All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
The irony of the success of the hockey programs of Cornell University and Harvard University is that the greatest tilts between the nemeses have played out at venues that neither calls home. Surely, the Lynah Faithful make the Crimson keenly aware of their presence no matter the venue. The scornful eye of far-off exhibitors throttles the rites of college hockey’s greatest rivalry. Things are far less tame when Cornell and Harvard brave each other’s rinks in the first rounds of the ECAC Hockey tournament.
A playoff series in your enemy’s building is something distinct. Cornell and Harvard get to move on from the oppressive expectations of their series when they meet in the regular season no matter the result. The same is not true in the first rounds of the post-season.
The sound of the rink door slamming and latching behind players offers no escape. A heavy sigh accompanies the realization that you’re going to have to face those…Lou Reycroft had a word for Harvard (think William the Conqueror)…again. Tomorrow. You cannot escape the misfortunes and ill choices of the previous night upon rolling over from a sleepless night in a strange bed. Instead, you have to brace to face the same despair once more.
Seeding has visited this fortune upon the Cornell-Harvard rivalry on five occasions. These episodes in the long-running spectacle of the series could be best known as The Ones with Two-Night Stands. The players and sets in these entries befit an emotionally charged institutional feud between nemeses grounded in Cornell’s resolution to redeem American higher education from the depths of ignominy to which Harvard plunged it.
Wearers of carnelian and crimson assume with alacrity the dramatis personae that outrageous fortune assigns them.
That once was a memorable series in March 1994. Bright Hockey Center hosted the Red in the ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal. The full experience of Lynah East was not born yet. Harvard was preferred. The Crimson more than rose to the expectations to deliver victory at home. No Cantab on the home team’s roster remembered the embarrassment of elimination at Lynah Rink in 1990. Some played as though they suffered it personally.
Steve Martins turned on the red light often during that series for the Crimson. The junior contributed five points on the Crimson’s five goals in the final game of the series. Two goals and three assists made Martins’s performance something of lore. The second of the junior’s markers came as Martins lost his edge, fell to his knees, and still tucked the vulcanized disk behind Andy Bandurski.
The rivalry’s heat regularly melts the ice and costs the sure footing of home-team heroes. Doug Stienstra sprang a three-on-two trap against Harvard and led home-standing Cornell in the 2000 ECAC Hockey First Round. The Red forward lost his footing as he charged toward J. R. Prestifilippo. The reward already was won. The puck went behind the Crimson netminder as Stienstra recollected himself to celebrate with his team. That goal won the opening contest of the 2000 ECAC Hockey First Round at Lynah Rink. It was not his last.
Martins’s five points against Cornell would seem sizable. Doug Stienstra’s performance in the 2000 post-season matched his line identically with two goals and three assists. The senior from British Columbia twice had the opportunity to end Harvard’s season at Lynah Rink. He leads all players in these five on-campus playoff meetings with six points when one considers his performances in the 2000 ECAC Hockey First Round and 1997 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal. Stienstra was not the last to tie Martins’s performance in the rivalry’s playoff series.
It was against Harvard that “the dream-crushing, soul-devouring juggernaut” wielded its club most heavily. The Red toyed with the Crimson as a cat does a cornered mouse in the 2010 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal. Nick D’Agostino mounted a write-in campaign to become the next Crimson Killer after Doug Krantz’s graduation left the post vacant for a season. D’Agostino drove a rebound from Mike Devin past Kyle Richter for game one’s winner.
The freshman blueliner was not finished. Blake Gallagher and Tyler Roeszler flashed speed as D’Agostino and they caught the Crimson in a malaise. This breakaway goal for the newcomer typified his break-out performance in a pivotal series. It was not the most prolific carnelian-and-white performance of the weekend.
Western Canada continued to treat the Red well on March 12 and 13 in 2010. Riley Nash joined Steve Martins and Doug Stienstra as players in the rivalry who recorded five points in a single series between the historic foes. The junior achieved this elevated feat behind two goals and three assists as his predecessors did. Blake Gallagher and Colin Greening rounded out the four Cornellians who averaged more than a point per game in the 2010 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal. It was not the Red’s most prolific performance against the Crimson in a post-season series.
The 1990 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal is the historic and conceivably most important playoff series that Cornell and Harvard have played. Five wearers of the carnelian and white produced at a rate greater than one point per game as the Cantabs made a two-game stand in Ithaca. The names are ones that one would expect, some are still seen at Lynah Rink today, Ross Lemon, Joe Dragon, Kent Manderville, Casey Jones, and Doug Derraugh.
Cornell never gave Harvard a chance to play its game in the second night of that series. Harvard broke a truism of hockey: Never leave Doug Derraugh open in front of your net, especially if you are Harvard. Joe Dragon with the hardened calculation of a Cornellian saw Derraugh alone in front of the Crimson cage. Dragon connected. Derraugh did what Brian McCutcheon always expected of him. He snapped the release.
It pierced the virgin air of Lynah Rink. The star junior forward opened scoring just 51 seconds into the contest. Derraugh had scored the winner the previous night. The wearer of the carnelian 17 deservedly went on to win the first so-named Crimson Cup. No player from either program has surpassed Derraugh’s three goals against Harvard in the 1990 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal in any of the other four rivalry-laden post-season series.
Cleary won the 1989 NCAA National Championship. Harvard and he had designs on defending that title in Cleary’s announced last season behind Harvard’s bench. The Crimson stumbled to a sixth seed in the Eastern tournament. It would brave a purer hue on East Hill in the 1990 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal. Cleary’s career ended at Lynah Rink.
One of Bill Cleary’s last sights as head coach was the burning image of the scoreboard above his exit at Lynah Rink reading Cornell four, Harvard two. This most loathsome of enemies was not without a supporting cast in that series. It was a frustrated ensemble on Saturday. Harvard chased the game and drew numerous foolish penalties in trying to endure the punishment of the Lynah Faithful and Red. The Crimson targeted skilled players like Joe Dragon.
Penalty killing became a necessity for a Harvard team that was nursing the hopes of continuing their head coach’s career but one more day. Kevin Sneddon for the Crimson botched a clearing attempt late in the second period. The fatigued pass bounced off of his teammate and into the slot. Ryan Hughes marked the error of the Crimson’s ways.
Harvard only would dent the three-goal lead that Cornell enjoyed at that point. The scuffling and battling continued despite the Crimson’s narrowing the lead to two goals. Ted Donato was thrown from the contest with less than one minute remaining. The passions of the rivalry clearly overcame the future head coach of Harvard.
Infestations of penalties are common to the post-seasons between these fiercest of rivals. The 1997 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal lived that reality. The quick development of that series ironically occurred without the assistance of special teams. Brett Chodrow knotted the first game for Harvard with an impressive breakaway down the left wing that surprised Cornell’s usually stellar Jason Elliott. Ethan Philpott gave the Crimson a lead with less than 25 minutes in regulation.
It fell to the Red’s Vinnie Auger to rectify this cosmic wrong. A one-timer on which Doug Stienstra provided his first playoff point against Harvard bested Prestifilippo. The game progressed to a five-minute overtime. In a quirk of the format of that era’s ECAC Hockey tournament, the game ended in a tie. It is the only time that Harvard has been greeted with fish and left without a loss in the playoffs at Lynah Rink.
The Cornell squad that invaded Bright Hockey Center in March 1994 was not up to the task of grappling with a waning but still invested Crimson fanbase and defeating the most recent Harvard team to win a game in the national tournament. The fact that the Red relied upon a roster with only two seniors and 21 of 28 skaters playing in their freshman or sophomore seasons did not alleviate the sting of a consecutive losses in which its rival scored five goals. Cornell bore the fruits of talent, but it was not ripe yet for results.
Future heroes of the Cornell-Harvard series stood out to the Lynah Faithful who made the trek to Bright Hockey Center. Mike Sancimino scored late in the first period of game two to tie the contest, 2-2. Harvard’s ultimate victory did not detract from the fact that within two years’s time, Sancimino would elevate and tuck the puck behind Tripp Tracy for a winner over Cornell’s archrival in the 1996 Whitelaw Cup Final. 1994 was not the Red’s time.
Humbling defeat befell the Crimson at Lynah Rink one year after Cornell smothered Harvard in Lake Placid. Dominic Moore put forth a valiant effort, perhaps the best of any series-losing player in the history of the rivalry, with four assists as a freshman in his team’s most hostile environment. Harvard returned to Cambridge with matching 4-3 losses.
An unstoppable force proved to have no equal in the 2010 ECAC Hockey tournament. The role of antagonist was given to Harvard. The skaters for the Crimson did the best that they could. They did better than any other team that met Cornell in the Eastern post-season. Harvard scored the one goal that the Red allowed en route to the 2010 Whitelaw Cup. The answer to the obscure trivia fact of which player prevented the 2009-10 Cornell hockey team from going through its ECAC Hockey season with a perfect record of allowing no goals was Pier-Olivier Michaud.
Michaud’s effort was as inadequate relative to the task of defeating your rivals in their building as Ted Donato’s ability to will a win there. The task before Donato was no small one. He deserves little personal blame. Crimson teams have endured Lynah Rink four times in the playoffs. Cornell swept all of them. Four different coaches with varying temperaments and styles led those four teams. The result never deviated.
The predictability of result stands in stark contrast to the variation in head coaches on the Crimson side. Considerable consistency is a hallmark of the Red’s bench during these five post-season series between Cornell and Harvard. Mike Schafer has been behind the bench for four of the five on-campus playoff encounters in the rivalry. He was an assistant coach to Brian McCutcheon during the 1990 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal and served as head coach for the 1997, 2000, and 2010 installments. The stick-breaker’s hiatus in Kalamazoo prevented his coaching the 1994 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal. Would carnelian-clad villainy have triumphed in Cambridge otherwise?
There is the horror of inevitability. Harvard felt that before braving Lynah Rink in March 2010. Kyle Richter foreshadowed the inescapable days before that series, “we can’t let the crowd get us off our game. Their crowd always gives them a definite home-ice advantage and it plays a bit of a factor in our game.” Alex Biega, a captain whose career ended on the ice of East Hill, predicted that “against a defense like that, we need to have one of our best nights.”
Harvard might have had one of its best nights. Its result of scoring one goal in the ECAC Hockey tournament certainly was superior to any that any other team in the conference’s field could muster against that tournament’s rolling colossus. The 100th year of the Cornell-Harvard rivalry closed on March 13, 2010 with the Red sweeping the Crimson in four games for the first time in the series’s history.
The 1993-94 season suffered Harvard no regular-season losses in Cambridge. Cornell arrived in March with Harvard having not lost a conference game since early December. The Red wrested control of the game from circumstance early in both contests. Cornell scored first each night. The daunting task before Cornell wore on its young roster and surrendered control of the game on late goals in the second period twice. The second night’s dagger plunged with just 16 seconds remaining in the second period.
Mark Mazzoleni promised his charges in the 2000 ECAC Hockey First Round that “the crowd is only a factor when Cornell starts getting some momentum” and Harvard “can take them out of the game.” Tim Stay, who would end his career a year later in a post-season loss to Cornell in Lake Placid, explain that Harvard “get[s] fired up by the crowd as much as [Cornell does]” while adding that “the best sound to hear there is silence.” Harvard had a plan.
The Crimson appeared to execute it in each game of the quarterfinal. Harvard scored in the first ten minutes of each game to take each game’s first lead. Mazzoleni must have seemed quite like The Grinch upon hearing the soothing song of the Whos down in Whoville the morning after his nefarious plot. Much like the Whos without presents on Christmas Day, the Lynah Faithful took their team’s trailing as a dare to impel it on to victory. Harvard lost both contests after holding a lead when during the regular season it owned a 9-2-2 mark given similar advantage.
The stakes never were higher than they were in the 1990 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal. The weekend series between nemeses had attached a retirement stipulation for Bill Cleary’s career. Cleary had reason to be confident. His Harvard teams had swept Cornell in the regular season. They also had done it nine consecutive times before the season. No player on Cornell’s roster knew how it felt to defeat Harvard.
Unfortunately for Harvard, the Red recognized this. Kent Manderville lamented that his teammates and he “have a lot to prove [because] we haven’t won a big game all year.” Assistant coach Schafer and head coach McCutcheon could guide their team as to how it felt to bring victory over Harvard to “our noble alma mater.”
Harvard’s run of consecutive wins over Cornell broke in that series. The career of one Harvard coach ended. Harvard’s future coach was ejected. Legends were writ.
The anomalous playoff tie between Cornell and Harvard, a result that belligerents of the rivalry have found unacceptable since January 28, 1911, began with an exuberant chant. Jamie Papp for the Red corralled the puck from a scrum along the boards in Harvard’s end. He cut toward the net and jabbed the puck into the Crimson net.
Cornell took 29 seconds to score in game one. The Lynah Faithful sung the praises of Papp’s effort. Chants of “thirty seconds” rattled off of the rafters. Many Harvard players likely wished that the Faithful would restrain their involvement to mere verbal barrage. Such likely never will be the case.
A particularly ambitious member of the Lynah Faithful procured a much larger fish to hurl at the Cantabs before the commencement of the 2000 ECAC Hockey First Round. That March was the first time that a shark greeted Cornell’s visitors from the Bay State before line-ups were announced. Harvard players traditionally expect this form of harassment when on the ice.
The Faithful have not felt restricted to in-game antics when Harvard braves Lynah Rink in the playoffs. Harvard did not benefit from restful nights in their hotel in Central New York in 1997. Some Cornell partisans obtained phone numbers to the hotel rooms in which the players from Cambridge were staying. These members of the Faithful proceeded to prank call those rooms throughout the night.
Bill Cleary demanded and received special attention through the series. His last hurrah, the 1990 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal, was no different. Cleary realized the demoralizing toll that the Lynah Faithful had exacted on his squad in the first game of the series. The Crimson’s head coach elected to suffer it firsthand.
Cleary joined the Big Red Pep Band and the Lynah Faithful on the bleachers during warm-ups with a sousaphone positioned over both ears. He grinned the entire time. The Faithful in turn bade him adieu with chants of “goodbye, bald guy” in his last moments as coach of the Crimson.
The few fans of Harvard who brave Lynah Rink rarely are confident enough to lay their allegiance bare let alone insult their hosts. That was different in March 2000. Crimson fans decked themselves in “Cornell Sucks” shirts to watch their hopes be dashed in a memorable installment of the series.
Elation so overcame those assembled at Lynah Rink on March 11, 2000 that they flooded the ice to celebrate with their carnelian and white-clad victors. Coach Schafer referred to the delirium as “a neat, college hockey environment” that “puts the players in touch with the fans.” The crowd need not literally spill onto the ice to have a direct impact on the contest.
Game two of the 2010 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal witnessed the absolute wilting of the Crimson in the face of a harassing wall that told Cornellian truths of Harvard’s being a safety school and grade inflation. Harvard leveled only three shots at Ben Scrivens in the first period. Rubber struck the savior from Spruce Grove only seven times in the second stanza. The boast of a proud member of the Lynah Faithful, “you should see what we can do in our own house with a week to plan and a few buckets of red paint,” presaged another post-season loss at Lynah Rink for Harvard a decade later.
The meeting of March 2010 was a fitting end to a season in which The Harvard Crimson designated Cornell Harvard's most hated foe. Harvard dubbed Lynah Rink a “house of horrors” that housed Harvard’s greatest rival on March 10, 2000. Lynah Rink deserves this distinction as it is the most common place for Harvard’s season to end on the road.
The Crimson and their eponymous periodical saw the value in measuring oneself by an institution that inspires your own to become something greater. Such foresight recently absented itself from The Crimson. Predictably, complacency fills its void.
Seniors of the victorious Harvard in 1994 would have preferred to encounter no team more than Cornell in the playoffs. Sean McCann summarized that “it’s a good way to go out” that he would not trade. On the opposite side three years later, the emotion of Crimson players could not be contained. Brett Chodrow maintained that the series is always special because “no matter what the situation and who is where in the standing, it will always be about the Cornell-Harvard rivalry.”
The altruism of two nemeses came out at the close of the 1990 ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal. C.J. Young from Harvard hugged Dave Burke and Tim Vanini of Cornell during the post-game handshakes. Bill Cleary did not wave his team off the ice that time. Both sides remarked at the class with which both sides carried themselves.
Bill Cleary after a humbling defeat to his alma mater’s archrival ran across the ice to give Coach McCutcheon a hug. It was to say that if it had to end against someone, it was best that it was you. Nearly three decades leave that feeling among the programs unchanged.
Before those handshakes and embraces, there are hatred and emotion. Always.