These are my friends, see how they glisten?
See this one shine, how he smiles in the light,
My friends, my faithful friends...
Speak to me, friend; whisper, I'll listen.
I know, I know, you've been locked out of sight
All these years! Like me, my friend!
Well, I've come home -- to find you waiting!
Home, and we're together...
And we'll do wonders...
Like too many horror franchises that know not their lifetime, the Lynah Faithful were left wondering what half-hearted jumps would be woven into a plot with an all-too-familiar formula and predictable result.
Then, last weekend happened. Whether it was a remake or a sequel of The Dark Knight or The Godfather Part II variety to its forerunners, the third week of consequential hockey was different for this team. Where entitlement entangled Cornell against Merrimack, the Red afforded a then-winless Brown the proper amount of respect as to deliver a favorable result. Then, Cornell avoided the pitfall of playing recklessly with undifferentiated emotion as it deflated the third wheel of the Ivy League’s tricycle with poise.
Keith Allain may bloviate as he wishes. Cornell was not losing that contest. It was apparent from Mitch Vanderlaan’s first goal through Anthony Angello’s flourish of an empty netter. Yalies and their maestro could “better team” their way to a 0-31-0 season. Results always have mattered at Cornell University. They still matter.
Lacking still role players like Ryan Bliss and Jeff Kubiak, the Red inked the first positive prose in this season’s story last weekend. An identity began to emerge. Mitch Vanderlaan best typified that identity in the Yale game.
The back-of-the-baseball-card performance of the diminutive forward sums as a hat trick. It was the first hat trick since Tyler Roeszler of legacy Whitelaw-Cup status (his father Geoff also won a Whitelaw Cup in 1980 for Cornell) hung a three spot on Colgate on January 22, 2011. It was far more. The game was an uncommon sight for most fans acquainted with the Schafer Era. It harkened to March 12, 2016.
Vanderlaan was determined to score as many goals as needed to make sure that the Big Red came out on the winning side of the contest against the Elis. Yale once narrowed its deficit to one goal. Vanderlaan reset it to two goals less than four minutes later. This Cornell team was not leaving The Whale without its four points.
It is this grit that Cornell’s beloved New Brunswicker embodied that the Lynah Faithful must bring to bear at Lynah Rink on Friday, Saturday, and every other opportunity (hopefully reaching into mid-March) that they are privileged enough to have a home contest. This grit is reciprocal. A team gives as much as it is given. A danger emerges in the current sentiments on East Hill.
A debilitating toxin taints the reservoir that is the Lynah Faithful presently. It began to trickle into the Red’s wellspring over the last few seasons that have failed to live entirely up to the standards of Cornell hockey. The contaminant instructs an entire generation of Lynah Faithful that Cornell may win big games, but it does not win things of consequence, and is not a major player in the national scene of college hockey. This is the pestilence of low expectations.
Phrases such as “a one-point weekend against two of the ECAC’s best may not be all that disappointing for the Red” should be neither thought nor uttered. How severe has this emergence of low expectations among current student-fans on East Hill grown? Reader, the “ECAC’s best” to which that refers are no-hardware Dartmouth and Cornell’s clashing nemesis. The Lynah Faithful need to believe that Cornell is among the best. For, if Cornell is not, it ought to be. Losses per se must be disappointing. Settling, what the quotation reifies, is distinctly unCornellian.
Teams, like students at great universities, deliver and rise to the challenge of the loftiest expectations. The Faithful need to give this team high expectations, championship expectations, otherwise it will wilt. The contributors here at Where Angels Fear to Tread demand greatness and will tolerate nothing less.
Cornell returns to Lynah Rink after having earned a 0.500 record on a long emotion-packed roadtrip. Alumni from eras that lived the Cornell-hockey standard as students goaded the Red on to that result. The championship expectation was there on the road. Rowdy sections dotted with sweaters from D’Agostino, Esposito, Elliott, Greening, Krantz, Lodboa, Nicholls, and Paolini reaffirm this.
The Red rose to the challenge to salvage a 0.500 record and 2-1-1 record in ECAC Hockey over its trying odyssey. The Lynah Faithful need to expect the same things of this team and it starts Friday evening with Quinnipiac. The Faithful need to expect that the Red will tame the Bobcats.
The first step in elevating these depressed expectations will be an easy one. Reader, you must be thinking, “how, pray tell, against last season’s national first loser will it be easier to expect victory?” The answer is simple.
Quinnipiac last season allowed just five goals in the postseason against teams not named either Cornell or North Dakota. The Bobcats produced a 1.00 goals-against average over that time. The Red more than tripled that eventual average over its three-game series in Hamden.
Which were the only teams that scored five goals in a contest against Quinnipiac in the playoffs? It was neither “ECAC’s best” Harvard flush with the services of Ryan Donato, Kyle Criscuolo, Alex Kerfoot, and Jimmy Vesey nor always highly offensive Boston College. It was North Dakota. And Cornell.
The Red did something to Quinnipiac last season that only the eventual national champion could do under similar circumstances. It was no fluke. Cornell produced 3.20 goals on average against the Bobcats in five meetings last season. Quinnipiac averaged allowing only 1.94 goals per contest. The haze of a new era’s dawn has begun to settle.
Cornell is quite offensive. The Red is currently producing 3.20 goals per game. Coach Schafer began to implement a new fore-checking scheme two seasons ago and a complementary shooting mentality last season. Both have taken root.
Schafer’s team is taking 10.4% more shots per game than it was under the last season of the previous offensive regime. The metric that matters, actual scoring, has increased even more rapidly. Relative to the last season under Coach Schafer’s previous approach, the Red is scoring this season 32.8% more goals. There needs to be a little more #trusttheshot’ing on the ice to sustain this pace. Each week sees new converts rewarded. Alex Rauter who had an incredible two-goal weekend and, obviously, Mitch Vanderlaan were the newest initiands.
Games may look unfamiliar to those who watched other periods of the Schafer Era as students, such as this writer, but what is to be anticipated is more games like what the Faithful saw on Saturday. A high-scoring affair where the metric of goaltending becomes doing enough to get a win and offense becomes nearly as open and abundant as it was in the 1970s. It is certainly new. The Lynah Faithful and this contributor may grow to like it.
Quinnipiac sits in second in ECAC Hockey in terms of points earned per game. Cornell is one rung below the ender of its last season. The Bobcats have allowed 2.50 goals per game in their conference affairs to date. A rowdy crowd that has waited far too long for a hockey night needs to propel the blistering Red attack to continue its pace.
The Lynah Faithful will get from the contests these contests exactly what they put into them. The relationship is dynamically reciprocal. A great home crowd propels superior play and a great team amplifies fans’s raucousness. Think that this is overstated?
Consider the recent White Out at Penn State, Black Out at Iowa, or Senior Night at Houston. Penn State had no business beating Ohio State until it did it. Iowa was not given a prayer to defeat hyped Harbaugh. Houston was an afterthought to a Louisville team consumed with the perceived snub of rankings. What tilted the balance? The home arena and loyal fans who expected a win was possible.
Expectations need to be lifted to the heavens like Christian Hilbrich’s pose in the concourse outside of Section A at home. A revitalized Big Red Pep Band and alumni set the tone on the road. It falls now to current students to do the heavy lifting.
The carnelian and white finally returns home. It will find the Faithful waiting, waiting for far too long, 258 days. It is up to the Lynah Faithful to reprove their deservingness of the mantle of college hockey’s greatest fans. The proper harassment of opponents, support of the Red, and expecting great things all season will ensure that this team’s offense continues to cut through opponents’s defenses like the finely whetted blade of Sweeney Todd.
When together, we will do wonders.