WAFT in its preview of Clarkson from last weekend outlined what seemed to go wrong strategically and mentally against St. Lawrence. Cornell controlled that game. The Big Red then needed to kill a five-minute major at the end of the third period. St. Lawrence had tied the game, but Cornell had controlled the flow of the game even after the equalizing goal had been tallied. The calling of the five-minute major deflated Cornell for some reason. More than five and a half minutes remained in the game when St. Lawrence went on the major.
Just 0:39 into the killing of the major, Greg Carey from the Saints found the back of the net to put the Saints ahead for the first time in 29 minutes. The verve of Cornell disappeared end even though 4:55 remained in the game, it was apparent that Cornell had lost the will to fight at that late stage. Cornell did not challenge for an equalizing shorthanded goal despite having challenged for such shorthanded goals on its six previously successful penalty kills.
Then, there was the empty-net goal that remains inexplicable to me. Cornell drew a minor penalty at 18:12. This gave the Big Red the chance to play 4-on-4 hockey against a team whose speed did not dwarf that of Cornell. Cornell used its timeout, then decided not to put Iles back in the net after the timeout. The Big Red played 5-on-4 for 17 seconds until St. Lawrence tickled the twine again to make the score 4-2. Perhaps Schafer recognized that his team was deflated and had hoped that the empty net behind its blue line would reinvigorate them. No matter the reason, Cornell left Appleton with a 4-2 loss.
Sadly for the Lynah Faithful, the luck for Cornell picked up during the Clarkson game where it ended the previous night. Joel Lowry was ejected from the game with 1:52 remaining in the first period. Lowry was not given a game disqualification for those who may worry. The Golden Knights gained a man advantage for five minutes.
Clarkson scored 20 seconds into the major. Clarkson scored 1:04 into the major. Clarkson scored 3:04 into the major.
It felt like that; at least to an onlooking fan. It was daunting and draining. It was one of those moments when it felt like fate was against the team and nothing would go right. Cornell was down 3-1 just 21:12 into the game. Cornell began clawing its way back.
Cornell answered with a blast from D'Agostino. Then, Ferlin finally satisfied his very noticeable drive to tally one for Cornell when his team was down and added Cornell's third goal. The problem? Clarkson answered each goal. Just over a minute after D'Agostino's goal, a puck found its way past Iles. It took Clarkson slightly longer, but the Golden Knights found an answer for Ferlin's goal to extend Clarkson's lead to 5-3. The game developed a back-and-forth flow and ratcheting with it appearing that each time Cornell scored, a Clarkson player would manage to get a puck behind Iles even if he was equal to the challenge of keeping the margin at one goal throughout all the pressing until 2:54 remained in the game.
The results were bad. There is no way to avoid that fact. Not everything on the ice was. Cornell killed off every non-major penalty that it encountered this weekend. In one respect, Cornell's penalty killing unit remained as impressive as it had been in previous weeks. However, Cornell allowed four goals over the weekend during major penalties. That is a twofold problem.
Cornell should not be taking a major penalty per game over any weekend. The major against Clarkson allowed the Golden Knights to gain the ultimate game-winning margin. That major becomes more troublesome when one considers that immediately before it was called on Lowry, Ferlin suffered a crosscheck into the boards at the other end of the ice that went uncalled. This does not excuse a 6-3 loss however. The better team should be able to overcome such a blown call. This team has been in this situation before. Cornell knew it was wronged in Denver and killed off two five-minute majors in the second game after blown and bad calls. St. Lawrence and Clarkson are not Denver. By any standard. If Cornell were the better team or the team playing better, it should have been able to overcome that adversity. Surrendering three goals on one major seems to destroy any argument that Cornell was the better team.
The most alarming fact is the number of majors called on Cornell. Whether the majors are just or unjust, Cornell needs to take account of what is being called on them and play more disciplined. I stated in the run-up to the St. Lawrence and Clarkson games that needless penalties would possibly sink even the best efforts of Cornell. The Saturday game proved that correct.
Cornell scored five goals over the weekend. The Big Red surrendered ten. If one subtracts goals scored on the two major penalties over the weekend, Cornell scored five goals to its opponents' six goals. The last St. Lawrence goal was an empty-net goal that would not have occurred had Cornell not fallen behind on the major. This implies that scoring was even between Cornell and its opponents over the weekend if the Big Red could have killed off the five-minute majors. There is no excuse for allowing three goals on one major. That is not Cornell hockey.
The back-and-forth, ratcheting nature of the game was a product of the ease with which it appeared that Clarkson could score. Iles would stop breakaways with stunning saves when Cornell was pressing to close the gap. Iles was superb on the initial save throughout the game but was allowing dangerous rebounds throughout the game. As soon as Cornell did close the gap to within one goal, Clarkson would score another goal. It seemed like the task for Cornell could not be overcome. No matter the effort. It may be fatigue setting in from having played every minute of every game over last and this season, but Iles has not produced a save percentage above 0.915 since this five-game losing streak began for the 2012-13 team. Iles generated a save percentage of 0.786 during the game against Clarkson.
The best part of Saturday's game was the effort with which Cornell played. I critiqued harshly in my preview of Clarkson the way that Cornell was deflated after St. Lawrence's third goal the previous night. No such deflation occurred against Clarkson at any point.
Cornell, especially notably Ferlin, could be seen readily to take upon the yoke of helping the team fight back into the game against Clarkson after a lead turned into a two-goal deficit over the course of the five-minute major. The Clarkson broadcasters can be heard on the broadcast flabbergasted at the fact that at 3-1, 4-2, and 5-3 this Cornell team was unrelenting. Cornell controlled most of the game and scored two answering goals. The team did not quit. It dedicated itself to controlling the game and closing the gap. It came close. This does not make the surrendering of three power-play goals on the five-minute major, but it certainly should have endeared this team to the Lynah Faithful even more.
Cornell did not quit. There is little reason to believe that such resolve will not be on display for the remainder of the season.
WAFT has become too focused at times about the goals of this team. It still has the talent to achieve them. Will it achieve them? How can it achieve them? No one knows the answers. WAFT for its part will stop frantically looking at ECAC Standings and pairwise rankings. This team can make a run. It will make a run. When will it begin? WAFT does not know. What we do know is that we want to be along for the ride and will be along for it. As the campaign from one NHL program states: "I've been along for all the good times and the bad times as well. You ride the high wave and take the low wave. It's all part of being a...fan."
Being Lynah Faithful is more than wins or losses, or even watching Cornell add more trophies to its trophy case. For those who do not know, an inscription hangs above the tunnel that leads down from Cornell's locker room to the ice at Lynah Rink. The sign is both similar and dissimilar to the signs at other famous collegiate sporting venues. Michigan has its sign that states "those who stay will be champions" on the way to the field of Michigan Stadium, Notre Dame has a sign that buoys its football players to "play like a champion today," and North Dakota's sign tells wearers of the green and black sweater before they step onto the ice that "through these doors walk champions."
The inscription on the sign at Cornell is more elegant in its simplicity and deeper in its meaning. The sign reads simply "trust and live." WAFT likely will focus a post on the importance and meaning of the sign in the future. The sign references hockey, tradition, character, perspective, and life in three simple words. It applies to those fortunate enough to wear the carnelian and white sweater as well as the fans who have found the joy of supporting those student-athletes.
WAFT will stop looking at the distant future and aspirations. Yes, we will provide analysis of where we stand in standings throughout the season. Heeding the eloquent lesson of "trust and live" and the essence of being Lynah Faithful, WAFT will continue to realize to keep the games in perspective and relish the ride that this 2012-13 team will take us on this season. We hope that all fans will join us.
Enjoy the ride. One game at a time.