This weekend represented WAFT's first trip to historic Starr Rink. I enjoyed the trip and the venue. I know that to some among the Lynah Faithful to complement Colgate's barn is to commit heresy. It is an old barn that carries with it that element of charm. The atmosphere is not close to that of Lynah Rink, but if that were the standard, then there would be few buildings worth preserving or visiting. The visit only served to reaffirm my hopes that Colgate will save Starr rather than replace it. It adds to the culture of the ECAC and its destruction as planned would do little to elevate the competitiveness of Colgate hockey.
The one borderline nauseating experience that I had at Starr Rink was watching the student section empty before Colgate had the chance to thank its fans. The look of sheer disappointment on Vaughan's face as he watched the section to his right empty said everything. These "fans" had watched their team compete with a top-five program in the nation and dominate it throughout large portions of the game. They should have been proud. Also, Colgate upholds this series as a rivalry. Wins are all the sweeter and losses all the more bitter in perceived rivalry games. Real fans would be there for their teams especially under those circumstances.
The first two weekends of the 2012-13 season are certainly interesting to consider collectively. Cornell entered the weekend against Colgate without having scored an even-strength goal. Detractors had begun to point to that to prove that Cornell is not of a championship calibre. Mowrey ended that discussion with snapping the streak just 41 seconds into Friday night's game against Colgate. That is when the dynamic of the game took on a different tenor.
Psychoanalyzing a team has its volatilities but with the banter on twitter and pregame comments from players, it seemed that the Big Red approached the game with an appropriate level of intensity and preparedness. However, it seems that the acuity of the team vanished precipitously after Mowrey scored a goal so quickly and easily. A majority of the first period elapsed with Cornell registering one shot on net. The fact that it beat Colgate's Mihalik made the game seem well within Cornell's control to anyone not present, but Colgate had the better of play save for a few exceptions from about the second minute of the first period until the waning minutes of the second period.
Colgate registered the equalizer at almost seven minutes into the second period as Murphy converted a power-play opportunity for the Raiders. What happened next was possibly the one healthy offensive takeaway from the first evening. With the game knotted at 1-1, one could see the demeanor of senior forward Greg Miller change somewhat before he took the face-off immediately following the equalizing goal. He looked determined. To borrow from a term coined by a caller for cycling, he "looked like a man possessed." He won the face-off then proceeded to carry the puck through the neutral zone into Colgate's end. There was a turnover in Colgate's end but Cornell fought to get it back with Miller's tenacity showing as his shift began to draw to a close. Undaunted and still acting particularly driven to score, Miller received a pass from Ferlin while rushing the slot in front of Mihalik. Miller converted and notched his first goal of the season. Miller scored less than one minute after having taken the face-off with a particular zeal. This sequence is in line with one of the few things that Friday's and Saturday's games had in common.
Colgate's dominance of the flow of the game came to an end in the waning minutes of the second period and through the third. A fair amount of commentators claim that the game was entirely out of Cornell's control throughout the whole game. The first 35 minutes were without question. However, Cornell regained its composure and began to protect its 2-1 lead late in the second and throughout the third. The shots on goal per period support this conclusion.
An offensively potent team, which Colgate proved itself to be with 45 shots on net in the first game, generates typically more shots in the third period as desperation increases and the one to two minutes of empty-net play typically gives the chasing team a higher than average number of chances. The shots on goal per period on Friday tell a very different story and reaffirm that Cornell began to limit shots and protect its lead despite the critiques that claimed the entire game from 0:41 'til the final whistle was Colgate's show. The third period was the period in which Colgate registered the fewest shots. The Raiders shot 270% more shots in the first period than they did in the third period.
A greater percentage of shots from the third period even though fewer in absolute number were of a higher quality for Colgate. However, with only nine shots reaching Iles, Cornell's netminder could respond to each quality chance no matter how high of quality with little risk of the mental or physical exhaustion that comes with weathering a 24-shot first period like he had to Friday. The game was not outright thievery for Iles but it was about as close as one could tolerate against a Colgate team that had low expectations coming into the season but has proven that it better than expected.
Cornell finished its third period of underperformance for the weekend during the first period of Saturday's game at Lynah Rink. Sadly, the Big Red did not pick up where they left off Friday with being on an upswing. Colgate took a 2-0 lead. Both goals were earned on the power play. The first goal of the game hit hardest as Cornell had just killed off the first penalty of a 5-on-3 opportunity for Colgate. The Raiders converted on the second penalty just one second into the second penalty. The rest of the game after the first period belonged to Cornell.
John McCarron stated after the game that it was nice for Cornell to know that it can turn its efforts one when it needs them and to score goals. Cornell did exactly that. Cornell dominated the second period. Cornell generated more than five scoring opportunities during the second period within a five-minute span that threatened to break the shutout. Several pucks struck iron while others arced through the air just short of the plane of the goal. Two missed by less than four inches. Joel Lowry, the scorer of the empty-net goal the night before, generated many of the near misses. With play decidedly in Cornell's favor, the Big Red left the second frame still scoreless.
Bardreau would break the shutout with a power-play goal. It was Bardreau's first goal of the season. It was a gritty goal that put Cornell on the board, but it began the would-be or could-have-been rally. The equalizer came less than four minutes later. Senior captain D'Agostino carried the puck into the Colgate's zone with an air seeming from my standing point to be much like that of Miller from the previous evening. D'Agostino converted and tied the game to the thunderous applause of the Faithful and the chanting of "D'Agostino," much like how Andy Iles's name or Scrivens's name before him was chanted.
It should be reassuring to the Faithful that the upperclassmen on this team allow passion to drive them when it helps the team. Some teams see passion overwhelm players like it did Miller and D'Agostino with ill results. Those players, driven by self-glory, sacrifice systemics and surrenders chances to the opposition. Miller and D'Agostino, as well as others who have done the same this season, did no such thing. They were driven not by thirst for personal glory but to help their teammates and for the glory of Cornell.
Last weekend, I paid particular notice to MacDonald as a player who impressed most. The player who had not seen ice time that impressed the most this weekend was Knisley. His first game in carnelian and white was Saturday and he filled in for Ferlin on lines while Ferlin served a 10-minute misconduct. He impressed considerably. He saw the ice well and moved the puck through defenders with considerable ease. His confidence was not lacking, but he was not overconfident at the expense of the team. He generated great offense for the team. The other freshmen who played last weekend continued to mature. Willcox has gained a sense of confidence that has added noticeably to ability to contribute well to Cornell's special teams.
The upperclassmen who impressed most were Bardreau, Dias, and Mowrey in their ability to force turnovers, go into the corners, and keep the puck in the offensive zone. Cornell spent considerable time in Colgate's end and no small part of that was due to their efforts and successes. Bardreau was rewarded with a power-play goal. Dias would have been rewarded with a tally of his own but official review waived off his would-have-been goal. As implied, Lowry was particularly noteworthy as well with his generation of offense and shots on net. His contributions continued even into the over-time frame even though he did not tally in the second game, his contributions were very impressive. There is a reason why currently he leads the team in terms of goals with three.
The game ended ultimately in a tie. Cornell overcame an early-game 10-3 shooting differential to lead the final shots on goal 27 to 25. The tie was not the desired result but the result cannot be considered in isolation. Cornell suffered the waiver of two video-reviewed goals that would have been in its favor. This fact should inform any conclusions that are drawn from the game. The fact that Cornell moved up the national rankings to fourth indicates that either the voters were aware of this fact or valued Cornell's ability to go undefeated over the weekend. The latter is an accomplishment that no program in the top-five headed into last weekend managed to achieve. Cornell ended the weekend having allowed no even-strength goals and claimed the best defensive goals against average in the nation of 1.25 goals per game.
The end of the game showed many things. As the image atop this post indicates, it showed that Cornell will confront all adversity as a team. Whether it is on or off of the ice. They will stand up for their teammates when they are wronged while they stand for the ideals of our program.
The unfolding of the ECAC games on Saturday evening taught the conference a lot about the class of the conference; in no way does this refer to the athletic competitive level of any program.