Kirill Gotovets? Kiryl Hatavets? It does not matter how you transliterate it, the play of Cornell's Belarusian blueliner has translated into dependable and stalwart defense since he arrived on campus in 2010. Gotovets joined the ranks of the Big Red after Cornell had won its 12th Whitelaw Cup. Cornell was hungry. Mike Schafer and the Lynah Faithful knew quickly that they had a very talented defenseman in the freshman Gotovets. Gotovets was the only player from the Class of 2014 to play every game during his freshman season. The green blueliner rewarded his team for its faith in him with lifting the team with an impressive +8; the highest +/- of any freshman on the 2010-11 team and third-highest overall. Gotovets tallied seven points over the course of his first season on East Hill while gaining a reputation as a first-pass defenseman.
The versatility of Gotovets was displayed early in his sophomore season. A series of line-up shuffles placed him as a forward at various times during the 2011-12 season. Noteworthy is the fact that Gotovets's most memorable goal from that season, and perhaps his career thus far, came in Cornell's first ECAC contest against Yale. Gotovets collected the puck, skated in on Jeff Malcolm, and unleashed a shot that arced over Malcolm's blocker and glided across the top bar into the net. It would be Gotovets's lone goal of the season. This would not prevent Gotovets from shining the same way that he had in his inaugural season at Cornell. Gotovets ended the season with the second-highest +/- of defensemen behind only then-captain Keir Ross. The Belarusian blueliner's penchants for blocking shots and stifling opponents's offensive efforts shone through in his +13.
Kirill Gotovets was a talented junior who joined a defensive corp including Nick D'Agostino and Braden Birch. Gotovets was paired commonly with sophomore Jacob MacDonald. The junior defenseman helped break in the talented MacDonald who had played in just eight games during his freshman campaign. The duo performed admirably. The two became known for their ability to turn back the advances of even the most talented players of opposing squads. Gotovets delivered another patented performance in Cornell's game against eventual national champion Yale. The junior dove in front of a blast from Antoine Laganiere that would have ended the contest in regulation. Gotovets's fearless dive, caught by the cameras and commentators of NBC Sports, preserved an opportunity to win the game for Cornell. Then, Cornell's and Gotovets' season took an abrupt turn.
Cornell was in the midst of a slide very uncharacteristic of Cornell hockey. The Big Red braved the North Country. Gotovets was in tow. During the contest at Clarkson, the season for the junior defenseman changed. In a punishing and shockingly unpenalized hit, the defenseman was injured. He returned for two contests to battle with his team, but then needed to nurse his injury for the playoffs. Gotovets would not rejoin Cornell's line-up for three weeks. The 2013 ECAC Tournament witnessed the return of Cornell's conservative and reliable defenseman. Gotovets was able to return for only the first game of the opening series in Cornell's 2013 postseason run. He delivered responsible and crucial, even nationally recognized performances, but his junior season was sadly cut short due to injury. The effect of the loss of an integral element of Cornell's defensive corp cannot be overstated.
What to Expect
Gotovets missed 12 games of his junior campaign. His game-changing talents are apparent. His versatility is evident in his ability seamlessly to transition from attacking forward to stay-at-home defenseman without losing perspective of his role within Cornell's system. Gotovets is a rare talent who can deliver on both ends of the ice when required. However, it was the role that he dappled in last season that will prove most vital during the 2013-14 season.
Gotovets dipped his toe in the pool of leadership last season when he defended the blueline and blue paint with Jacob MacDonald. His role as leader will be one that will be crucial this season. Cornell welcomes four freshman defensemen to its roster this season. Gotovets will serve as the only game-experienced senior. Even exceedingly talented sophomore Reece Willcox and junior Joakim Ryan likely will turn to him for guidance at times this season.
For new defensively minded defensemen like Clint Lewis, Gotovets will provide an archetype of resilience and composure for defensive play. His status as a veteran will help him guide and lead a young defensive corp, both by instruction and example. Last season indicates that Gotovets will shoulder the responsibilities of leadership with ease.
Staying healthy is an imperative for Gotovets. It is hard to imagine many members of the Lynah Faithful not wondering what if when reflecting about Cornell's playoff run last season. Recall the fatigue on the faces of some of Cornell's defensive corp as game three of the 2013 ECAC Quarterfinals lingered in its second overtime. It is not unthinkable that Gotovets's presence in the run-up to and run through the playoffs could have been a difference maker. The Lynah Faithful need to hope that their responsible defenseman can stay healthy this season and avoid hits like the one he endured against Clarkson last season.
What can be expected of Gotovets this season? The answer is likely more of the same. And, as the Lynah Faithful know, that is a great thing for Cornell. Gotovets executes a shot-blocking and offense-limiting defensive game that thwarts opponents and keeps Cornell in games. If Gotovets stays healthy and embraces his new role as leader of Cornell's blueliners, he will immunize the Big Red against the growing pains of breaking in a new group of defensemen. The senior defenseman is more than capable of both.
A Look Back
The highest profile wearer of 24 at Cornell in recent memory was Matt Moulson. However, the immediate predecessor of Gotovets was defenseman Brendon Nash. Nash was an essential part of Cornell's 2009-10 team that won Cornell's 12th ECAC Championship. Brendon Nash was a physical defenseman who accumulated most of his points over his career with a first pass or while grinding opponents to a submissive pulp on the power play.
Brendon Nash scored eight goals over his career. Six of those goals were scored in his first three seasons. Nash scored nearly one-third of his career points during his championship-winning senior season. His stellar play contributed to the success that Cornell enjoyed against Boston University, New Hampshire, and North Dakota during his last campaign. At both ends of the ice. He had four multiple-point games during his senior campaign. The most noteworthy of which came at Red Hot Hockey II in a two-point effort assisting Cornell's three-goal output.
The role of Brendon Nash to the 2009-10 team extends far beyond mere statistics. On a team of leaders, he found ways to stand out. He was not the lone senior defenseman that season, but he helped players like Braden Birch, Nick D'Agostino, Keir Ross, and Sean Whitney find their niche as defensemen within Cornell hockey. This alone would be a sufficient legacy for most players to wear the carnelian and white. Brendon Nash was not most Cornell players.
Brendon Nash's efforts and successful career at Cornell were recognized at the end of his final season. Brendon Nash was selected as a First-Team All-American in 2010. Ben Scrivens and he were the last Cornellians selected as First-Team All-Americans. Nash's legacy is a great one. It will never be forgotten as his All-American selection and the banner of the championship he won will boast of his achievements for generations at Lynah Rink.
Gotovets will be tasked with a responsibility not unlike that which faced Brendon Nash his senior season. A young, but talented, corp of defensemen needs leadership and will look to its seniors for guidance. Brendon Nash provided that guidance and proved indefatigable in helping his team reach its goals. This defines the responsibility of a defenseman who wears 24 at Cornell. Gotovets likely will prove more than able to lead in the tradition of great Cornell players like Brendon Nash.