November 3, 2000

Cornell's Two-Headed Defense

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There’s an old adage in sport: offense wins games, defense wins championships.

Never is this more true than in college hockey, where offenses will always be trying to fly past defensemen for the breakaway. Without a superstar scorer in its lineup, Cornell will need to shut down other teams’ top lines with its defense to win games.

Luckily, the Red has just the men for the job.

It all starts with senior leadership. Seniors Danny Powell and Larry Pierce, both captains this year, will be the three-year lettermen responsible for bringing cohesion to a group of young but experienced defensemen. The two play different styles, personifying the two-headed capabilities of this defense — scoring and power. They are the anchors of the ship.

Powell is the more imposing of the two, and at 6-3, 215-pounds he a big man with the power to crush smaller forwards. He is the classic stay-at-home defenseman, always there to keep a wary eye on the opponent’s top gunners. The senior is certainly not afraid to shoot the puck, however, and will do so frequently. He managed two goals and seven assists in his junior campaign while playing in all 32 games for Cornell. Powell will be looked to this year to be the strong man on the blueline, to keep the puck in the attacking zone, and to sustain pressure for the Red.

Pierce, at 5-11, 195 pounds, will be looked to for more offense than his senior counterpart. The deceptively speedy defenseman will be asked to pinch in deep and find opportunities to score. Last year, he chipped in six goals and six assists, second-best on the team among defensemen. Pierce, like almost every other member of this crew, is strong enough to shatter an opposing attacker against the boards.

Juniors Brian McMeekin and Alex Gregory will be expected to step up this year and provide depth at the defensive position. Both have had limited roles on the team thus far, but McMeekin’s physical style and Gregory’s offensive presence could be important factors in the Red’s run for the ECAC title.

Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 brought in one of the most talented defensive classes in the country last year when he added sophomores Doug Murray, Travis Bell and Mark McRae to Cornell’s blueline.

Murray, at 6-3, 230-pounds, is perhaps the most imposing man the ice hockey team has at its disposal. He uses his size to his advantage, and will likely be paired with Powell as Cornell’s one-two punch to match other team’s top lines. He is powerful and has a wicked slapshot that he can unleash. He had trouble finding the net last year, scoring only three times, but expect that total to rise as he finds an offensive groove to match his physical skills.

One player who had no trouble finding the back of the net last year was Mark McRae, who led the Red defensemen in scoring. His five goals and 21 assists were good enough for eighth in the ECAC in defenseman scoring. He is not a pure offensive weapon however, and can certainly play tight defense on any player opponents throw at him. He is one of the best two-way players the Red have.

Bell saw limited ice-time last year, but an increase in minutes this year should allow him to emerge as another scoring threat for the Red from the blueline. He is a knowledgeable hockey player who can distribute the puck well.

This year’s freshman class includes two new defensemen, David Hughes and Ben Wallace. Each should provide the Red with chances from their blueline posts while maintaining the necessary physical attributes a good defenseman must utilize.

Other ECAC teams, beware. When opponents visit Lynah this year, they will face not one, but two Cornell defenses. One bruising, physical and deadly along the boards, the other speedy, fluid and deadly from the blue line.

Archived article by Charles Persons