It is not about getting an opportunity. It is about earning an opportunity. I think that a lot of college athletes make that mistake. They're there, they're on a program, they feel that the coach is going to just hand them a position. When we recruit athletes, we tell them that the promise to them is if you're the top goaltender, you're a top-six defenseman, or you're a top-12 forward, you will play that night. However, that promise stays true all the way through your four years...as a junior or senior, nothing is guaranteed in our program.
The team matters more than the individual. Attention must be paid in every aspect of the game. Nothing is given, everything is earned.
A team that represents a cohesive community must meet these criteria if those hallmarks reify the values of that community. Jurgen Klinsmann articulates that “[i]t has to be [a] goal to develop a style in which [people] recognize themselves.” Lynah Faithful, did you see yourselves in this team’s effort last Friday? Did this team even see itself?
This is not a singular rebuke of the team. This is a season-long invitation for introspection. This season, the 60th season played at Lynah Rink and the 100th season of intercollegiate play for Cornell hockey, must become one in which everyone associated with this often deservedly self-promoting and vaunted program tries to live up to the expectations of their predecessors.
The earning-it mentality must not be reduced to the double-speak aphorism of #EarnIt. Cornell University expects its pupils, whether students or student-athletes, to earn everything in their academic studies. It is imperative that Coach Schafer in the role of educator to his players continues what he expertly did last season and in seasons past. One result does not indicate whether he has or not. The line-up in the coming days may provide insight.
The carnelian and white etched the ice for the first time this season having earned nothing. They acted like they had earned much. A sense of entitlement pervaded the Red’s style of play. More than just the twill numbers stitched to the backs of the carnelian sweaters was oversized (for those who did not attend the game or purchase Merrimack’s feed, the dorsal numbers are now of the 12-inch rather than 10-inch variety that Cornell wears historically).
The defense scrambled. The attack did not put pucks on the net. Chemistry among forwards was unreactive.
Coach Schafer righted the course in one regard during the first intermission. The Red took the ice having been reminded of a crucial lesson from last season. Cornell took a shot when a lane to the net was open or attackers were ensuing. Matt Buckles was the lone player to trust his shot, as he so often does, during the entirety of the game.
Why then did the givers of regards to Davey not roar back to life in the second or third period then?
Team unity on the ice was abysmal. That neither exaggerates nor sugarcoats it. Players did not cohere in their efforts. Individual efforts produced the largest percentage of the offense that Cornell produced during the second period and the first half of the third period. Yes, skaters were taking shots as the new Schaferian mantra demands, but those shots were produced from singular scrambles in attempts to get Cornell back into a game that it was in only so briefly last Friday night.
The Lowe-Death-Cornell line, I mean, the Rauter-Fiegl-Buckles line was the one line with visible signs of communication and cooperation through the first period. They did not entirely outdo the tandem of Jeff Malott, Jake Weidner, and Eric Freschi. Buckles performed well, albeit angrily (I do not know about you, but I like my Buckles a little fiery), in relentlessly pummeling Merrimack’s Vogler. The Red’s first goal of the season rewarded the determined junior.
The carnelian-and-white net transitioned during the game as the visitors from Upstate New York allowed three goals on just 18 shots. Hayden Stewart was called into action in relief for the seventh time in his career. The junior netminder arrested all shots that he faced in nearly one-half of the contest. This was no surprise to the Cornell partisans in attendance.
Stewart has allowed no goals in five of the contests that he has entered in relief. Entering a game in relief when a team is chasing a game that has gotten away is a disadvantageous situation that no goaltender covets. Cornell’s net-minding Illinois native is undaunted in producing 1.63 goals-against average and a 0.930 save percentage under such unfavorable conditions. His performance Friday was matter of course. Stewie has earned the confidence of the Lynah Faithful if not more.
Cornell’s second goal of the contest was symbolic. Mitch Vanderlaan of the off-season’s much-ballyhooed line that shares a name with a program house in North Campus found the back of the net. Fitting for the evening, none of his typical linemates were on the ice with him. Jeff Malott and Jake Weidner joined those credited with assists, Dwyer Tschantz and Trevor Yates, in precipitating the Big Red’s last gasp at Lawler Rink.
Two things are obvious from that sequence of events. We found Bob Marley. Now, opposing fans always think the Lynah Faithful are looking for Waldo. Nope, it was looking for its Rastafarian frontman. A valiantly grappling Jeff Kubiak was unable to serve as the versatile conduit for the talents of Angello and Vanderlaan.
Kubiak’s leadership is essential to his expected line’s success. If that was not assumed before last Friday, it is a certainty now. Jeff Kubiak just had returned from injury. His game was ever-so-slightly off from what this contributor began to expect last season.
Cornell gained the man advantage shortly after the Warriors expanded their lead to two goals. The power-play including Angello, Kubiak, and Vanderlaan leapt over the boards. Angello guided the puck along an arc from the blue line to his senior center at the left face-off circle. The mismatch was there. The shooting lane was clear. Kubiak received the pass. He hesitated. The moment was gone. This would not have happened last season. Hopefully, it will become a rarity as this season progresses and Kubiak heals.
It seems until Jeff Kubiak returns closer to his full potential that The Wailers will be jamming far less frequently than expected.
Arguably the largest moment of the night occurred with antics that occurred directly after a whistle. The team-first mentality vanished for but a second. Then, the Red was killing a major as it lost one of its most promising forwards in a deliberate, undisciplined act. Coach Schafer rightly critiqued the decision as “selfish.”
Lack of discipline and selfishness were what doomed Cornell in this season’s opener. Players began the contest acting like they had won already when they had earned no respect. Each season is different. Each team is different. This team has earned nothing yet. Its constituent members began Friday as though it had.
Merrimack paid Cornell the exact amount of respect that the Big Red exacted. Cornell earned little respect that evening. When the entitlement of the Red was not sated, players resorted to selfish efforts to attempt to score or succumbed to baser impulses in frustration that disadvantaged that team. This writer needs not expound upon the body of evidence of a truism of Cornell’s greatest teams among its 100 installments.
Cornell wins when it plays as one. It has done so for 105 years. While other programs rely upon arrogant self-indulgence and self-promotion, Cornell harnesses collective talent in a practice devoted to lifting the University.
The players on this team need to earn their playing time. The team needs to instill reverence in its opponents through its accomplishments in its own right. They are not the only affiliates of the University that must earn something this season.
We all need to earn something.
The Lynah Faithful need to become again “faithful.” The last three seasons of Cornell hockey have seen the worst average attendance since the most recent renovations to Lynah Rink. Last season was the worst for average attendance since the Rink’s seating capacity expanded. This is unacceptable.
It is offensive to the history of the venue for Lynah Rink to sit with crowds averaging less than 99.0% capacity. Nearly half of the seasons since expansion have reached that plateau. To earn the acclaim that the Lynah Faithful extoll on themselves as being the most rabid fans in college hockey, they need to hone the points their taunts and chants beyond ritual and fill the building to capacity so that this team may reach its potential.
Sadly, the “earn it” mantra has become more literal for far too many Lynah Faithful, alumni, and students. Over the last seven years, ticket prices for a non-playoff regular-season game at Lynah Rink have risen by one-third. Now, it may be a wise decision for Andy Noel, et al. to gouge the loyalty of patrons by an additional 33.3% over less time than a decade (inflation over the same span is but 10.7%), it engenders neither passion nor loyalty. Cornell Athletics should earn the devotion of its loyal fans rather than exploit it. This writer expects this to fall on deaf ears.
The pep band needs to be more creative. This writer has been to many away venues with the fanbases that are regionally and nationally known as the best. The Big Red Pep Band needs to dare to add things to its repertoire. The women’s opening series against Mercyhurst saw a pep band willing to experiment with new songs and arrangements. This should continue. The last time that this contributor checked, members of the pep band are Cornellians, dare make a legacy or tradition of your own! Rebel! Be Cornellian!
Finally, the role of our contributors, we pledge that we will dedicate ourselves to continuing and improving high-calibre and thought-provoking analysis that adds value to the experience of being Lynah Faithful, alumni, or students. Our goal is to provide something that you cannot find elsewhere. Where Angels Fear to Tread will continue to give its last full measure of devotion toward that end this season. He who expects great things of others must expect greatness of himself. We hope to continue to earn your loyalty and readership.
And to think, we are just one week into the season.