When we last saw the men’s hockey team, it was heading into winter break ranked eighth in the country. But as the icers (9-5-1, 5-2-1 ECAC) go into the first game of their home-and-home series against Colgate (6-11-0, 4-4-0), they find themselves tenuously holding onto a national ranking and practically out of contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Red had only lost two games before Christmas Day, but Cornell went 1-3 over the break, losing to No. 9 Northern Michigan and No. 12 Ohio State at the Everblades Tournament in Estero, Fla. Last weekend, the team returned to conference play convincingly by routing Vermont before falling to Dartmouth.
Although Cornell never led against Northern Michigan on Dec. 29, junior center Matt McRae scored a controversial goal with 8:34 left in regulation to send the preliminary game of the Everblades tournament into two 20-minute sudden death overtime periods. Senior netminder Matt Underhill made 37 saves but was beaten at the 89:17 mark by Bryce Cockburn.
After playing a tight game, the Red could not match its intensity the following evening against Ohio State, which had come off a 6-2 first-round loss to Maine. Playing its worst hockey of the season, Cornell mustered only 22 shots on goal. Freshman goalie David LeNeveu let in only one goal on 27 shots. However, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 pulled him with 36.4 seconds left. Scott May scored an empty netter, and the Buckeyes came away with the 2-0 win.
“There was no question that guys were fatigued,” Schafer said of the Ohio State loss.
“We’ve had harder practices than that game,” Underhill confessed.
With the end of non-conference play, the men came back to Lynah Rink with one thing on their minds — the ECAC. Cornell resumed conference play on Jan. 11 against Vermont followed by last Saturday’s game against Dartmouth.
The Catamounts kept close to Cornell for the first period and change, but three quick goals at the 2:05, 2:39 and 5:50 in the second gave the Red a 4-2 advantage en route to the seven goal night. Vermont was held scoreless on its two power plays while the Red went 2-for-4 on its man-up advantages.
Despite the lopsided win, the game may have caused Cornell to rest on its laurels with the most prolific scoring offense in the ECAC coming to East Hill the next day.
“I don’t know if we were a little too satisfied [after Vermont],” Schafer asked.
The following night, Cornell’s bread-and-butter — the special teams —