When looking back at the glorious history of Cornell men’s hockey, there seems to be one position in which the squad always shines brighter than the rest.
From the national titles with Ken Dryden ’69 and Brian Cropper ’71 in net, to the back-to-back ECAC Championships won in 1996 and ’97 by Jason Elliott ’98, it is probably the most tradition-rich position in the Cornell annals.
And this year should be no different for the Red, as it has three returning goaltenders ready to become the latest carriers of the proud heritage of Cornell goalies.
Senior Ian Burt is perhaps the favorite to win the starting job early in the season, as he established himself as the number-one goalie during the stretch run last year.
“Ian has been very strong. He showed up against Clarkson and St. Lawrence up at Lake Placid, and that’s the kind of goaltending that Ian needs to play on a consistent basis,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.
Indeed, because of his play last year, The Hockey News is touting Burt as a possible ECAC Player and Goaltender of the Year.
But Burt, who had a 2.35 goals against average (GAA) and a .913 save percentage last year, is realistic about those preseason honors.
“I got picked [as a possible] MVP of the league and I might not even play most of the year because we’ve got two other goalies that are great on this team,” he said.
Junior Matt Underhill is looking to re-assert himself this year, as he was the go-to man at the end of the ’98-’99 season. Last year he sported a 2.90 GAA and an .894 save percentage. He also recorded the team’s only shutout a year ago, against St. Lawrence in Lynah.
“Matt Underhill reminds me of a Jason Elliott in 1995, as someone who has had some success in the past but needs to become more consistent in his style of play,” Schafer said.
Sophomore Chris Gartman, who saw limited action last year, will be pushing Burt and Underhill in order to see ice time. The U.S. Under-18 product had a 2.44 GAA and a .912 save percentage last year in three games in last year.
With this much talent at his disposal, Schafer feels his goaltending on any given night should be solid, no matter who he puts in between the pipes.
“I have full confidence in the three of them. As a coaching staff, we think we are coming from a position of strength and we are just waiting to see which one of them finds that opportunity during the season to play very well,” he said.
Burt commented that the intra-squad competition forces each contender to improve his game.
“It’s going to be a good battle between all three of us. I think it is going to make all three of us better goalies overall,” he said. “Whoever is the starting goalie will probably win the goaltender of the year because we are going to push each other real hard.”
So regardless of who is in net, one thing seems clear: the Cornell tradition of championship-caliber goaltending should continue this year.
Archived article by J.V. Anderton