This seemingly exhaustive list omits one of the greatest and most unlikely of triumphs in the ECAC post-season in the history of Cornell hockey.
Another historic game and achievement in Lake Placid, NY that occurred within a month may overshadow the significance of Cornell's unexpected playoff run and ultimate championship.
The 1979-80 season began after the graduation of now legendary point producer and goal scorer Lance Nethery. Nethery totaled 271 points over his four years at Cornell. He scored 91 goals over his career. Those totals place him first and third in each respective category for all-time records for Cornell.
It would seem in cursory retrospect that Cornell would worry about a dearth of offense headed into the 1979-80 season. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nethery may have departed but Cornell's roster was flush with abundant talent. Sophomore forward Kerling and junior forward Tredway were continuing careers that would join them with Nethery as the only three players in Cornell history to tally 200 or more points over their careers. Tredway and Kerling are ranked first and second for goals scored in a career besting Nethery's 91 goals with totals of 113 and 93 goals respectively.
It is startling to think that the 1970s and 1980s are often mistakenly regarded as decades of dormancy for Cornell hockey.
The 1979-80 season began in the shadow of the preceding season's ECAC Tournament. Cornell had been eliminated from the 1979 ECAC Semifinals with a 5-2 loss to New Hampshire. The Big Red was overlooked for a bid to the 1979 NCAA Tournament.
The early season goal for Cornell in the 1979-80 season was to improve upon the 21-8-0 record from the previous season and win Cornell its sixth ECAC Championship. Cornell had the offensive talent to propel such a run. Sophomore goaltender Brian Hayward returned after playing in 25 of Cornell's 29 games during his freshman season. He won 18 of the games in which he tended the pipes. Freshman Hayward recorded a save percentage of 0.884 and goals-against average of 3.88. Goaltending may have seemed a point of intrigue but not weakness in that season. Cornell had Darren Eliot incoming as a freshman.
When Cornell first took the ice, the team suffered setbacks with respect to its lofty ambitions. The Big Red proceeded to drop its first three games. Opponents of Cornell outscored the Big Red 16 to 11 over that span. This early season slide included a two-game series against Notre Dame and a game against Brown. Cornell's offense was producing but the sown seeds of a goalie controversy appeared to be ripe for reaping even early in the season.
Cornell trudged on through the season. Passage to the postseason and success in the Elysian Fields thereof began to seem unnavigable. The 1979-80 Cornell team twice more found itself in the midst of three-game and four-game losing streaks.
A great deal of the frustration and controversy of the season played out when Cornell confronted the Harvard Crimson at Bright Hockey Center, a complex that had just months before been known as Watson Rink before renovations were complete and hosted the 1980 men's ice hockey team from the United States. The February 8, 1980 clash between the Big Red and Crimson had an interesting tone because both programs that had known great success in the ECAC (Cornell had won five ECAC Championships and Harvard had won two ECAC Championships at that point) found themselves on the outside looking in when the ECAC and national playoff picture was discussed at the close of the regular season for the 1979-80 season.
Cornell and Harvard both needed the win, but it was the host that would emerge victorious. Cornell had gotten hot of late having won four of its last five games. The Cleary-led Crimson were ice cold. It was confronting Cornell after having just squandered a three-goal lead to fall to Boston College 4-3 in the 1980 Beanpot.
Harvard followed a similar approach against Cornell and bested Cornell's freshman goaltender Eliot four times in the first frame. The young Eliot who had gained a tenuous grip on the starting goaltender position over sophomore Hayward was chased from the crease. Hayward entered the game in relief, tending the pipes that were once his. He would allow no more goals in that outing. Unsurprisingly, it was Kerling who would cut the Crimson's lead to 4-3. The late-game surge would prove for naught as Harvard defeated the Big Red. Cornell would lose to Dartmouth and get shelled 9-4 by RPI in the Big Red's next two outings.
It was mid-February. Cornell still remained locked out of the playoffs. Cornell and Harvard would continue to duel directly and indirectly as the two historically successful programs jockeyed for the last spot in the 1980 ECAC Tournament. Cornell's next clash against the Crimson came on February 20, 1980. This time Harvard would brave Lynah.
Darren Eliot got the chance at redemption as he got the nod against the Crimson at Lynah. It is uncertain at what point in the season that it may have occurred or had ill effects, but Cornell's head coach Dick Bertrand disclosed after the 1979-80 season that Hayward's diagnosis with mononucleosis had tilted the balance of the goaltender competition between Hayward and Eliot in the latter's favor. Eliot proved more than able to handle the Crimson in front of the Lynah Faithful. Harvard dominated the shot count in the first period. Eliot held them to one goal in the first period and that was all the Crimson would tally.
Cornell's offense erupted with tallies from scorers including Dan Duffy, Brian Marrett, Ken Kirley, Brock Tredway, Karl Habib, and Larry Tobin. The Big Red's dominance left Cleary and his Crimson red-faced with a 6-1 loss at the close of regulation. The Lynah Faithful's raucous serenade of the departing Crimson with "Goodbye, Harvard, we hate to see you go" added insult to injury. The most important result was not redemption in an increasingly heated rivalry. Cornell's win over the Crimson placed Cornell in the last spot for the 1980 ECAC Tournament while the Crimson were relegated to being the first team out of the playoffs.
Cornell would make quick work of Northeastern defeating the other Boston-bound school by a margin of 4-1. Cornell's grip on the playoffs grew ever so slightly more secure. There were four games remaining in the regular season. There was scarcely any margin for error as the Crimson were attempting to mount a hot pursuit of Cornell's covetable position.
Harvard dropped a decision to Colgate that resulted in a skid down the ECAC standings. The skid brought Harvard into a tie with Cornell's other archrival, Boston University, for status as teams two places removed from the last playoff berth. Cornell meanwhile clawed one rung higher in the ECAC seeding with its win over Northeastern. Five teams remained in contention for the last two playoff bids with just four games remaining in the regular season.
Cornell had the hardest remaining schedule of the five teams in contention for the ECAC's last playoff spot. Cornell needed to play Vermont at Gutterson Fieldhouse, Princeton and Providence at Lynah Rink, and Boston University at Walter Brown Arena to close out the regular season. The only opponent that Cornell was to meet in its last four games of the 1979-80 regular season that was out of the playoffs was Princeton.
The Friars and the Catamounts were performing impressively and had clinched a playoff berth. A victory over either Providence or Vermont would be a Herculean undertaking. Boston University would be playing against not only its archrival in Cornell when the Big Red met the Terriers, but also for its right to advance to the post-season. The Terriers would be home-standing. They would be hungry to defeat their rival and redeem themselves in the playoffs after getting eliminated in the 1979 ECAC Semifinals at the hands of Dartmouth.
The Catamounts bested the Big Red at Gutterson in the opening game of the final four regular-season contests. The result was disappointing, but not entirely unexpected as Vermont was uncharacteristically dominant that year. Cornell focused its sights on the Tigers of Princeton. The contest should have been a given with a lackluster Princeton squad that had little to play for in Lynah Rink. The Tigers trounced Cornell 7-6.
Cornell's clawing into the playoffs began to seem for naught. Cornell had dropped the first of its final four games that would serve to gain passage to the playoffs. The Big Red slipped in the ECAC standings. The only two teams that remained were Providence and Boston University. The former was among the elite in the ECAC that season, the latter was still gnashing to get in the playoffs and hardly could find more of a satisfying means of achieving that goal than defeating Cornell at home.
Providence ventured to Lynah Rink to confront the "heathens on the Hill." Cornell flagellated the Friars by a margin of 5-2. There was no acceptable setback allowed in the next game. If Cornell had lost, the Big Red likely would be out of the playoffs.
Goaltending gave way for both Cornell and Boston University. It was not an affair like the preceding Providence game where Cornell bested a good team at both ends of the ice. Cornell vaulted to a five-goal lead. As one would expect, the Terriers would not go quietly. The Terriers struck around four minutes into the second period. They were relentless for the next 20 minutes of game play during which Boston University tied the game. Cornell had allowed five unanswered goals in a game whose result could decide the post-season future of the 1979-80 Cornell squad.
Cornell mustered the ability to defend over the last 15 minutes of regulation. The Terriers would score no more. The game was pushed into overtime. It was there that Cornell's Marrett solved the Terriers's Barich and put the Big Red past the Terriers with the determinative tally. Cornell had reclaimed a 0.500 record with its last regular-season game and win.
Cornell's reward? It extended its season. Cornell earned a bid as the last seed in the 1980 ECAC playoffs. Boston College, Providence, Dartmouth, Vermont, Clarkson, RPI, and Colgate populated the remainder of the playoff field. Cornell's archrivals Boston University and Harvard were left out of the playoffs. It was the third consecutive time that Harvard had missed the post-season.
Cornell would meet top-seeded Boston College in the first round of the playoffs. Cornell would begin its playoff run on the road.
It goes without saying that last-seeded Cornell was heavily disfavored to upend a top-seeded Boston College program that had won its second ECAC Championship in 1978. The Big Red and the Eagles had met once in the regular season. The game was a high-scoring affair that saw 11 goals and Boston College emerge on the better end of a 6-5 decision.
Eliot began Cornell's playoff run between the pipes. Cornell's forwards would not wait long to join the rally. Cornell struck first at 3:10 of the first period. Brian Marrett scored two goals as Cornell scored four additional unanswered goals to which the Eagles would have no response until 13 seconds remained in the game. Cornell had obliterated the top-seeded Eagles at their home in McHugh Forum in its first post-season outing of the 1980 ECAC Tournament.
Cornell advanced to Boston Garden for the 1980 ECAC Semifinals. The 1979-80 Cornell squad would reunite with the Providence Friars there. Less than a week had elapsed since the last meeting between Cornell and Providence.
The Lynah Faithful flocked to Boston Garden. The stage was set for the clash of last-seeded Cornell and second-seeded Providence. The game unraveled quickly for Cornell and its sizable contingent of Faithful at Boston Garden. Providence dominated play and seemed unstoppable. The Friars began the third period with a seemingly very comfortable 4-2 lead.
The final frame began. Cornell was determined to fight its way back into the game. Providence scored less than one minute into the ultimate stanza.
Cornell would have seemed to have lost any momentum it gained from Brock Tredway's four-on-four goal in the last 32 seconds of the second period. Tredway had beaten the Friars's Fiske with a wrap-around goal into the back door of the net. The goal had seemed to insert Cornell back into the game, but allowing an easy goal would have seemed to have stemmed the possible rising red tide.
The Big Red was undeterred. Cornell refocused and redoubled its efforts. The Lynah Faithful reasserted themselves into the game and let their presence be felt on the ice. Cornell closed that gap in just over 12 minutes. David Chiappini, Jeff Baikie and Dan Miele tickled the twine in sequence. The roar of the Faithful grew seemingly with each additional tally.
The 1979-80 Cornell squad's second-most prolific point producer would notch the marker that would stand. Roy Kerling, who would end the 1979-80 season with 52 points behind only Brock Tredway who produced 60 points, wristed a shot past Providence's Friske on a power-play opportunity for Cornell. The game clock still had 5:47 remaining on it.
Providence could not solve Eliot in that span. Kerling's goal stood. Cornell advanced to the 1980 ECAC Championship Final. Dartmouth had defeated Clarkson 6-4. The two deciding tallies that put the Big Green beyond the highly touted Golden Knights of Clarkson were fluky goals. Clarkson dominated most of the game but Dartmouth's netminder did what was needed to make the two fortuitous goals stand.
The 1980 ECAC Championship Final between Cornell and Dartmouth was the first all-Ivy final since Cornell defeated Harvard for Cornell's third ECAC Championship in 1969. The Big Red would need to overcome a Dartmouth squad that appeared to have good luck on its side and a goaltender who was hot at the right time in the season in Bob Gaudet.
The stage was set for the 1980 ECAC Championship Final to be a goalie duel. Dartmouth had entered the 1980 ECAC Tournament seeded third. Expectations were that Dartmouth would be able to handle Cornell. Most thought that Cornell had expended any karmic luck that they had in reserve to overcome a three-goal deficit to defeat Providence late in the semifinal's game. Dartmouth had swept Cornell in their two-game, regular-season series by a scoring margin of 12 to 6. The Cinderella story seemed more likely to be abridged than realized with a clash against Dartmouth.
All speculation stopped as soon as the puck dropped. It did not bode well for Cornell. Dartmouth appeared to take territorial control of the game almost immediately. The Big Green began peppering Cornell's Eliot. Eliot was more than equal to all challenges from Dartmouth in the first frame. Despite suffering from unfavorable disparities in terms of territory and possession, Cornell's forwards capitalized on seemingly all of the opportunities that they were given.
Cornell struck first. Cornell forward Tredway capitalized on a turnover and sprinted in on Gaudet on a breakaway. The Cornell forward bested the future head coach of the Big Green and put Cornell up 1-0. The Big Red's attack was relentless as Gaudet found himself collecting another puck from his net just a few minutes later when Tredway assisted on a goal for his linemate Jim Gibson.
Cornell's scoring was not done in the first period. Cornell may have bested Dartmouth with finesse on its first two tallies, but before the frame was over, Cornell would best its fellow non-urban Ivy in terms of grit when Brian Marrett tucked the puck into Dartmouth's net after a pile-up in the Big Green's crease. The buzzer that ended the first period sounded with Eliot not allowing the goal and Cornell scoring three.
The second period would prove fatal for Dartmouth. The Big Green decided that they needed an extra player to stop the Big Red onslaught. The officials decided that it was untoward and penalized Dartmouth with a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. The penalty was awarded 16 seconds before the first period ended. Dartmouth took the ice determined to kill of the undisciplined penalty. It was to no avail.
The Big Red converted on the Big Green's penalty. Cornell extended its lead to four goals just 58 seconds into the second period. John Olds converted from the slot as the 46 seconds remained on Cornell's power-play opportunity.
Eliot held firm throughout the second period. Cornell would not score again in the second frame, but due to Eliot's stellar play the Big Red and Big Green left the ice of the Boston Garden for the last intermission of the 1980 ECAC Championship Final with Cornell ahead of Dartmouth by a four-goal margin.
Dartmouth solved Eliot in the third period after 2:11 of the ultimate frame elapsed. The Cornell netminder's play gave the Dartmouthians no chance at fighting their way into the game. The official time showed that 17:49 remained in the game, but Cornell's early game outburst had deflated and defeated Dartmouth early.
Dartmouth would not score again. Eventual 1980 ECAC Tournament Most Valuable Player Darren Eliot had an answer for every subsequent challenge that Dartmouth could level. Cornell's Kerling would tally another goal with 13 second remaining in the game to make the final margin of the game 5-1. Cornell denied Dartmouth a chance to win its first ECAC Championship. Dartmouth still has not won an ECAC Championship. The Big Red earned a berth to the Frozen Four. Cornell left Boston Garden in 1980 victorious with its sixth ECAC Championship.
All this has happened before. And all of it will happen again.