This week, this writer instead uses Cornell's temperature after February's first weekend for comparative ends.
Instead, reader, consider that Cornell is one game against a team that is undefeated in conference play away from tying the winless skid that doomed the heavily talented 2012-13 edition of the carnelian and white.
No, this writer refers not to Cornell's opponent on either night of last weekend for the Red is the equal of any team in college hockey if it resists the temptations of flash and plays a simple game. The reference is directed entirely at this Cornell team. This team robbed its fans of the satisfaction of reveling in a hard-fought, pride-inducing tie among two great teams.
A larceny had befallen the Lynah Faithful. Fans and alumni who expect much of their team scarcely could revel in a result that but extended Cornell's winless skid. A winless skid that Where Angels Fear to Tread called on at the opening of last weekend in the above blocked quote. Cornell momentarily stopped that skid a night later. The schneid totaled seven games.
Had the Big Red returned from the semester break as promised, no such seven-game winless slide would have plagued Cornell. Cornell went over two calendar months without a conference win. Had Cornell performed as hoped, the Big Red would be in contention for the first seed in the ECAC Hockey tournament. Had Cornell continued winning at its first-semester rate and not gone through January without a conference win, it would be in all-but-guaranteed possession of real home ice.
Life is nothing without its drama and intrigues, right? It is no coincidence that contributors of Where Angels Fear to Tread direct our readers's attentions to the 2012-13 season. That season had a winless streak equal in length to the one that ended for this team on Saturday. What did that team do next? It produced a 5-1-0 record to close the regular season.
What is more noteworthy is that the 2012-13 season was the last season in which Cornell had a bona fide playoff run. Cornell stumbled during the 2014 ECAC Hockey tournament, not because it lost to eventual national champion Union, but because it could not close out Clarkson at home in two games. One was left wondering what an extra day's rest may have meant for a program that still held a slight psychological edge over the emergent Dutchmen. Cornell might as well have deferred its berth to the 2015 ECAC Hockey tournament for all its performance was worth.
The 2012-13 season was a playoff run worthy of remembrance. Cornell swept a Princeton team on the road that bested the Red twice in the regular season. The Big Red then pushed the 2013 NCAA tournament's first seed and eventual national runner-up Quinnipiac to the brink on the Bobcats's home ice. Cornell was one goal away from appearing in a sixth consecutive championship weekend. Three playoff victories. Battling to the end. Can this team promise better?
When the 2012-13 team first converted its winless run into a winning streak, where exactly did it stand in ECAC Hockey's standing? Cornell sat in 11th place. The skaters of New York's land-grant university had but four wins in 16 in-conference tries. Real home ice was well out of reach before that team found its game. How does this season's team compare?
Having played an identical 16 games in ECAC Hockey at this point, this season's team sits in seventh place. More importantly, a mere one point separates the Big Red's rung from that of the omni-important top four seeds to ECAC Hockey's tournament. The 2015-16 team has seven in-conference victories, nearly double what the 2012-13 team had at this stage.
The carnelian-and-white skaters of the 2012-13 team battled to play again at Lynah Rink. They fell short of that goal but it was not for want of trying. The team had an 0.833 winning percentage over the last three weeks of the regular season. Earning real home ice for that team was an impossibility. It is not yet so for this team.
Cornell has three weeks of regular-season play in ECAC Hockey remaining. The Red will play four of the six teams that rest above it in the standings. This is terrain that begs to be traversed for an Ithacan first-round bye. There is no more efficient way for a team to climb the standings than to hold teams that stand above it still by besting them in tête-à-tête affairs.
Cornell has that opportunity. If Cornell can show the character to put together a run after breaking a seven-game drought of winning like the one that the 2012-13 team did, the juggernaut of the East almost certainly will be a sleeping giant during the first phase of the East's historic tournament.
Will this team equal that predecessor's total of playoff victories? Imagine where three post-season victories would carry a team that enjoyed a week's rest. It would be a return to a stage that has not know carnelian thespians since 2011. Could this team deliver just one more win and make thousands of alumni joyous?
The season is far from resolved. Cornell may be one of the teams whose opening February performance shows that it is heating up. Yale, an opponent for this weekend, is heating up faster and Brown held a potent Cornell attack to one goal in November. The only offense Brown takes from Cornell best not be from tired tropes of the toilet and Yale is in need of chilling. Cornell's first-semester performance afforded it the ability to take off an entire month of regular-season play in the second semester without losing the whole season. Resting needs to be over if the Big Red seeks to climb the standings.
Opportunity becomes readily the seed of sorrow. Lest we not look back on this season as another stolen.