Iles has manifested a noticeable ability to elevate his play when the emotional or consequential weight of a game requires him to do so. His freshman year this was most pronounced in Cornell's game at Lynah East. Harvard outplayed Cornell most of that game. Iles elevated his game, delivered 33 saves against an aggressive Harvard onslaught, and protected a tenuous 2-1 lead for Cornell to claim an emotional victory at Bright. He delivered an equally amazing performance in the 2011 ECAC Quarterfinals clash with Quinnipiac where he made 30 spectacular saves. The team would lose 1-0 largely because of the failures of the officiating staff to set up goal review equipment despite Iles's valiant efforts.
This trend continued last season. It was most recognizable in the series at Colorado College, the game against Union at Lynah, and the 2012 NCAA Tournament when Iles was on many occasions the difference maker. Colorado College head coach Owens remarked after Cornell's 1-0-1 2012 trip to World Arena that Iles "was outstanding and as good of a goaltender that they would see all season." Iles ensured that Cornell took three points from Colorado Springs with protecting a lead the second night and delivering a performance the first night that could have been improved only if it were a shutout.
Union came to East Hill in February 2012 with nationally ranked goaltender Troy Grosenick and seeking to clinch its second regular-season title. Cornell with a win would ensure that it would win the regular-season title if the following night Cornell equaled or surpassed Union's result at Starr. Lynah was the loudest that I had experienced during that game. Union fans were bragging proudly about how Grosenick was the best goaltender in the nation. Many of the Lynah Faithful, including me, informed them that no, Iles was in fact the most talented goaltender in the nation. The product on the ice spoke for itself. Iles outperformed Grosenick fairly markedly. As soon as Cornell tied the game at 2-2, the result never seemed in question because few, if any of the Faithful, thought that Union would get another goal. Iles delivered a clutch performance and put Cornell in control of its destiny to win a ninth regular-season title in that game.
This is a post about Andy Iles, so I will not digress for long, but the class and character of Hunwick deserves to be noted and celebrated in the annals of Cornell hockey history, as well as those of Michigan hockey where he is already a legend. He manifested the greatest of sports in his last act as a Michigan Wolverine.
Despite letting an early goal past him, Iles was steadfast in the crease during the clash of, what I believe to be, the two greatest college hockey programs. Iles ensured the victory with 31 saves against a potent Michigan attack. Cornell had to kill off 8:24 of penalties during the second period alone. Cornell's defense and Iles killed off over one minute of Michigan's 5-on-3 play during the second period. Cornell had not killed off a single 5-on-3 opportunity all season. The defensive core and Iles delivered when it was needed most and upset the one team that many thought was the sole legitimate challenger of Boston College in winning a national championship.
The most crucial saves in the win over Michigan that Iles made were in the last 29 seconds of regulation. He battled in the crease against several opportunities after an anomalous collapse in Cornell's defensive zone turned over the puck to Michigan's Treais right on Iles's doorstep. Iles forced the game to go into overtime and gave Cornell the opportunity that it needed to win in overtime. This game and Iles's performance in it will not be forgotten among the Lynah Faithful.
Andy Iles' sophomore performances ranks 19th all-time in terms of save percentage (tied with Brian Cropper's save percentage during his junior performance in Cornell's undefeated and untied season), 17th all-time in terms of goals against average (just 0.06 behind Scrivens' sophomore performance), and sixth all-time in terms of shutouts (tied with Ken Dryden's junior performance) in the history of Cornell hockey.
Statistically, what improvement can the Faithful expect between a sophomore and junior season for an already impressive goaltender such as Iles? Seven of the legendary goaltenders to have played for Cornell have stayed for all four years. They include Kennedy, Dryden, Cropper, Hayward, Eliot, Underhill, and Scrivens. Only two of those goaltenders experienced declines in either their goals against average or save percentage between their sophomore and junior seasons. Those two goaltenders experienced decreases in both. They were Eliot and Dryden (admittedly, it would have been hard to improve upon Dryden's sophomore performance of 0.945 and 1.46).
Kennedy, Cropper, Hayward, Underhill, and Scrivens all witnessed improvements between their sophomore and junior seasons. The average improvement across all of those goaltenders who improved is a boost of 0.026 to their save percentage and 0.93 to their goals against average. If Iles experienced the average improvement, his numbers for the 2012-13 season would include a save percentage of 0.946 and goals against average of 1.15.
Such numbers would give Iles the second-best all-time save percentage and best all-time goal against average in a season in the history of Cornell hockey. Even though this model might not be entirely accurate the fact remains that Iles has shown that improvement is all but guaranteed and the Big Red can depend upon him, especially when they need him most.
The DeLibero-Tsapis Award is the award given "to the player who most nearly exemplifies the skilled efficiency, unselfish dedication, and hard-nosed competitive applications that distinguishes him as representative of Joe DiLibero's and Stan Tsapis' uniqueness." Iles was clearly deserving with his indefatigable presence in the net all season and his tireless dedication to making plays when they need to be made exemplified most during the last seconds of the Michigan game. The Nicky Bawlf Award is given to the player who was most valuable to the team throughout the season. The team chooses to whom to give this award. Words can scarcely capture the significance of such team recognition. Iles convincingly won the Shutout Award with accumulating six shutouts with five at Lynah Rink in consecutive home games. The only losses earned against Iles at Lynah last season were the first home game against Mercyhurst and the last home game against RPI.
The last award that Iles won deserves particular emphasis. Collegiate athletics, most pronouncedly in the Ivy League, emphasizes at its best the academic achievements of student-athletes. Andy Iles is immensely successful in the classrooms on the Hill and has earned a very impressive grade point average. His academic achievements are only augmented when one considers the rigors of training required for preparation at the highest level of the sport of college hockey, social pressures to succeed and continue the winning traditions of Cornell hockey, and particular emphasis upon continuing the history of excellence in goaltending for a University that is nicknamed often GoalieU. That is why the Earle Award of Outstanding Academic Achievement should be highlighted among the many accolades that Iles has earned and will earn. The Award is named in honor of Wendell Earle who was a Cornell professor and team adviser who hosted visiting families of Cornell hockey players. The recipients of the award are "the team members from each class who have achieved the highest cumulative grade point average."
Andy Iles will continue to impress the Lynah Faithful. Someday his play will be the stuff of legends. He will be integral to the many successes of the team during the 2012-13 season. That is why we conclude with a lighthearted fan video that celebrates the many appreciations of the Lynah Faithful for their goaltender, Andy Iles. The Faithful chant "ugly" typically when opposing golatenders remove their helmets. When Iles does the same, as he often does during games, the Faithful let their goaltender know what they think of his appearance...