Another wrinkle in the story needs to be smoothed before face-off at 6:00 pm on April 6, 2017. Harvard made it to the Frozen Four Semifinal. What are the Lynah Faithful to do?
This contributor has an unorthodox suggestion: Consider cheering for Cornell's nemesis.
Why, you may ask. Does not the success of Harvard undercut the esteem of Cornell hockey? The answer is decidedly "no," in this writer's mind. Cornell and Harvard are so intimately intertwined that the success of one serves to bolster the other internally and externally. The two are inseparable. In hockey, neither would be a shadow of itself if not for the other. The same can be said of the institutions that these iconic hockey programs represent.
Like a pencil sharpener before a class, Cornell and Harvard whittle away needless excess and whet each other into finer, purer versions of themselves. Cornell's success drives Harvard. Harvard's accolades inspire Cornell.
Cornell University seeks to perfect upon the model that Harvard University pioneered. Harvard University responds with curricular and institutional changes. The complexion and wiles of Harvard would be very different were it not through the passive and active goading of Cornell. The founders of Cornell University and Cornellians always have aimed high. It is why from before the University's founding, Andrew Dickson White and Ezra Cornell set their sights on equaling and surpassing Harvard to become America's Oxford.
This is an intractable clash that grates generationally. It plays out on the ice as well as it does in the ether of academia. Harvard was the dominant hockey power of the Intercollegiate Hockey Association. Its reign lasted but two seasons of Cornell's gaining sanction from that league. The carnelian and white took the Crimson's crowd for their own in 1911. Harvard responded over the course of the next few seasons with revolutionizing hockey with the addition of the line change to combat the Red's superior conditioning and implementation of defensive systems.
Cornell and Harvard make each other better. Their essences are so close that they clash. There is much abrasion along the boundary. Carnelian and Crimson forever clash.
However, there need not be resentment or jealousy. Simply, if Harvard surpasses Cornell ever so briefly, the task falls to Cornell simply to reverse that gap once more. This is true in hockey as it is in all things. There need not be insecurity about Harvard's success this weekend, whatever form that it may take.
Harvard's triumphs mean only that Cornell needs to respond. Unless you have little faith in Cornell hockey to rebut whatever statement that the Crimson make this weekend, you need not shy away from any impulses to feel but a twinge of pride in the success of a pitted rival. Feel not insecurity because then you become no better than Yalies. Cornellians are more.
Cornell's goal is never to tie Harvard. It is to surpass Harvard. If Harvard raises the bar to equal or surpass Cornell, then the Red will find a way to vault over it.
This contributor has great faith in Coach Schafer and Associate Head Coach Ben Syer to build a contender that in the not-too-distant future will know success on the stage onto which the Crimson has played itself. There is no reason to doubt them. This season's character-driven team laid the groundwork for modern greatness in the coming seasons.
Coach Schafer reiterated throughout the season that it was the model of sacrifice of Quinnipiac's team last season, the first loser of the 2016 Frozen Four, in not taking off any shifts and block shots that stood as a lesson for his team's run to the 2017 ECAC Hockey Final. Imagine the lecture that the stick breaker himself will deliver after this run from his alma mater's nemesis.
Conference and national achievements will come. They will come all the faster if Cornell is challenged to equal the level of the Crimson's success. Harvard has narrowed its deficit relative to the Red's total to two Whitelaw Cups over the last three seasons. Cornell returned to its conference final this season for the first time in six years. Further success from the Cantabs will motivate Cornell's hockey program and stir from slumber any moribund backing in Teagle Hall.
It is hard not to root for a team that cares so much about beating Cornell that Lewis Zerter-Gossage found it in himself to score over one-fifth of his career goals in one outing against the Red to guarantee success for his program. Then, there is Ryan Donato. The legacy born into Harvard hockey and its associated lore. He is one of the most dynamic players in the nation to watch. This writer's opinion on the topic are well known. However, the prospects of mere ties to Cornell make him visibly weep and physically shake. Imagine what a loss to the Red would do. Sadly, Cornell has not exacted such a result while he has played in Cambridge. Harvard needs someone in the stands because its release of its allotted tickets proves that it certainly has not enough fans.
The vitriol-tinged respect of the Cornell-Harvard series will seep from the ice on Thursday and, maybe, Saturday. Why should the Red not tacitly accept or root for a result that would force it to become better?
The words of a Harvard alumnus come to mind when this contributor considers his feelings toward the Crimson playing in the 2017 Frozen Four Semifinal. They reflect some shared values between the universities. Why does he want to see Harvard be successful? The answer is because the iron of Harvard will temper the carnelian ore on East Hill. This writer wants Cornell to have to equal Harvard's run from this season. Or, simply, "[w]e choose to...do [these] things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept...and one we intend to win."
There is dignity in defeating the Crimson. Victor Creed famously reserved the right to end Logan's torment. Sabretooth denied it to all others. Why should anyone else have the privilege of ending Harvard if Cornell could not?
So, yes, as the Frozen Four is but hours away, this contributor for Where Angels Fear to Tread finds himself hoping that Harvard will do something special. The Crimson has not done that yet. It has made 12 previous Frozen Fours and emerged with but one modern title. His hope is not that Harvard is successful for itself, but for what it will do for his alma mater.
Remember, reader, the dynamic of nemeses is exemplified in the axiom that "[i]f [a nemesis] died, you would attend his funeral and--privately--you might shed a tear over his passing." This writer may wish for one result. If the alternative happens, the Crimson can trust him, that Cornell will be more than present for the funeral in the town of Topher Scott.