The path from the environs surrounding Rochester to a leadership role on East Hill are oft-tramped. Sam Paolini, Cornell recipient of the Hockey Humanitarian Award, is the most legendary player to have traveled that road. The legacy of Cornell forward and junior alternate captain Cole Bardreau may change that in the not-too-distant future.
Hard work typifies Cole Bardreau's approach to the game of hockey. One may even extrapolate that it embodies his approach to life. The Fairport native debated attending the historic hockey powerhouse of Cornell University or joining the emerging hockey insurgency at Yale College, among several other offers. Bardreau forsook the lyricism of Cole Porter and chose to belt out Davy with generations of fellow Cornellians at the Ivy of Upstate New York.
Cole Bardreau's career at Cornell began in an unassuming manner. Bardreau was a member of a recruiting class that included flashy talents like Brian Ferlin and Joel Lowry. The class was regarded as one of the best in college hockey before the 2011-12 season. The recruiting class would not have been elevated to that level without the solid, grinding play for which Bardreau had become known on the United States National Development Team.
Bardreau played in all but one contest during his freshman season. The freshman forward found the back of the net for the first time in his college career against Harvard. His goal opened scoring in a 4-2 Cornell victory. Bardreau's scoring tendencies were not what impressed upon Schafer, his staff, and the Lynah Faithful most. The energy and zeal that Bardreau brought to each shift exploded off of the ice surface. Cornell was reinvigorated every time that 22 leapt over the boards.
The 2012 ECAC Tournament witnessed Cornell surge to the semifinal contest. The 2012 NCAA Tournament soon followed. Bardreau remained with his team while injured. He battled through pain and continued to enliven his teammates as Cornell toppled Michigan and fell one-goal short of a Frozen-Four berth. For most, the off-season would have been for recuperation. For Bardreau, it was the time to train to reach new heights and to achieve new goals.
The offseason was the time for the rising sophomore to hone his skills and condition himself so that he would be ready for selection to Team USA for the 2013 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Ufa, Russia. Bardreau spent the summer preparing with an expanded roster for the Under-20 Team USA in Lake Placid. The end of October marked the beginning of Cornell's season with a contest against Colorado College at Lynah Rink.
Few knew what to expect. Everyone knew that Bardreau was good and important to team cohesion, but when he returned he was spectacular. Bardreau was placed on a line with senior John Esposito and classmate John McCarron. The improved skill of Bardreau and his linemates was apparent. The earliest challenges that unnerved the Tigers were lobbed from a skater on the Esposito-Bardreau-McCarron line. The line scored all of the Big Red's goals in a shutout performance. Bardreau was rewarded with an assist on each Cornell goal. The sophomore forward found the back of the net against Colgate in the second week of competition.
Bardreau had become more than an impressively improved grinding forward. Schafer had begun to rely on him somewhat regularly during special-teams play. The sophomore forward killed penalties with ease and a relentlessness that drew attention even on an team as defensively disciplined as Cornell. Bardreau would depart from his role on the energy line and emerging presence on the penalty kill to join the Under-20 Team USA. He had notched three points on the season until that point.
Phil Housley and his staff recognized that Bardreau was a leader of his fellow teammates. The Cornell forward was selected as an alternate captain when the United States wore its blues in the 2013 World Junior Championships. Bardreau scored an impressive breakaway goal against Slovakia during qualifying for the championship round of the World Juniors. However, the United States stumbled early. Canada and Sweden earned byes into the semifinals contests. Bardreau and his Team USA teammates needed to begin their challenge for a gold medal in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic.
Bardreau was particularly impressive against Canada and Sweden in the semifinal and gold-medal game respectively. His skill on the penalty kill prevented many of the world's most talented players from even threatening John Gibson. The Upstate New Yorker wowed the world's best. No opponent of the United States scored a goal while Bardreau was on the ice.
Bardreau played a central role in Cornell's 5-1 victory over Canada and gold-medal-winning performance against Sweden. Bardreau returned to the United States a gold medalist. He was unable to join his team during its series in Denver. He would wait to rejoin his Cornell teammates when the Big Red returned to ECAC play.
Former Team USA teammates, Cole Bardreau and Shayne Gostisbehere, faced off in Bardreau's return to college hockey. A mere 67 seconds into Bardreau's return, the recent gold medalist assisted on Esposito's goal for Cornell. Bardreau then began the rally for Cornell after it had fallen into a 2-1 deficit. With the game knotted behind Bardreau's goal, Bardreau took to ensuring that Union was shut down while allowing Ferlin, Lowry, and Miller to connect for a finesse goal to win the contest.
Then, the injury happened.
Bardreau was riding the high of a wave of excruciating potential when a vicious hit from behind into the boards ended his season. It did not end his role in that game. Bardreau returned to the line-up after missing only one shift. He battle through what one can only imagine was tremendous pain and disorientation. However, medical analysis during the following week diagnosed him with a fractured neck. He would play only 13 games of his sophomore season.
Disappointed, but undaunted, Bardreau continued to lend his energy to the team that dedicated his locker stall at Lynah Rink to him as a display of solidarity. Bardreau was present at all remaining games, home and away. He was alongside Cornell during its playoff run. He motivated the team during intermissions, especially before Cornell battled late in game three against Quinnipiac in the 2013 ECAC Quarterfinals.
What to Expect
Many have asked if Cole Bardreau can possibly pick up with where he left off. Could he possibly play with the same zeal and physicality after an injury like the one he sustained? People who ask these questions do not understand the character of this season's junior alternate captain. Bardreau will be back and will be stronger.
Bardreau's career has been one of overcoming odds and sacrifices to reach his goals. All conversations with Bardreau indicate that he views his season-ending injury as just another challenge on his road in life. Few thought that Bardreau would make the Under-20 Team USA team. Even fewer, this writer a noteworthy exception, believed that Bardreau would serve as a captain once he made the final roster for the 2013 World Junior Championships. The Upstate New York forward did both. Not only did he do both, he excelled. He turned heads and changed the course of games. He was deprived of doing the same for Cornell team during the Big Red's most crucial time of year. He wants that opportunity. He will do what is needed to obtain it.
It seems to go without saying that Bardreau is a vocal leader. He was tasked with providing the last speech to his Team USA before they took the ice for competitions. No one can deny the results. His knack for leadership and inspiration on and off the ice will be invaluable to Cornell. Cornell needs to incorporate several new freshmen at both ends of the ice early this season. When the season is dragging on or the playoffs are daunting, the team may need to be picked up. That is Bardreau's niche.
Bardreau's role on the team will be the same. As Mike Schafer described Bardreau's role, "he provides energy, he provides physical play and competitiveness. He can give you offensive ability, but at the same time he’s going to bring a physical ability, energy and a locker-room presence. He does a little bit of everything." The junior alternate captain will be pivotal on penalty killing. That is expected. If you're in the market for perhaps unexpected predictions, I would venture that Bardreau rediscovers elements of his scoring touch from his youth.
Bardreau tallied seven points in a mere 13 games. Two of those points were registered on Bardreau's first game back from World Juniors after he had found his new game. That seems to indicate an upward trajectory. Furthermore, against the world's best talents in an abbreviated tournament, Bardreau recorded three points. In terms of point production per game, Bardreau ranked fifth of returning players last season.
Is it likely that Bardreau will challenge for overall point production? No. But, it will reify the fact that opponents will need to respect his re-emerging offensive potency or suffer the consequences. When Bardreau returns to college hockey against Nebraska-Omaha, he will bring with him a complete game from backchecking and penalty killing to scoring.
Bardreau's most important role likely will be that of energizing leader. Before the gold-medal game against Sweden in January, Bardreau told Team USA that he was not leaving the building without a gold medal around his neck. One can only imagine that Bardreau looks forward to sharing such a moment with his Cornell team. Perhaps in Lake Placid or Philadelphia.
A Look Back
The number-22 sweater in carnelian and white did not receive a respite before Cole Bardreau donned it. Joe Devin became the go-to clutch-goal scorer for Cornell his senior season. That was just a season months before Bardreau wore it. However, the characters who have worn 22 for Cornell have existed long before even Joe Devin played on East Hill.
Brian Marrett opted to change his jersey number from 16 to 22 at the beginning of his junior season. This transition marked an uptick in his career for Cornell as recognition began to pour upon him after his 1978-79 and 1979-80 seasons. Marrett ended his junior season ninth in scoring. That might raise an eyebrow now, but one must consider in which era of Cornell hockey he was playing. Marrett played that season on a roster with the high-scoring likes of Lance Nethery and Brock Tredway who scored 271 and 207 points over their respective careers.
Brian Marrett's performance his junior season had him recognized with the Cornell Hockey Association Award. The Award is given to the player who has improved most over the past season. Recipient of such an accolade provided quite a boost for Brian Marrett.
The junior forward opened Cornell's scoring in its spectacular run to its sixth ECAC Championship from the last-seeded position. Marrett unleashed a wave of Cornell goals with a two-goal effort against Boston College when Cornell began its playoff run on the road. A game of the 1980 ECAC Tournament would not pass without Brian Marrett tallying a point against the opposing team's netminder.
Marrett and Tredway assisted Doug Berk to open scoring against Providence at Boston Garden in March 1980. The Friars would be toppled by a margin of 6-5. The senior wearer of 22 buoyed his team and program to another playoff championship with a goal against Dartmouth's Bob Gaudet. The goal would stand as an insurance goal as Dartmouth would score only one goal in the contest. However, the efforts of Marrett were important to Cornell's ultimately triumphant playoff run. He ended the season sixth in scoring on the Cornell roster.
Joe Devin as captain scored an overtime goal against Quinnipiac that sent Cornell to Atlantic City in March 2011. Brian Marrett's efforts to improve over his junior and senior seasons earned him respect and helped his Cornell accomplish a feat that no team has equaled. Alternate captain Cole Bardreau has been denied the ability to play an entire postseason healthy. If he does, assuming that past is prologue and knowing the work ethic of Bardreau, the current wearer of 22 will surpass the legacy of even his predecessors in helping his team reach new heights.