cornell hockey teams for years in whatever ways that she could. Perry was undeterred to do the required from the practical to the theatrical. Her role was no different, but arguably more important, when Cornell completed perfection.
Rick Fullan '70 enjoyed an eccentric relationship with Cornell hockey during the 1969-70 season. Fullan was a member of the junior-varsity hockey team. This did not prevent him from serving in a role as a capable assistant and manager to the team. The injuries of Steve Guiliani '70 and Ron Simpson '72 complicated Fullan's role. Ned Harkness called up one of his team managers from the junior-varsity roster to serve as a defenseman if needed. Rick Fullan was ready to play if required. The need never presented itself. Fullan's willingness manifested a yeomanly impulse toward his team. There was no doubt that Rick Fullan contributed considerably to the success of the 1969-70 team.
Possible, but unlikely, attendees
Only six players who played pivotal roles in the successful course of the 1969-70 season and its path to ultimate success either are unable to attend or uncertain if they will attend. Neither netminder of the Big Red from that season is certain that he will be present at the commemoration of the 45th anniversary of perfection. Brian Cropper '71 and Bob Rule '71 played essential, but distinct, roles in the success of their team.
Brian Cropper rose to be the starting goaltender of his squad. He had a large role to fill, figuratively and literally. Cropper stood to 5'6". His superlative predecessor, Ken Dryden '69, towered nine inches higher. The junior netminder made considerable strides in the off-season and Ned Harkness knew that he would be the best netminder in the East when the season began. Brian Cropper was slightly less reserved in his style than was Dryden. Proneness to instinctual athleticism typified his style. He proved more than able to duel with one of the nation's best goaltenders in Wisconsin's Wayne Thomas in the national semifinal in Lake Placid. The results cannot be doubted. Brian Cropper led his team unblemished through his season.
Bob Rule was a borrowed lacrosse goaltender. He led Cornell lacrosse to is first NCAA title a year after serving as Cropper's 1969-70 back-up. Ned Harkness insisted as the season began that he never would hesitate to use Rule. Rule was a "very valuable asset." The junior backstop saw action in three contests during the perfect season. Bob Rule did not allow a goal in contests at Penn and against Dartmouth. The latter contest saw Rule ward off an angered fury of eight Big-Green shots. Harkness tested the waters late in the season to see if Rule could be trusted with playoff minutes. Only one contest in which Rule saw ice time did he give his head coach reason for any doubt.
One of the core members of the 1969-70 hockey team's defensive corps will not be at the event in Ithaca. Gordie Lowe paired with Dan Lodboa '70. Lowe is most remembered for the overtime winner that he rifled into Michigan Tech's net in the 1969 Frozen Four in Duluth. That goal sent his Cornell team to the national-title game. However, Gordie Lowe played a slightly modified role in winning a national-title game one year later. The senior blue liner battled back from sprained ligaments in two weeks to return to the line-up. His defensive presence was a constant. While Lodboa began to dazzle, Lowe embodied steadiness. The 1970 NCAA Championship Final enjoyed Gordie Lowe's soundest defensive game of his career. In two very distinct ways, separated by a year's time, Gordie Lowe lifted his team to the highest level of the college game.
Ron Simpson '72, praised as "the best sophomore defenseman" whom Harkness had coached in his then-21-year career, paired with Steve Giuliani '70. Simpson was the impenetrable dam that kept at bay even the most torrential of flooding from opponents's offensive outbursts. Then, injury struck. The sophomore blueliner elected for immediate surgery and rehabilitation. He did not expect to return that season. He returned less than nine weeks later.
Injuries along the blue line forced bold players to fill voids at crucial points in the season. Few injuries could be as devastating to the nation's best defensive corps than were the losses of Gordie Lowe and Ron Simpson. It is unusual that at various points, the same player filled in for either player. Jim Higgs, a sophomore newcomer to the 1969-70 team, was the player whom Harkness trusted. Higgs performed with little drop-off until Gordie and the "sensational sophomore" returned.
The player with the fieriest disposition was without any doubt Kevin Pettit '71. Pettit riled his team for critical contests and all rivalry clashes. He inspired the ire or awe of all Eastern college-hockey fans. A game with this hot-tempered goal scorer was never mundane. Only John Hughes '70 and Dan Lodboa recorded more points in the 1970 postseason than did Pettit. Kevin Pettit tore through the 1970 ECAC Hockey Tournament with six points in three games. Fond memories of his overtime- and championship-winning goals against Boston University and Harvard from 1969 probably danced through his head as he buried the Red's first goal against its Crimson-colored rival in the 1970 Eastern semifinals.
The air of greatness casts long shadows on those people and things that experienced them. The grandeur of moments past does not leave them. Three months ago, on March 21, 2015, we, the contributors of Where Angels Fear to Tread, found ourselves in Jack Shea Arena. We stood in the dimly lit venue in the settled twilight of the miracle that occurred there nearly 45 years to the minute before. One could imagine easily the immortal images of college hockey yet to be seen.
Glancing around the rink lent itself to feeling the purity of the moment. The rink remained uncommercialized. Divining the essence of sport, its sincerity and reward of hard work, required no considerable imagination when envisioning carnelian and white racing down the ice. The jubilation that followed immortalized icons of the sport who completed the unthinkable.
Saturday, July 11, 2015, Lynah Rink
Sincerest thanks and profound gratitude are owed to Dick Bertrand, John Hughes, and Garth Ryan, without whom, this piece would not be possible. Thank you for your help, and for all that you have done for Cornell hockey and Cornell University.
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.