Cornell can try to act as spoiler to Harvard's Ivy League-title hopes. A victory for the Crimson doubles as giving Harvard this season's Ivy-League title and the outright lead in terms of all-time Ivy-League titles. Cornell and Harvard are tied currently with 21 recognized times claiming the Hobey Baker Trophy for the Ivy League Championship.
Superficiality in the forms of hollow talk and coddling is too common for this Cornell team. No player on this team should care foremost about redemption or spoils. They should be focused on representing Cornell University, its students and alumni, well on the ice of competition. They have failed in that task miserably over the last three games.
Cornellians approach things in a certain way. They celebrate harder. They work harder. They care more. Their historical consciousness is broader. They work together. They are humbler. Has this team played in accord with these values?
No. That is why generations of Lynah Faithful, recently indoctrinated and still devoted, find this team difficult to watch. It is not because of their losses or unsettling ties. It is because of the undeserved haughtiness, entitled self-interest, and lethargic execution that creeps into the Big Red's game. These rot away the once-good foundations of this team.
To appease the contributors of Where Angels Fear to Tread and avoid criticism, the task for Cornell teams has been always the same: "play [Cornell's] impassioned pastime in a way that brings honor to their University." This team lately fails more often than it succeeds in this modest proposition.
Wait. Stop the ranting, right? This is a hockey site. What's the point? The writers here view college hockey as the pinnacle of its sport precisely because its competitors are student-athletes. These players must be Cornellians first. There seems to be an inversion as of late because they rarely embody in their play some of the traits of true Cornellians.
Want proof beyond anecdote in hockey? Penalty killing is what Cornell does. Knowing that the Red can kill penalties is as essential to the Cornell experience, whether one is killing the penalty on the ice or cheering penalty killers onward from the bleachers, as proudly recognizing that New York's land-grant university is the most rigorous in the world. Well, the latter has not changed. The same cannot be said of the former.
As this team became more fixated on talk and individual accolades over the last four weeks, Cornell has endured a 25% reduction in its penalty-killing efficiency. The Red carried into its first weekend with The Game a penalty-kill efficiency of nearly 0.900. Cornell brings with it to Lynah East a kill rate that has been less than 0.700 since the rivals's first meeting this season. Were the Big Red's penalty-killing efficiency since then the result on a standardized test, this team would fail.
Discipline has evaporated. Ill-advised penalties surrendered precious points in several contests. Each player is playing for himself as though the pro career that many covet after his career is over is more important than giving back to the University community that has welcomed them warmly and supports them loyally. That loyalty erodes reciprocally.
Greats of Cornell hockey from Dick Bertrand to Nick D'Agostino viewed themselves as Cornellians first. This writer seriously in doubts if these players do. It is their play that begs that question. They play a self-centered brand of hockey. They play in the way that Cornellians and Lynah Faithful previously ridiculed as befitting the denizens of the venue they visit Friday.
Only 221 nm separate the wavelengths of carnelian and crimson. A precious distance, it is. This team traverses that chasm.
Harvard was the team of individual efforts and hollow talk. It would be their players, not those of Cornell, whose leaders described games liberally as "must wins" and then did not deliver. Arrogance was the vice of Cambridge. Hard work was the virtu of Ithaca. Now, Cornell and Harvard meet, not on the ice, but philosophically in a way that they should not.
It is the Crimson who is victor then because it plays not against its natural state. 10,000 men of Harvard and the approximately 800 whom the Lynah Faithful will spare a seat at Lynah East will rejoice on Friday if this Cornell team insists on playing with the egoism of Harvard. There are great tasks before this Cornell team.
Those tasks go far beyond the national spectacle of The Game at Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
1. Play with the character and work ethic that Cornellians expect of themselves.
2. Clarify that representing Cornell University well, not career advancement, is paramount.
3. Make the Lynah Faithful believe (that this team can win six playoff games).
Currently, the players on this team collectively seem as connected to the history of this program and the values of its institution as did facetimers who thought that the Lynah Faithful broke out in a chant of "Seven Nation Army" after Cornell scored a goal. This needs to be proven a mistake of perception. This writer hopes to be proven wrong.
Perhaps the contrast of its greatest foil will resolve this Cornell team.