That contest left players unconscious. The Ithacans’s adversary needed to request stoppages in play to collect its incapacitated players. The physicality grew brutal. The carnelian-and-white goaltender made all efforts to best him look misguided. The stakes were high. Cornell rose to the challenge. The result sealed a perfect season and a national champion for New York’s land-grant university.
The characters were familiar ones in Frank Crassweller, Malcolm Vail, Edmund Magner, and Jefferson Vincent.
The opponent was Dartmouth.
What, you assumed this story was about something else?
The Big Green and Red have met seven times in the post-season since that game on February 18, 1911 in Matthews Arena. The count of seven excludes a meaningless meeting in the 1980 Frozen Four Consolation. Donners of carnelian and white cannot be too haughty toward the program of the other non-urban Ivy. Dartmouth did force a decisive game three at Lynah Rink during the senior campaign of Ray Sawada and Topher Scott.
The playoffs are in the distant future.
Dartmouth presented a formidable challenge for Cornell since the series between the hockey programs of the two universities began in 1909. The task grew all the more difficult after the 2005-06 season when the paradox of 1911 became at least a bi-seasonal occurrence. The Red clings to a barely winning record against Dartmouth under the current travel-partner arrangement of ECAC Hockey.
Cornell’s and White’s boys owned a 0.647 all-time record against the skating defenders of Wheelock’s honor before the latter began its do-si-do with their current partner. The Red may not have crashed to earth after the current arrangement, but its performance clearly rests upon the canopy of trees. Cornell owns a 0.589 winning percentage since the travel-partner pivot.
The situation grows bleaker with a little teasing. Of the 22 times that Cornell and Dartmouth have met in the regular season since the 2005-06 season began, the Red has won just ten contests. Yes, Cornell edges the Big Green by just one game in their record of regular-season meetings over the last 11 years.
That trend needs to stop. Cornell grossly overlooked an opponent last weekend. Its season may unravel rapidly this weekend if it elects to overlook the pitch that waits at Thompson Arena for Friday evening. Dartmouth has made a lucrative business of cashing in the Red’s underestimation, disrespect, and distraction for crucial wins.
Cornell ceded at least two and a half games of precious ECAC Hockey standing points to Dartmouth from this downturn in its winning rate against the Hanover natives over the last 11 years. Seeding matters and it is far too early in the season to fall behind preserving hopes of real home ice in the most crucial part of the season. Winning allays all fears.
It is even easier this season than most for the Red to overlook it opponent in the Freddy Krueger-sweater clash. The Big Green graduated ten members of a team that allegedly earned a berth to Lake Placid. This wave of departures washed away Dartmouth’s leading scorer, go-to goaltender, and three of its top five point producers from last season’s team.
Informed parties wrote the death certificate on Bob Gaudet’s squad before it even played a game. How could a team with so many holes be competitive? This rhetorical inquiry confuses uncertainty with inability. Dartmouth presents an unknown. That does not mean that it is untalented or non-lethal.
Did anyone expect Spink 1, Spink 2, and Kyle Baun to become top-five point producers on Colgate as freshmen and spend the second half of their debut season erasing the void left when Austin Smith graduated? Dartmouth may be Colgate ’12-13. Scoff at or ignore that possibility and Dartmouth may make a team pay like Colgate did eventual national runner-up Quinnipiac in that season’s late October.
Every freshman in Dartmouth’s line-up in its first and only contest tallied a point. Four freshmen recorded a point. It was Cam Strong who flashed the bravado enough to score a midgame go-ahead goal. It would not stand as the winner, but it shows the banner and trophy math does not intimidate the Big Green’s newcomers. Oh, yeah, the assists on that goal, freshmen earned those too.
Upperclassmen expected to contribute mightily like Troy Crema, Carl Hesler, and Corey Kalk have found their names already on boxscores. It may take some luck, but Dartmouth may not wander as adrift as many in the media expected this season. Let’s hope that Cornell does not do its part to make luck for its host on Friday.
The task before Cornell is identical to that which laid before it on February 18, 1911. Cornell needs to find offensive cohesion. Last season, when the Red was at its best, it muscled its way into the zone and harassed the net with shots at each high-probability opportunity and a presence in the Moulson-approved areas near the net waiting for the chance to convert any puck found in the slot.
The Red accommodated Merrimack’s defense early in the contest with reporting to the perimeter of the Warriors’s zone. Cornell abandoned the shooting mentality that Coach Schafer praised at the beginning of last season when Cornell earned much success in a string of considerable wins. The grapple on Friday evening may be a dull and disappointing affair if carnelian-and-white skaters, both forwards and defensemen, do not heed the advice of “Ithaca’s Rambo.”
The two freshmen who skated for Cornell impressed in the Merrimack contest. Jeff Malott gained confidence as the game grew older to forecheck opponents off of the puck in the dirty areas of ice. Malott also was the lone additional player who resembled Matt Buckles in taking almost every legitimate shooting opportunity that was presented.
Yanni Kaldis is an adept puck-moving defenseman as expected. The skillful blueliner transitioned more seamlessly to the collegiate game than one might expect reasonably. The game may remain somewhat faster than what the rookie defenseman anticipates. He will gain a step in the coming weeks of training. However, until then, like last weekend, his fairly refined fundamentals and vision of the ice more than compensate for any differences in pace.
Matt Nuttle wore the iconic Cornell sweater at Lawler Rink. This sight may become one to which the Lynah Faithful are accustomed. Nuttle’s instincts and ability to get the puck on net and low will pay dividends when this team decides to battle for every inch of ice and look for all shooting and scoring opportunity. The sophomore had a reassuring third game.
Cornell and Dartmouth played programs of equal palette but divergent prestige in their first contests. Blue and yellow was the common scheme. The fact that one should clarify the latter as “maize” says enough. Cornell lost by a 3-2 margin. Dartmouth reversed the Red’s fortune for a 3-2 victory. The Big Green defeated the most dominant program in the history of college hockey. Cornell lost to a program with no Division I playoff championships.
Dartmouth is the contest of this weekend. The preparation for and performance during that contest will tell far more about this team than any other game played in the next few days. The paradox of 1911 tests the fiber of this team.
Cornell claimed victory in a game of far greater consequence on January 28, 1911. Historians of college hockey view that contest as the one that sealed the Red’s fate as national champion in 1911. This may be a psychological or emotional truth, but it is not a fact. Cornell needed to defeat Dartmouth to preserve its perfect season and right to be called a national champion like no other.
Fixation on that other game and accomplishments achieved or yet to come would have given Dartmouth the space in which to upset the carnelian and white upending a season of destiny. The Big Green thrives in that lush space. Cornell needs to deforest it. The greatest teams of Cornell show the focus of 1911, respect Dartmouth, and deliver efforts devoid of retrospective or prospective distraction equal to the task.
The Lynah Faithful will find out on Friday if this team is fit for greatness.