Scoring. It is a constant fixation within a program that pioneered many of hockey’s most banal defensive tactics. Some within the program find this emphasis misplaced. It may seem particularly misdirected after the Red managed to conquer the eventual national runner-up with Cornell’s first postseason five-goal effort in six seasons.
This writer concedes that scoring is not as much of a concern this off- and pre-season as it was last season. However, scoring correlates with success even when Coaches Syer’s and Schafer’s system ensure that even the most talented offenses will be rendered innocuous. In a truism fit for the broadcasting booth, a team needs to score to win. Now, this contributor is overjoyed that Cornell hockey will become neither as individual talent- and offense-centric as the systems that pervade at Boston College under York and Minnesota under Lucia nor as haphazard and trigger happy as the philosophy that Gadowsky espouses at Penn State, but a trend exists in recent seasons that is undeniable.
Scoring is a concern because over the last seven seasons, the seasons dating back and including when Cornell won its latest Whitelaw Cup, the carnelian-and-white attack has left the bottom third of national offenses only twice. Not coincidentally, those seasons mark Cornell’s unparalleled frolic through the 2010 ECAC Hockey playoffs and when Cornell defeated Michigan in the 2012 Frozen Four First Round. Scoring correlates with success even on East Hill.
Accepting this reality, what can the Lynah Faithful expect of this team’s frontal assault during the coming months? This contributor last season derived and discussed his model for predicting a team’s offensive performance based upon aggregating projected player-goals per game figures. Why not use it again? Nothing better to do, right?
This model relied upon nearly 20 seasons of data under Coach Schafer in establishing a model that predicts the contributions of each player. Projections for freshmen are based upon their offensive production during their last seasons of junior hockey. Estimates for the contributions of upperclassmen are based upon the average change in player-points and player-goals per game that average forwards or defensemen undergo in that season of transition.
If you care for a refresher, further elaboration, you are new to Where Angels Fear to Tread, or are particularly bored, the entire model is discussed in greater detail here and here.
The first scoring void that must be filled is the one that graduation creates. Last year’s senior class did an immense job at re-establishing Cornell’s culture of accountability and work ethic that did more than pay lip service to either. Christian Hilbrich, John Knisley, Teemu Tiitinen, and Reece Willcox take with them not only their degrees and considerable intangibles, but 0.46 player-goals per game that this team must replace to break even with last season’s production.
Occam’s razor cuts through the problem of this deficit like a Sean Schmidt-sharpened skate etches fresh ice. The most parsimonious solution is for the aggregate production of the newcomers to plug the offense hole left in the wake of departures. Good news! The talented freshmen who will throw one of the icons of the game over their heads in a few days are expected to produce collectively 0.53 player-goals per game.
The Red finds itself in the black during the one time that Cornell does not want to be in the red (other than during its first week of ECAC Hockey tournament) already. The play of Noah Bauld, Corey Hoffman, Yanni Kaldis, Jeff Malott, and Connor Murphy should pay this debt with change to spare. The road for the 2016-17 team’s improving its offensive prowess relative to the production of last season’s team becomes more winding when one applies the model more widely.
The sagas of Red hockey teams are written in the ink of blueliners. Whether of the style of Frank Crassweller and Joakim Ryan that sets up the perfect play for another skater to convert or that of Dan Lodboa and Nick D’Agostino that removes the middle man for the tally entirely, hockey teams on East Hill need production from their defensemen. This coming season’s team can expect on average less than 15% of its offense from defensemen.
An ill omen casts a long shadow in this statistic. Last season, the blue line pitched in 16.5% of all goals that Cornell scored. A reversion back to a state at or below 15% will flatten the Red’s offensive depth. Unleavened play becomes the fodder of stifling for savvy coaches.
Paddy McCarron must shoulder some of this burden in closing this statistical setback through outperforming what is expected of him. Alec McCrea will continue to contribute. Matt Nuttle is an offensive weapon that has not been unleashed yet that may assist in this affair. Injuries to blueliners with offensive panache may make this task harder. It is McCarron as alternate captain who has the offensive flair. It was obvious during his days at St. Michael’s. Now, he needs to bring such consistent production while wearing carnelian and white.
This writer’s model predicts that Cornell’s rear guard should factor in as much as 64.5% of the Red’s offense. This figure seems reassuring. It is somewhat. Last season, however, this anticipated level of offensive production represents a 12.1% decrease relative to what defensemen contributed last season. This model predicts a potent, but little dimensional, offense this season. The burden of keeping Cornell’s attack multifaceted will fall to the blue line’s exceeding the model’s expectations.
The freshmen will contribute mightily. Youth was no excuse last season. It will not be this season. However, which freshman can be expected to produce the most? The answer is more complicated than one might think.
The model predicts that three carnelian rookies (thought I would go with consonance there, didn’t you?) will produce within four one-hundredth of one goal per game of each other based upon their performances in their last seasons of junior hockey. Corey Hoffman, Jeff Malott, and Connor Murphy are those newcomers. By season’s end, it is the model estimates that Malott will emerge as Cornell’s leader among freshman scorers.
The star from the Brooks Bandits may score as many as five goals if Cornell and he propel a deep enough playoff run. Do not expect Hoffman and Murphy to trail far behind if they do at all. Noah Bauld has the demonstrated tenacity to more than shatter these predictions. Yanni Kaldis, while the model does not predict him to challenge for the lead among freshmen for goal scoring, may be this season’s Alec McCrea has he is expected to record nearly 13 points, just sigh of McCrea’s freshman total.
Now, it is time for this piece to address the topic that has occupied the greatest number of pixels since last season’s end. What can we expect of the line of Mitch Vanderlaan, Jeff Kubiak, and Anthony Angello, or the “JAM” (do you get it? It’s the first letter of each of their given names randomly arranged) line, if you are so inclined? The potential for that trio is rife.
Anthony Angello is expected to score 18 goals over the course of his sophomore season. This is a lofty expectation. The last wearer of the carnelian and white to reach that seasonal accolade was senior phenom Blake Gallagher. Gallagher was the last Red skater to join the 100-point club. The model puts a heavy yoke on the shoulders of the Syracuse-area native. His linemates’s and his exemplary work ethic are equal to propelling him to that plateau.
Angello, Kubiak, and Vanderlaan (the Lynah Faithful’s collective creativity is so modest that we resort to “JAM line?”) are expected to combine for a jaw-dropping and staggering 1.31 player-goals per game. This writer will reframe that in a more digestible form. This would equate the production of the members of the Vanderlaan-Kubiak-Angello line to 48 goals over the course of the season if Cornell makes a deep run into the national tournament.
Does that seem unbelievable? Is it possible that one of the Red’s lines can generate 48 goals? Well, reader, let us consider two lenses of analysis. This prediction that Anthony Angello, Jeff Kubiak, and Mitch Vanderlaan will produce together 1.31 player-goals per game or 48 goals over the season would correlate to a relative decrease in the anticipated percentage of offense that line would contribute relative to this team’s expected production. The model prognosticates that the Vanderlaan-Kubiak-Angello line will pitch in 36.1% of Cornell’s offense. This reflects a nearly one percentage reduction from its share last season.
Lest we become fixated with where we are rather than cast our eyes to where we want to be. The top lines of Denver, Michigan, and North Dakota captivated college hockey last season during the national tournament. This 100th team has aspirations no lower than any of those three teams.
Kyle Connor, J. T. Compher, and Tyler Motte scored 83 combined goals in the goaltending- and defense-optional B1G. Their performances aggregated for 2.18 player-goals per game. Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz, and Brock Boeser generated 1.58 player-goals per game. They will be remembered for their netting 63 goals en route to North Dakota’s eighth Frozen-Four title. So, the totals of 1.31 player-goals per game and 48 goals are neither unheard of nor unattainable. What of that line from Denver with the catchy name that Dave Starman insisted on repeating in March and April?
The Pacific Rim (now, there’s a name for a line) united Trevor Moore, Dylan Gambrell, and Danton Heinen. Unlike the movie of the same name, this triumvirate was met with effusive praise and proportionate success. Its members tallied merely 1.18 goals-per game. They cashed in just 48 goals.
Yes, 48 goals exactly. The exact figure that this contributor’s model predicts that Angello, Kubiak, and Vanderlaan will record. They should do it over fewer games as well. Cornell will have the weapon to slay the kaiju of March and April.
Now, how about we give that instrument a name worthy of Dave Starman’s reiteration in March and April? How about the pep band arranges Jamming to immortalize this line and we resort to calling the banshee-like members of the Vanderlaan-Kubiak-Angello line as the Wailers?
What is the sum conclusion of all of this analysis? What is it worth? Well, this writer will answer the latter first. Last preseason, this contributor applied this player-goals per game-based model to estimate the offensive production that the Lynah Faithful could expect in the coming months. How did the model’s predictions fare relative to reality?
The error between the model and the offense that Cornell actually produced was 1.9%. The model last season underestimated the Red’s offensive production. A discrepancy of less than two percent existed between what this contributor’s model predicted in October and what transpired on the ice when the season expired in March. One can use that to determine how much credence to afford the following final predictions.
The model predicts that the 2016-17 edition of Cornell hockey will generate in the aggregate 3.61 player-goals per game. This reflects the prospect of a nearly 40% increase in offensive productivity relative to last season. If one attempts to extrapolate from this crudely what team-goals per game will result from this figure, one concludes that this coming season’s team should produce 3.21 goals per game.
Production at the rate of 3.21 goals per game would have paced Cornell to a top-15 finish among scoring offenses in the nation last season. An offense as lethal has not led Cornell since the 2002-03 season. That season’s team is now the stuff of legends. It was the winningest team in Cornell hockey history, earned the Red’s last Frozen-Four berth, and brought East Hill its tenth Whitelaw Cup.
The model merely gauges potential based upon historical averages. The 100th Cornell hockey team possesses the potential to do all these things and more. It is up to the members of this team to drain that reservoir and leave nothing behind when the season ends if it hopes to achieve those feats.