Series Record: 81-49-8 Cornell
Saturday February 9
November 10, 2012
Cornell roared into historic Hobey Baker Rink with high expectations and entirely undefeated. The Big Red had swept Colorado College and taken three points out of Colgate in the two previous weeks. Princeton was expected to be reeling still from the loss of head coach Guy Gadowsky to Penn State before the 2011-12 season. The confidence of former Cornell assistant Scott Garrow, somewhat of a "once and future" fixture to the Cornell coaching staff, showed that the Ivy-League Tigers knew that they had potential more than what most expected. A game against highly ranked Cornell provided the perfect opportunity for such a statement.
Princeton had played only in the Ivy League Shootout before its game against Cornell. Princeton ripped off two power-play goals to take control of the early the game. Cornell left the ice of Hobey Baker Rink for the second intermission down 2-0.
Then, for a brief moment, the game looked like the second Colgate game from just one weekend previous. Cornell turned it on overwhelmingly. The carnelian and white scored three goals in 4:51. Cornell took control of the game and took the lead. Cornell need to play Cornell hockey to win the game. Shut-down defense was all that was needed. However, the Tigers slowly retook the momentum and scored three unanswered goals to beat Cornell, 5-3.
Princeton's glimmers of excellence since sweeping Colgate and Cornell have been few and far between. Princeton has won only six games since that sweep. Two of those wins were against Sacred Heart. The most recent was against Colgate.
Special teams have been what paces the Tigers. Power-play goals account for 32% of the goals that the Tigers have scored. Yes, Princeton is dependent upon its power-play unit for nearly one third of its offensive production. The Tigers kill 86.9% of the power plays opponents enjoy against them. Even though Princeton's opponents outscore it 2.91 to 2.51 goals per game, less than a quarter of the 64 goals scored against Princeton this season have found the back of the net on a power play.
Princeton has dialed back its emphasis upon shot totals and high-octane offense since Guy Gadowsky left. The emphasis on high-speed offense remains under Prier, an alumnus of St. Lawrence. Despite this conceptual emphasis, the Tigers are surprising outshot by a large margin over this season. The combination of the fact that opponents outscore and outshoot Princeton highlights how important Princeton's power-play unit to its success. Princeton has won only one game without scoring a power-play goal.
Keys to the Game:
It should be apparent from the emphasis throughout this preview. Cornell must stifle Princeton's power-play unit. The power play of the Tigers is what killed Cornell down at Hobey Baker Rink earlier in the season. Had Cornell not allowed those three power-play goals, Cornell may have left New Jersey with 3-2 win rather than a 5-3 loss.
Cornell's penalty kill has been consistent when killing non-major penalties. It has improved markedly from earlier in the season. However, Cornell has surrendered key goals that have cost them the margin of victory as of late. Even though Cornell's power-play unit has been improved it has surrendered game-defining or game-changing goals.
Too much can be made of momentum, but when a team apparently feels as though fate is against it, any sense of the momentum or flow of the game must seem to the team to be in their favor to boost confidence. Cornell can take control of the game by keeping it out of Princeton's comfort zone. The Big Red needs to keep Princeton's power-play unit off of the ice. Princeton's power-play unit is ranked fifth in the nation in terms of conversion rate. This places a very high premium on elimination of foolish penalties along with continued discipline on the penalty kill. An inopportune power-play goal from the Tigers could break the spirit of a team that needs a win badly.
The fact that Princeton's penalty kill is solid indicates that Cornell likely will need to win this game on even strength. Cornell has the offensive talent to do this. The skillful forwards of Cornell have been quiet in terms of scoring as of late. This is perplexing. Many of the best offensive opportunities that have been generated since the trip to the North Country defensemen have generated since Schafer placed an emphasis and incentive upon them pinching more than they had earlier in the season.
Schafer thinks that the offense is on the verge of gelling. He believes as soon as it does the Big Red will be battle-tested and ready to go on a run through the 2013 ECAC Tournament. There is no better time for the offense to start scoring than while it is at Lynah Rink and just one week before Cornell confronts its archrival for the second time this season. Cornell's offense will return tonight.
Lynah Rink was finished in 1957. Cornell played its first game at Lynah on December 14, 1957. It goes without saying that the legendary Princeton hockey player Hobey Baker whose career spanned from 1911-14 did not play in the hallowed building. One interesting fact about Princeton's connection to Lynah Rink remains. Princeton was the first program that still exists at the Division I level that Cornell hosted at Lynah Rink. The first meeting of Cornell and Princeton at Lynah Rink was on December 19, 1957.
It seems amiss to discuss Princeton hockey without mentioning a connection between Hobey Baker and Cornell. Baker may not have played at Lynah Rink, but he did compete against Cornell. The games were nominally home games for Cornell, but were played in Syracuse, NY.
Baker played four games for Princeton in Syracuse against Cornell. The iconic Princetonian played in a total of six games against Cornell. The remaining two were played in St. Nicholas Rink in New York, NY. All six games had the same result. Princeton defeated the eventual dominant power of the yet-to-be-founded ECAC in all six games. Hobey Baker was undefeated and untied against the Big Red during his tenure as a player for Princeton.