This is not to say that last season was without its memorable moments and high notes (think second win in the Frozen Apple, historic defeat of Denver, and two emotional Harvard games). None can erase what lies ahead of this coming season. The Cornell hockey program will be on a path of proving next season. All the questions with few exceptions encircle addressing the Red's offensive woes throughout the entirety of last season. In a multipart series, this contributor of Where Angels Fears to Tread will address the ways in which the coming team will redress this fever-inducing problem.
Anticipating redemption exclusively among their ranks may be too much. Upperclassmen will decide if this 99th season of Cornell hockey gets off the ground. It is the freshmen who may decide if it can soar. Therefore, the steepest curve on which to prognosticate about the freshman class would be requiring the new wearers of the carnelian and white to recoup the losses of offensive production that departed with the graduation of the generally productive Class of 2015.
So, reader, let's see how these freshmen should fare. The Class of 2015 contributed 31.6% of Red offense last season. The six members of last season's senior class generated 2.85 points per game and 0.82 goals per game in the aggregate. Can nine newcomers erase those losses and go beyond to add flourishes to a much-needed statement season?
It would be a folly to assume that a player's production in prep or junior hockey correlates exactly to offensive production in that player's freshman-year production. Adjustments are required. The emergence of fairly sizable databases of junior hockey statistics over the last two decades allows a model to be built and projections to be made.
Firstly, all junior leagues are not the same. Customary allocation of points and systematically different styles of play may lead to one league's style skewing numbers or preparing players for differing aspects of college hockey. The model for each league remained independent. The expectations of how a player's performance from the USHL to his freshman season may vary from expectations associated with a player transitioning from the AJHL to his freshman season. This specifies and individualizes the data. The model of predicting how a player's performance during his last season from junior hockey correlates to that player's freshman production emerged after comparing the relationship of players's production during their last seasons in a given league of junior hockey to their first-year production on East Hill. These production comparisons were used to derive a model for each league that relied upon data from 16 seasons of incoming freshmen for the Big Red.
This approach indicates that players from the CCHL might benefit from a system that awards points more liberally than in college because point production is much reduced from one's last season of junior hockey to one's first season at Cornell. Contrastingly, production in terms of goals per game in the CCHL tracks very similarly with the scaling of goals and points per game in the USHL to a player's first season in college hockey. For example, each goal scored in a player's last season in the USHL averages equating to 55% of a goal scored as a freshman in a carnelian-and-white sweater.
Where the data from junior hockey leagues has exploded over the last two decades, the data for prep hockey lags behind. Therefore, where a nuanced model can be applied in predicting the freshman production of players from the AJHL, CCHL, and USHL, no such model of individualized prediction can be applied to the offensive statistics of prep-hockey players like Chad Otterman and Beau Starrett in predicting which digits they will scrawl into ledgers. A very, very crude average of points produced during the freshman seasons of other prep hockey alumni who played for the Big Red was used as the unit offensive production in points and goals per game and then multiplied to approximate Otterman's and Starrett's contributions.
And, what result? The freshman class alone is projected to generate 1.79 points per game and 0.53 goals per game. The aggregate first-year production of these underclassmen will erase 62.8% of the point production that Cornell lost from the 2014-15 team. Furthermore, more impressively, 64.6% of the goals per game that the seniors from last season contributed are expected to be met if these freshmen perform in accord with mean expectations.
Yes, such a result still leaves wanting 35% of Cornell's anemic offense from last season, but an overwhelming majority can be expected to be replaced with the talent on this freshman class if these freshmen deliver only average first-year performances. If their attitudes and ambitions are indicative, they want to deliver to the Lynah Faithful a freshman season better than average. The first verse of the ballad of this class was sung many months before its members and their families were packing their family vehicles to begin the slog up East Hill. The words were of Beau Starrett but they have proven to hold true for all of these freshmen. When asked about his choice to attend Cornell University, he responded that why would he attend a university where hockey is loved when he could play for fans, alumni, and students whose religion was hockey.
They have come to help their upperclassmen restore the faith.
The topic of Beau Starrett gives further statistical hope. The projections for Otterman and Starrett estimate that each will register less than 5% of one goal per game. 15 skaters on last season's team produced superior goals-per-game totals. Put another way, as soon as the scoring of Starrett and Otterman combine for more than two goals in the season, a likelihood that many rightly view as a certainty considering their natural talents, the model will have an error of nearly 30% in estimating the output of these former prep players; an error that would make the Lynah Faithful and this writer quite pleased.
This model provides a mixed lens of average and worst-case-scenario approximations. It seems safer to assume that the latter is more apt. If these incoming players merely have average freshman campaigns relative to the skill that they demonstrated in their last seasons of hockey, they will erase nearly 70% of the offense that Cornell lost on their own. This leaves very little for the other corners of the team to fill in to put Cornell in a position to increase its offensive potency.
One must remember that 70% includes the legacies of Cole Bardreau, Joel Lowry, and John McCarron, players whose names will not be forgotten soon and whose immortality is yet undecided. Equaling or overshadowing the offensive deficits left in their wake is no small task. Nevertheless, these newcomers have the potential to do that if they prove that they are above average.