Series Record: 71-60-8
Friday November 16, 2012
November 11, 2011, January 21, 2012, & March 16, 2012
The regular-season clashes between Cornell and Harvard were a microcosm of the season. Cornell defeated the Crimson at Lynah East early in the season in commanding fashion. The Big Red amassed a three-goal lead in Cambridge (Allston, if you insist). The young Red team then shut down and protected a lead for most of the game. Ultimately, the Big Red would surrender two power-play goals to the Cantabs but Esposito had the answer and once again put the game out of reach in the third period. Cornell controlled the flow of that game and dominated it.
The January 2012 meeting saw a different dynamic. Cornell had become known for its tendency to surrender third-period leads by this point in the season. A lesser noted trend was also Cornell's tendency last season to play to the level of its opponent. Cornell played spectacularly in a hostile environment against a ranked Colorado College team just two weeks previous. However, with the Crimson bringing their then-top-ranked power-play unit to Lynah Rink to challenge Cornell's then-longest-in-the-nation unbeaten streak, Cornell leapt to an early lead and surrendered the tying goal with less than eight minutes remaining in the game. The Big Red defended its tie but gained one point from a game that was otherwise winnable.
The advancement of Cornell and Harvard, the second and third seed in the ECAC Tournament, to the 2012 ECAC Championships in Atlantic City ensured that the archrivals met in the semifinals. This opening round of the Championship weekend resembled the closing week of regular-season play wherein Cornell dominated an impressive and prolific Union team to lose the next evening to an RPI team that was entrenched deeply in a rebuilding year. Cornell's tendency to play to the level of its opponents was exacerbated at the end of the season. Sucks went on to force the Big Red and the Lynah Faithful at Boardwalk Hall to endure the largest postseason defeat by either program in the 102-year history of the Cornell-Harvard rivalry. Coach Schafer took responsibility for it ultimately claiming that he had not prepared his team.
Sucks players were awarded 30 points in the three games against Cornell last season. Key contributors, including Killorn and Valek, are gone. However, contributors of 21 points of that 30-point total are still on the roster for the Crimson.
The Crimson expects to build upon its successes of last season. No, not by setting a new record of ties in a single NCAA season. Donato, his staff, and his players have made it apparent that they have set their sights on two goals: making the NCAA Tournament and winning the Whitelaw Cup. No Cantabs have accomplished either since 2006. Banter aside, this team from Cambridge, MA has the ability to accomplish either goal. I am sure that Cornell will have much to say about the latter goal.
The season has not started as Donato, et al. had hoped. The Crimson is just 3-2-0 despite having played neither the toughest teams in the ECAC nor a demanding out-of-conference schedule so far. The latter will change when Sucks takes part in its annual trip to the Beanpot consolation game. If it decides to take a detour, it will be for the better of the Conference.
Harvard's three wins have been registered against Bentley, Brown, and RPI. The programs that Harvard has defeated own a combined record of 5-12-4 to date. Sucks suffered an unexpected loss at the hands of its faux hockey rival, Yale, in its third game of the season. The Elis embarrassed the Crimson at Bright Hockey Center, 5-1. The loss to Union last weekend was not wholly unexpected or embarrassing, but when one considers that starting Dutchmen goaltender Grosenick exited the game early in the second period the game takes upon greater meaning. A Harvard offense that was supposed to overwhelm even the stingiest defenses produced only one goal against Union's back-up goaltender who came in cold.
These do not indicate that the emperor that is Harvard's ambitions for the 2012-13 season has no clothes, but it indicates the depths from which Harvard will be attempting to rescue its season. Sound familiar?
The early season comparisons between the archrivals beyond the subjective are as follows: Andy Iles owns currently a 2.14 goals against average and 0.927 save percentage while Raphael Girard has produced a goals against average of 2.49 and save percentage of 0.926; Cornell has averaged scoring 2.33 goals per game while allowing 2.33 goals to be scored on it while Harvard has allowed 2.60 goals per game and scored 3.00; Cornell has 14 players who have tallied at least one point while Harvard has 13 players who have appeared on the score sheet; Cornellians have spent more minutes in the sin bin averaging 15.3 penalty minutes per game to Harvard's total of 10.4 penalty minutes per game; Cornell has converted on its power-play opportunities 21.9% of the time while Harvard has converted just 10.0% of its opportunities; Cornell kills off significantly fewer penalties with a kill rate of 77.4% to Harvard's more impressive rate of 89.5%.
Sucks will bring with it to East Hill this season's most highly touted recruiting class in the ECAC. The class has not disappointed. Freshman Jimmy Vesey ranks second in the nation in terms of goals per game and 13th in the nation in terms of points per game. He was recognized as the ECAC Rookie of the Week this week. He leads the Cantabs in terms of both goals and points. Vesey is ranked first among rookies for production of points per game. His fellow classmate in the wrong shade of red, Criscuolo, ranks 30th in the same category.
Keys to the Game:
Cornell has proven over the last two weeks that its most formidable adversary is itself. I am sure that the players will have taken the needed steps to prepare physically, systemically, and mentally for this clash against the Big Red's most hated foe. However, the key will be to maintain focus in spite of the inevitably high emotions of the most heated rivalry in college hockey.
Harvard does not bring with it any particularly threatening sides of the game like it did last season when it brought the top ranked power-play unit in the nation to Lynah Rink. Harvard maintained that distinction until the end of the season. However, Harvard's current power-play conversion rate of 10.0% is a far cry from the Crimson's ultimate conversion rate of 27.3% in 2011-12. The unrealized offensive potential of Sucks cannot be overemphasized.
Latent offensive potential for Sucks exists and a Cornell team with numbers that are subpar relative to the defensive expectations of Cornell hockey in terms of penalty killing will need to be wary of giving the Cantabs too many opportunities that will allow their offense to start rolling. Harvard against RPI in its last game capitalized on turnover opportunities to make the Engineers pay for their errors. That game represented the first time since defeating Bentley 5-0 that Harvard scored more than three goals. Harvard may be on an upswing in its offensive production and confidence. The Big Red needs to take the psychological advantage early in this game and should act to quash that early in the game Friday at Lynah. However, after establishing this dominance early in the game, Cornell cannot relinquish it because Harvard has played consistently and generated goals relatively evenly throughout all periods of play this season.
The 97th team to represent Cornell University has six players who have scored goals against Sucks. Bardreau, Miller, and Ryan have tallied one goal. Esposito and Lowry have registered two goals. Meanwhile, the Crimson Killer, Nick D'Agostino has tickled the twine an impressive five times in games against Sucks. That leaves eight of Cornell's point earners who have not recorded a goal against the Crimson in their careers. I am sure that they will want to join in on the fun.
Watch the fish. For those readers for whom this game will be their first time attending a Cornell-Harvard game and who intend to throw fish, please read the following. Firstly, good for you. Secondly, do not throw fish any time during game play. The fish are to be thrown as Harvard takes the ice before introductions. The fish are not to be thrown at any other time during the course of the game. Even if there is a stoppage in play. Under no circumstances throw fish onto the ice after the initial fish toss. Most importantly, doing so risks injury to both Cornell's and Harvard's student-athletes. Also, doing so will result in Cornell being charged a delay-of-game penalty giving Sucks a two-minute power play. This happened in February 2011. The resulting penalty caused Cornell to lose the momentum in that game. Cornell lost that edition of the rivalry.
Both Cornell and Harvard have suffered recent setbacks in the season. Cornell endured a sweep last weekend and Harvard lost unexpectedly to Yale while being able to generate only two goals against a Union team that has been forced to rely upon what depth exists on its roster. Both Cornell and Harvard will be looking to this nationally televised rivalry clash to make a statement to a broader audience and to themselves. Both programs will be expecting the high of winning in this heated rivalry to carry their teams onward to later success this season and right their courses in the season. The key task will be to make sure Cornell receives this reinvigoration from beating its most loathsome foe.
Far too much can be written here any time when Cornell and Harvard meet. It is the greatest rivalry in the ECAC and arguably the greatest rivalry in college hockey with it pitting two of the most historic programs in college hockey and the two most successful programs in the ECAC against one another. Cornell has two key reasons to have a chip on its shoulder heading into this game. Cornell has national ambitions and will need to rebound this weekend in the wake of a disappointing weekend. Cornell looks to avenge being dealt the largest loss suffered by either program in the history of the Cornell-Harvard rivalry in the last meeting between the two programs in the 2012 ECAC Championships. This game will provide Cornell the opportunity to reassert its dominance in the rivalry and to defeat a nationally well-regarded team to quiet any naysayers. The 140th meeting between Cornell and Harvard will have emotional and national consequences like few clashes between these programs in recent memory.
Harvard is one of the most successful programs in college hockey. It has one national championship and the second-greatest number of Whitelaw Cups in the ECAC. Programs are measured most often by their rivals. This is a rivalry of begrudging respect, but one thing is clear when Sucks is measured by the metric of Cornell's success. Harvard Sucks!
Few things of novelty exist in a rivalry as old as is the Cornell-Harvard rivalry. Especially for a rivalry that incorporates fish and even occasionally fowl. Nonetheless, something truly novel will occur in the 140th edition of The Game. NBC Sports Network will broadcast the game to the largest audience that will have seen an edition of the rivalry at the date of broadcast. The Game truly will be a spectacle as the greatest rivalry in college hockey takes center stage on a widely available network with a captive audience that is hockey starved in light of the NHL lockout. Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire will have the call. Cornell and the Lynah Faithful will have the biggest stage yet to demonstrate that Lynah Rink is the most fearsome venue in college hockey and that Cornell has the greatest college hockey program.
This is Lynah. Where angels fear to tread. Let's show everyone why. Let's remind the Crimson.