Mike Schafer has cultivated the Sunbelt as fertile grounds for players that keep Cornell a perennial national power. Armand de Swardt from Plano, TX is no exception to that scheme. The imposing forward from the Lone Star State began playing a key role even in his freshman season when he saw action in 20 games. The freshman fit into a specific role that Schafer and his teammates needed him to play.
Armand de Swardt is not a flashy finesse forward. Few would mistake him for that. He has a solid skating ability with somewhat unexpected speed. He has the propensity to burn forwards that are committed low when taking the puck from Cornell's zone. De Swardt's size? It ensures that when he's carrying the puck on a rush, a tactic he does often, that few if any opposing defender can stop him. The Texan deposits the puck into the net rarely, but often provides the grit and muscle to change the flow of a game.
Cornell's goal is to function like "the Cornell hockey machine" of the 1960s and 1970s, or "the dream-crushing, soul-devouring juggernaut" of the 2000s. Brian Sullivan captured the tactics of both well. He noted how for the system to be successful Cornell needs its archetypical big, strong power forwards and defensemen to wrangle the puck from the opposition, connect with a finesse player, and put Cornell on the scoreboard. The system originates with the physical play of unsung players. Armand de Swardt often would be considered such a player. However, fortunately for him, Cornell and the Lynah Faithful have an appreciation for clean, gritty, physical play.
De Swardt has been integral on many shifts in beating back an oncoming opponent with his size and checking ability. The image of de Swardt pushing his way through forwards and defensemen alike along the boards at Denver last season is an evocative one. The Plano, TX native ground the Pioneers into submission early and set up the Red goal that opened the second game of the series.
Plays begin and end with de Swardt regularly. The play of de Swardt and his line often set up the opportunities for linemates or subsequent shifts to penetrate a much-softened defense. De Swardt is one of few vestiges of vintage Schaferian recruits from the earlier 2000s. A vestige that has been and is essential to much of Cornell's success.
De Swardt's size is put to use not only in the Texan's physical play, but in setting up crucial screens for Cornell. Few netminders want a six-foot-five player on their crease. The sight becomes all the more threatening when it is a player who can deal easily with the usual goalie-screen pushing and shoving.
Dedication to his appointed role on the Cornell team has afforded de Swardt few opportunities to score for himself. He has scored six points over his career. However, noteworthy is the occurrence of those points. An impressive one-third of his points have been scored in the postseason. The most memorable of which was his freshman season. Just 24 seconds after Sean Whitney put Cornell above Dartmouth in the 2011 ECAC Championship Semifinal, de Swardt directed an effort from Sean Collins into the net. The goal from de Swardt ensured that Dartmouth would not end its then-31-year drought from the ECAC title game and that Cornell would have a chance to defend its 12th Whitelaw Cup.
De Swardt creates opportunities and that is what he has done for his three seasons at Cornell. His line on the scoresheet may not be gaudy, but de Swardt revels in his role and knows his importance to the team's overall success. His opponents respect and revere his game-changing abilities, especially at Lynah Rink where few forwards on Cornell's roster can put the deep corners to the punishing and eviscerating effect of Armand de Swardt.
What to Expect
De Swardt and his gritty brand of hockey will return. That is a good thing. While it is easy to get preoccupied with the flair and offensive outbursts of other forwards, the players who create those openings are just as essential to Cornell's success. When Cornell plays a stalwart defense like the one that Union presents, there are reasons beyond the awe-inspiring skills of Brian Ferlin and Joel Lowry why Cornell's most prolific line can penetrate and convert easily on the Dutchmen late in the game. That reason is the tiring and punishing play of teammates like de Swardt.
As many readers know, de Swardt is an archetype that is much needed on East Hill, but much loathed in the ECAC. De Swardt embraces that role. He takes upon the demeanor of Cornell's physical, gritty antihero. The senior forward has taken it to new heights over his career. He further cultivates his image. In an interview with Ithaca's "Between the Lines" broadcast, the punishing forward remarked that it'd be fine with him, in fact he may even enjoy it, if some of the fish that rain upon Lynah's ice happened to strike the opposing Crimson as they lined up along the glass fearing the Lynah Faithful's pregame deluge. He said so with a laugh.
Armand de Swardt will not change his style of play. He will continue to do what the team needs. He will wear down opponents and create space for Cornell. He will take away netminders's eyes so that Cornell can score from the point. He will continue to stand up for his teammates. He will forecheck even the most vaunted forwards in the nation aggressively. He will show his speed as he races the other direction for a bruising backcheck with the hopes that he may cradle the puck on his stick back across the blue line.
An interesting statistical note is that de Swardt's point production over his career has increased linearly. Each season de Swardt has scored one more point than he has the previous season. The Lynah Faithful can see if this trend continues this season while watching de Swardt make an art form out of a hardworking position his senior season.
A Look Back
Mike Iggulden chose to wear Cornell's number 18 for the 2001-02 season, his freshman campaign. Iggulden was recruited to Cornell to play a physical, defensive role as a forward. His first three seasons witnessed his creating a reputation to such effect. Cornell's coaching staff began to trust Iggulden with greater responsibilities on special teams as his senior season continued. He would reward their confidence in him with stellar play.
The defensive forward from the Class of 2005 earned 16 points over his first three seasons on East Hill. Such a total lends light on his contributions as a grinding forward. However, few could have expected his break-out senior season. Iggulden was known for creating open ice for his team, blocking shots, and limiting opponents's scoring chances. He would add the position of clutch goal scorer to his resume during his senior season.
Members of the Lynah Faithful who followed the 2004-05 season joked often that Mike Iggulden was a greater scoring threat on the penalty kill than most opponents's power-play units. Mike Knoepfli and Jeremy Downs, classmates of Iggulden, described Iggulden in his senior season: "He's the guy who, if we are down, can come up with something to lighten up the mood. Or score a big goal."
Mike Iggulden registered more points in his senior season than he had throughout his first three seasons combined. He scored ten goals. Perhaps the most memorable marker of his career was in the last victory of his senior season. Cornell fell behind by two goals early in the 2005 NCAA West Regional Semifinal against Ohio State. Doug Krantz and Chris Abbott evened the score before the second period had ended. The weight of winning the game was left to Mike Iggulden.
The Olympic-sized ice sheet at Mariucci Arena began to tax Cornell. Iggulden raced in on Ohio State's net. The shot went wide. It wrapped around the net. Matt Moulson collected the puck and flipped it over to Mike Iggulden who still remained on the doorstep of the crease. Iggulden moved the puck to the right past the goaltender, released it, and dove out of the way of the challenging netminder. The puck sailed into the net and sent Cornell to the regional final.
The role that Mike Iggulden began to fill during his senior season and that which Armand de Swardt will be required to fill are likely dissimilar. However, the essentiality of both of their roles to Cornell's success over their senior campaigns cannot be debated. Mike Iggulden and his classmates led Cornell to its 11th Whitelaw Cup. Armand de Swardt and his senior class hope that they can do the same. If de Swardt continues to create the openings and whittle down the opposition, his role in bringing success to Cornell will be no less important than even the special season that Mike Iggulden had during his senior campaign.