Series Record: 4-2-1 Cornell
Friday October 26 & Saturday October 27
January 6, 2012 & January 7, 2012
Cornell earned a win and a tie against the Tigers of Colorado College last season. The Big Red used the three-point weekend at World Arena in Colorado Spring to stanch the bleeding from a disappointing lost to UMass at the 2011 Florida College Classic. The series at CC last season marked an upswing in Cornell's fortune. The Tigers would suffer a much different fate as they went on to miss the NCAA Tournament for just the fourth time in ten years. The series in the mountain timezone witnessed John McCarron score his first collegiate goal. He has not looked back since then.
The main difference between the two games at World Arena last season was perhaps most to do with CC's key player: Jaden Schwartz. Jaden Schwartz was unable to compete in the first game of the series due to prior commitments. Cornell went on to dominate that game behind goals from Jillson, McCarron, and Miller. CC was able to convert only on the power play in the first game. Despite what CC head coach Owens said were around 95 attempted shots, he concluded that few threatened Cornell's lead and control of the game. The next evening, Jaden Schwartz returned to the lineup. The game ended in a 3-3 tie. He scored two goals and assisted to his brother, Rylan Schwartz, on the remaining tallying. If one removes Jaden Schwartz's contributions from last season, the second game of the series likely would have ended very similarly to how the first game did. Disappointingly for college hockey, but advantageously for Cornell, Jaden Schwartz departed early for the St. Louis Blues after last season.
Colorado College has faced off against Clarkson, Air Force, and UMass-Lowell already this season in four games. The only loss came against UMass-Lowell. The games in which the Tigers have been involved have been high-scoring affairs relative to Cornell standards. At this early stage in the season, CC has produced 4.25 goals per game with scoring five goals or more in the three games that they have won to date. It goes without saying that the Tigers possess immense offensive threats even in the immediate wake of Jaden Schwartz's departure.
CC has converted 20% of its power-play opportunities thus far this season. Power-play goals account for 18% of all goals that CC has tallied this season. That conversion rate does not spell definitively disaster for a Big Red team that has not faced NCAA Division I competition this season. However, the speed and offensive upside of the Tigers leads to one stark development in the very few games they have played. They capitalize brilliantly and quickly upon defensive breakdowns, even when they are on the penalty kill. Two of CC's goals this season, 12% of their total goals scored, have been scored shorthanded.
The Tigers from Colorado Springs will arrive at Lynah Rink with one player who has averaged one point per game. However, the manner in which Hamburg has earned this accolade is atypical. Instead of scoring his goals over a span of the four games that the Tigers have played, Hamburg scored a hat trick and one against cross-town rival Air Force last weekend. Six Tigers have averaged a point or greater per game this season. They are Hamburg, Rapuzzi, Winkler, Schwartz, McDermott, and Bradley.
Colorado College has come from behind to claim two of its three victories this season. The Tigers have outshot their defeated opponents by an average margin of nearly two to one (specifically, 1.8:1.0). Owens has given Thormibert the nod to start in 75% of CC's games. He will be the goaltender that Cornell will face likely Friday evening. He has generated a goals against average of 2.68 and a save percentage of 0.905 over those games. He has allowed four goals once this season. It was against Clarkson.
Keys To The Game:
Considering that this is the first game of the 2012-13 regular season for Cornell what Cornell shows itself and its fans will be likely as important or more important than what it can do to Colorado College. The first priority, one recognized fairly publicly by Schafer and Syers, is that Schaferian defense needs to return to this team. With a passion. Quickly.
It is axiomatic that defense wins championships and Cornell has not exactly set its sights all too low this season. The fact that specialty teams have scored 29% of CC's goals highlights how relentless and error-free defense will be crucial if Cornell hopes to have success this weekend against the Tigers at Lynah. Even when Cornell is on a man advantage, the defense must not rest. Those defensive newcomers in Craig Esposito, Stoick, and Willcox who may see ice time this series will be entrusted with collectively closing the gap left by the graduation of Ross and Whitney.
Cornell will be looking to prove to itself that the days of a lackluster power play within a team that was otherwise impressive last season are over. Cornell finished the 2011-12 season ranked 41st in power-play conversion. The Big Red converted only 16.5% of its man advantages for a goal last season. Capitalizing on what power-play opportunities that Cornell will have during this CC series will go a long way toward belief that the lulls of last season's power-play attempts are gone. Doing so would be a great psychological victory for the Big Red.
The Tigers are accustomed to playing on an Olympic sheet. Colorado College hockey prides itself on its open ice speed. Assistant Coach Rud lamented that the team's speed will be of less use on the NHL-size ice of Lynah Rink. CC's head coach Owens stated last year that Cornell forwards and defensemen "makes their living" along the board. Schafer in a recent interview said that grit and physicality are two things that Cornell will have when the season starts while it may lag briefly behind CC in terms of game-honed finesse due to less playing time. Competition along the boards, and winning both physical and puck battles along the boards will be key to tire an otherwise relentless and fast offensively oriented Tigers team.
It seems cliche for a Cornell writer to acknowledge, but Andy Iles will be key to this game as well.
It is for considerations of history that this series is particularly interesting. Foremost, every Colorado College post or CC fan forum that I have encountered has been respectful if not reverential of both Cornell hockey and the opportunity to play at Lynah Rink. For those who did not know this already, this is the first time that the Colorado College Tigers will play in Lynah. Such respect of our program will not go unnoticed.
There are many similarities between Cornell and Colorado College. Both are historic programs. Both have incredibly dedicated fan followings. Both programs have earned two national championships. Colorado College earned its first and second national championship 17 and 10 years before Cornell earned its first respectively. Both Colorado College and Cornell have since been ever so close to returning to those heights. Therefore, while we hope that Cornell defeats the Tigers at Lynah Rink this weekend, we must salute the willingness of such a great program to come play in our historic barn and honor their proud traditions. We will wish them well after this weekend as well. That is why this post closes with a video tribute from a few years ago that highlights how Colorado College hockey conceives of itself and its history.