"In some ways, games can actually be remembered as greatest if they are ties rather than victories...I think those who watched that game and who were involved in that game were probably right. It was that special night."
Sometimes you can't get no while other times you don't get what you want, but if you tried, you got what you needed. A rolling stone gathers no moss. In that truism, this writer finds the answer to the great quandary of why ties are sometimes perceived as a problem. A tie may be a problem if it halts forward momentum (don't forget the directionality, it is a vector).
Directionality is key. A tie is good if it halts backward inertia. A tie is bad if it arrests forward inertia.
Satisfaction is too often conflated with finality. Hubris or intellectual dishonesty, based on one's fanbase, either may be the culprit, force many to assume that their team could never be empirically even with [insert despised foe of the week]. Therefore, ties deny these fans finality or closure after the Lynah Salute or whichever version of that gesture one's team pays its fans (or empty seats in the case of Harvard).
This writer is here to tell you that the Red's two ties in its last three outings were satisfying and provided finality. The contributors here pondered this reality while they returned back to their hotel in Manhattan on Saturday night. One of New York's finest inquired about the result of Red Hot Hockey seeing the group decked out entirely in carnelian and white. After receiving the answer, in disdain that only a New Yorker could muster for being equaled by another, the officer sighed at Cornell's failure to win the contest.
Generally, even though ties are academically acceptable to this writer, they are not personally enjoyable. Some ask, why play a game to find out the teams are the same as they began the contest? Even. The Big Red's results in New Haven and New York are important, satisfying, and final.
The Lynah Faithful learned many important things about this team over those weekends. This Cornell team played even with Yale with the national spotlight on that match-up. The carnelian and white accomplished this with a depleted roster and players lining up in their unnatural positions. A reduced Red matched evenly against a program still swaggering from its recent national championship.
Red Hot Hockey, often not a friend to Cornell no matter how good its hockey team is, did not derail these skaters and Gillam. Opportunism and relentlessness put the Red on the board with a two-goal margin. The lead would not last the rest of the contest. However, in Boston University's last five contests, only one program has been able to do what the Red did.
The Terriers have taken to relying on lightning quick outbursts in the third period to avert a loss. Michigan succumbed to a three-goal third period from Boston University. Providence, Nate Leaman's reigning national champion, was the team that survived with a tie. The Friars did something that Cornell never did at the Garden: surrender the lead. Cornell clung to its lead.
The Big Red additionally showed growth. This hockey team has played in five overtime contests before this weekend. Circumstances tested this team with three penalties in the sudden-death frame. Quinnipiac did not convert on its overtime power play, but its winner was a result of wearing down the Cornellians. Cornell steeled its resolve against Yale and Boston University with two successful penalty kills in overtime. Coach Schafer's team was not denied a point, actual or proverbial, in either contest unlike the contest against the Bobcats when the Red all but handed it to its Connecticut visitors.
The moment that Joon Lee of The Cornell Daily Sun and Coach Schafer highlighted as the turning point of Red Hot Hockey was a pivotal point. Dan Wedman went down to block a blistering shot. He absorbed it on his quadriceps. The shot deflected harmless away from Mitch Gillam and the carnelian net. This contributor thinks that what followed showed better the character of Wedman and this team.
Clearly stunned and sore, Wedman stayed on the ice. The Red did not get a clear. Dan Wedman, obviously favoring one leg, did not miss a movement in tracking the puck or position to block a shooting lane. He did not go for a change. He battled out on the ice for his team. Cornell was never about not getting knocked down. Cornell always has been about getting knocked down and getting back up with more determination. Quinnipiac and Union can block shots. Even Minnesota occasionally blocks shots, but the selflessness of this group is shown in Wedman's determination not even to be out of place in either time or space.
They play Cornell hockey.
That moment brought closure and finality to a contest that may otherwise have carried some quantum of discontentment. Wedman is not the lone standout. Alex Rauter and Teemu Tiitinen are constant harassers of the puck. They are the nemeses of opposing netminders and champions of Corsi. Trevor Yates deserved credit for his unflappable pursuit of a goal at Madison Square Garden, but it was Rauter's and Tiitinen's supporting roles on the plays that would have made even Michael Caine tip his hat. Their flourishes made for an exciting clause to the sentence that Cornell hopes to close this weekend.
A blemish, or smudge on the drafting shift, of the last few contests is that the Red's power play is disorganized. Yes, Anthony Angello's goal against the Terriers was a power-play goal. However, the unit in both the noted ties has been predictable. Opponents have defused easily Cornell's efforts and attempts at set plays. If this becomes a narrative worthy of more discussion, the otherwise optimistic prognosis for this season quickly will return back to the neutral expectations of the preseason.
The carnelian and white has written many words of a sentence this season. Some commentators refer to the Red's results throughout the season as "statements." Cornell has penned merely words. Words do not a statement make until they form a sentence. A sentence requires punctuation. Two games this weekend will provide the parchment onto which Cornell will scrawl its last mark of the first semester of the season.
Greg Carvel, fresh off a contract renewal that hopefully will see him behind the bench of ECAC Hockey's third-most dominant program for several more seasons, marches his Saints into Lynah Rink on Friday. The game should have a feel of a playoff contest. Ideally, both programs are playing for hardware and respect this season.
St. Lawrence narrowly missed winning the regular-season trophy last season. Now, Cornell and St. Lawrence may not care as much as some programs about winning that pre-playoff boondoggle, but both care very much to be in the conversation. The Saints are in form to continue to be in that conversation. Unsurprisingly, Gavin Bayreuther and Kyle Hayton are the focus of much discussion. The defenseman leads his squad in goals and points. Hayton's last outing saw him shut out a Quinnipiac team that has ranked among the most prolific in the country all season and still averages nearly four goals per game.
The series between the carnelian and white, and the scarlet and brown is one of the best. The Saints never can be taken for granted. The Laurentians own an exceedingly rare winning record against the Cornellians in postseason play. This neither should sit easily with nor leave the mind of a Red team. There is a reason why both programs combine for 18 Eastern championships.
Clarkson, well, the Clarkson series always has added spice now that Casey Jones is liege of the Golden Knights. I think they are still upset about the 1970 Frozen Four Final. The Golden Knights may come to Lynah Rink still in search of their first conference win. They would love little more than taking it from the Big Red at Lynah Rink.
Oh, yeah, there is a quote atop this post. Ken Dryden spoke those words about his tie against Boston University. Its sentiments are just as true now. The ties against Yale and Boston University are special for the script that they write about this team. The results satisfied.
Ken Dryden's tie against the Terriers came at Boston Arena on December 30, 1966. A common thread unites it with another tie. Cornell tied Boston University at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 2009. Both seasons ended in playoff glory. The 1966-67 team won the Red's first Whitelaw Cup and Frozen Four. The 2009-10 team grew into ECAC Hockey's all-time most dominant playoff team. Their ties, like the one of this team, were identically 3-3.
This team has one more weekend to decide what its opening statement of the season will be. The sentence does not have an end yet. There is great promise. They have outperformed the expectations of most. A feeble line this weekend erases narratives unwritten.
The sentence does not yet read: "Cornell is good." It may as easily end, "Cornell is good?"
One question remains with one weekend of first-semester play before this Cornell hockey team: How does this sentence end?