The four-part series focused on four elements that could retrieve the Cornell hockey program from the ditch in which it was left last March. Those elements were the freshmen, defensemen, development of the sophomore and senior classes, and collective play of the team. Each component discussed in those installments played an integral role in offensive success of the Red's 15 championship teams. How did this ensemble of skaters stack up through its first 11 games?
Media contributors, even those who are considered friends of Where Angels Fear to Tread, doubted the consensus of the writers of Where Angels Fear to Tread that the incoming class of freshmen would contribute immediately. Outside media grew more skeptical when this contributor devised an individualized model that predicted that this season's freshman class would erase 64.6% of the player-goals per game that were lost to graduation last season.
Last season's seniors produced 0.45 player-goals per game and 2.14 player-points per game in the first semester. Are you firmly fastened in your seat? Anthony Angello outpaced the aggregate player-goals per game production of all of last season's six seniors. The freshman forward produced one-tenth of one goal per game more than did an entire graduating class during the first semester of last season. Mitch Vanderlaan identically tied the first-semester goals per game production of Joel Lowry whose play is remembered fondly as a beginning of a senior-season tear that injury cut far too short.
Anthony Angello, Alec McCrea, Matt Nuttle, Trent Shore, Brendan Smith, Beau Starrett, and Mitch Vanderlaan combined for 1.20 player-goals per game for the Big Red's first 11 contests. Those newcomers were credited with 2.39 player-points per game. So, yes, an apology is in order. Not to the media members who doubted this writer's conservative model that Cornell's freshmen would erase 64.6% of Cornell's departing player-goals per game and 62.8% of Cornell's departing player-points per game, but to the freshman class who outperformed the player-goals per game and player-points per game productions of last season's senior class by 167% and 11.7%, respectively.
The freshmen delivered more than they were expected. They carried the weight of the team nearly twice as much as anticipated. However, the freshmen were but a piece of the puzzle that Coach Schafer needed to place for a successful season. Engaging the blue line as a reliable contribution of offense was another key factor in propelling Cornell.
A disproportionate number of greats who wore the carnelian and white were defensemen. Proportionate to this reality is the fact that the ballad of all great teams in the saga of Cornell hockey rely on the offensive contributions of blue liners. Harkness- and Schafer-coached teams have won 11 of the Red's 15 postseason championships. Defensemen on those nine teams provided between 14.4% and 21.8% of the goals scored on those title-winning teams.
Last season's defensive corps fell outside of that range. A paltry four-tenths of one percent displaced it. The razor-thin line between success and failure is apparent in that. Carnelian blue liners through the first semester of this season generated 14.7% of the goals that their team scored. That share of contribution placed the performances of the Red defense just within the Harkness-Schafer championship band.
Patrick McCarron leads the rear guard's goal scoring. The junior found his scoring touch during the Colgate series. Nominal roster defenseman Holden Anderson who became the carnelian-and-white yeoman in the first semester contributed the same total of goals. The figure of 14.7% above counts for Cornell's blue line only those goals that Anderson scored while playing as a defenseman. If all of Anderson's goals are counted for the Red's defensive corps, 17.6% of the Big Red's goals have come off of a blue liner's stick before coming to rest in an opponent's net. That figure is solidly within the range of offensive contribution of defensemen on Harkness-Schafer championship teams.
At this same point last season, defensemen contributed only three goals and 15 points. This season's first semester observed as blue liners put up arguably as many as six goals and 30 points. Not only did the defensive cadre of Holden Anderson, Ryan Bliss, Patrick McCarron, Alec McCrea, Matt Nuttle, Trent Shore, Brendan Smith, Dan Wedman, and Reece Willcox contribute offensively at a rate that places them within Cornell's historic championship range, but they outproduced last season's production rate through the first semester by a two-to-one margin.
Last season's seniors had larger-than-life personalities. Many viewed them as all-stars. Detractors, none contributors here, but a few found among the Lynah Faithful, and many media outlets, doubted very publicly the ability of Christian Hilbrich, John Knisley, Teemu Tiitinen, and Reece Willcox to equal the hyped talents of Cole Bardreau, Madison Dias, Joel Lowry, John McCarron, Jacob MacDonald, and Joakim Ryan during their farewell tour.
The temperatures of the Northeastern winter are not the only thing that remain unpredictably hot.
The Class of 2015 deposited the puck for a tally a total of five times during last season's first semester. The departed seniors combined for 0.45 player-goals per game. Current seniors scored six goals during the first semester. This senior class has produced 0.81 player-goals per game from the Big Red's opener at Niagara to its home victory over Clarkson. Hilbrich, Knisley, Tiitinen, and Willcox were 80% more productive in terms of player-goals per game than was last season's senior class. Remember, reader, that use of player-goals per game weights Joel Lowry's incredible first half last season maximally.
Current seniors provided during the Big Red's first 11 games the internal developmental boost that Cornell needed to be successful. Senior leadership propelled one more goal through the first semester than had last season's seniors. Additionally, they provided 80% more offense in terms of contributions of player-goals per game. These current seniors have done this with two fewer members than had the Class of 2015.
When the carnelian and white headed to Florida last season, only two seniors had scored a goal. This season, when Cornell faces off in the Sunshine state, every senior will have scored a goal in the first half of the season. No datum encapsulates how the current seniors have played better. Each one contributes. None cares about credit. The emphasis is the team.
Freshmen overproduced during the first semester. The blue liners have inched within a historic championship range or shattered it based upon whether one counts Holden Anderson as a defenseman or forward. This season's four elder statesmen have played Cornell hockey in a way that last season's six seniors could not. One all-important figure remains.
What was the sum of Cornell hockey's parts during the first semester?
It is easy to point to a record or a winning percentage. Did Coach Schafer's team do enough during the first semester to distinguish itself from last season's failed campaign and its opening? Did Cornell dam a reservoir of offensive confidence for the next semester that culminates in the most important phases of the season?
The 2014-15 edition of Cornell hockey scored 57 goals throughout the entire season. Removing the nauseatingly minuscule two playoff goals that the Red scored in its home stand against Union, one arrives at 55 goals as the total that Cornell scored during last regular season. If one takes a first glance, one realizes that this season's first-semester production did not outstrip the combined offensive production of all of last season. Wow, that would have been impressive.
Back to reality.
This season's team scored 34 goals during the first semester. The 11 games that the Big Red played equate to 37.9% of the slate for the regular season. This team scored 61.8% of last season's total regular-season production in 37.9% of the regular season. Consider that this team's first-semester performance produced nearly two-thirds of last season's total offensive production in barely more than one-third of the regular season.
A more direct comparison lends further light as to the effect of offensive improvements and modifications that the coaching staff implemented during the off- and pre-season. The Red scored 12 more goals in the first semester than it did over the same period last season. Cornell recorded 54.5% more goals through mid-December of this season than it did up until the same point of the 2014-15 season.
The carnelian-and-white skaters carried an immense burden into the season. The task laid before them to put to rest the insomnious worries of the Lynah Faithful that scoring woes doomed their beloved program for the foreseeable future. This contributor provided an objective model to predict where the Red's scoring would return for the 2015-16 season. That model estimated that the members of this team would produce 2.56 player-goals per game. This team eviscerated that figure. The hardened and tested skaters of this team generated 3.46 player-goals per game during the first semester.
An impressive outstripping of this writer's model by 35.2% is promising. It provides the sight of an error that is uncommonly welcome. If Cornell continues to produce at that rate in the second semester, it will be nothing short of jaw-dropping. This team proved in the first semester that it has the capacity to exceed the expectations of media, models, and fans.
The good news? The hard-working players on this Cornell team know that they have the ability to be one of the most offensively threatening teams in the nation. The bad news? Figures from the first semester are as moot in guaranteeing success in the second semester as were last season's figures in damning this team's first-semester successes.