When sophomore Sam Paolini took off from practice one day last year without remembering to give Danny Powell a ride, Powell knew he would have to get his revenge.
And so he turned to his partner in crime, Larry Pierce, to hatch up a plan that would teach Paolini to never again leave him stranded.
“So one night, we put on some dark clothing and we snuck up to Sam Paolini’s car,” Pierce began. “We jacked it up with a jack and we stole his tire.
“The next morning, when he got up for weights at 6 a.m., he had to walk up to campus because he didn’t have a tire on his car,” he continued, now smiling fondly at the memory.
“So we try and put the message out to a lot of guys on the team, that if you’re going to screw with [Danny and me], we’re going to get you back,” Pierce summed up. “I think we kind of have an alliance. We don’t really pull pranks against each other, but we do pull a lot of pranks on the other guys.”
Whether it’s scheming or anchoring the Cornell men’s hockey team’s defensive unit, Pierce and Powell — both senior tri-captains this year — have always complemented each other to perfection. Where Pierce has a weakness, Powell is sure to more than compensate with a strength, and vice versa.
They are, if nothing else, the Odd Couple of the hockey team — off the ice, their demeanors seem tailor-made for each other, but on the ice they’re as different as could be.
Pierce and Powell are from different worlds — the latter hails from Calgary, Alb., while the former is a native of Mendon, N.Y. And yet, as their time spent together on the East Hill has progressed, those separate worlds have collided.
Fate (and University housing) put them in the same dorm freshmen year, sowing the seeds for a blossoming friendship. Pierce and Powell are now going into their third year of living together off-campus, and their relationship has clearly reaped the benefits of the transition from on-campus buddies to roommates.
“We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well,” Pierce remarked. “We know a lot about each other.”
“We’re pretty tight,” Powell echoed, adding half-jokingly, “We’re going to open up a store [together].”
But at some point, Pierce and Powell stopped being just teammates, or just roommates; they have, for all intents and purposes, become family.
Since Powell lives about three-days car ride from Ithaca, he goes home with Pierce during the holidays.
“The [Pierces] tell me how very nice [Danny] is, and I couldn’t believe them because he isn’t nice at home,” joked Audrey Powell, Danny’s mom.
And because Ms. Powell can only make it to Lynah after winter break, the Pierces dutifully take photographs at each home game and then mail them to her so she can still follow her son’s progress.
Now, while Powell can’t exactly bring Pierce back home to Canada, he nonetheless can bring a little of Canada to Pierce.
His influence has apparently led to a change in the way Pierce talks.
“I’ve kind of picked up the Canadian accent,” Pierce admitted.
You need only hear him say ‘about,’ — or ‘aboot’ — to realize that he’s telling the truth.
“But I make an honest effort not to say ‘eh,'” he added, trying to redeem himself.
When Pierce and Powell are shooting the breeze or spearfishing on Cayuga Lake, they seem to be mirror images of one another.
However, once they step on the ice, they couldn’t be more different.
Whereas Powell is the bruising, physical defenseman who acts as the protectorate of the Cornell goal, Pierce is hard-nosed, but offensive minded, not at all frightened by the prospect of pushing up past the blue line.
“He’s more a guy who’s going to stop a guy from scoring,” Pierce noted. “It’s my job to score.”
And making sure that the distinction between he and Powell was crystal clear, Pierce added, “He’s a goon.”
After starring in football, lacrosse, and hockey at Deerfield (Mass.) Academy, Pierce has dug himself a cozy niche as an offensive defenseman for the Red.
“I’m thinking kind of along the same lines [as the forwards are], trying to get the puck to them, trying to put them in a position where they can score goals” Pierce said, adding. “And I’m trying to score goals myself.
Last year, on his way to being named to the All-Ivy second-team, Pierce found the net six times and added another six assists, finishing with +13 rating in the process.
“Larry’s very versatile,” remarked head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “He gets up and down the ice, he kills penalties as a forward, and I’ve used him as a forward.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Powell prowls around the Cornell defensive zone, waiting for an opponent to challenge him, biding his time until he can hammer someone into the boards.
“The first time I ever played hockey, my mom gave me a black eye –,” Powell started off.
But Pierce jumped in and finished the thought.
“And ever since he’s been bitter,” he quipped. “So it really doesn’t matter who’s on the ice, he’s going to two-hand ’em or cross-check ’em in the back of the head.”
In 1999-2000, Powell had his most productive year offensively, registering nine points. But more importantly his +12 was one of team’s best ratings. He is again expected to be one of the Red’s premier penalty killers this season.
“Danny’s tremendous defensively,” Schafer said. “Teams hate to play against him, and he’s good on the penalty kill.”
However, if Pierce and Powell began their Cornell careers on complete opposite ends of the defensive spectrum, then their time spent together on the East Hill has only brought the styles closer together.
“We kind of learn from each other,” Pierce explained. “In the past three years, Danny’s become more of an offensive threat, and I’ve tried to become more of a defensive player.
“What I’ll try to do is play better defensively, and I’m sure that Danny will produce more points this year,” he continued. “So hopefully this year, we can combine his strong attributes and my strong attributes into both of our games.”
After the graduation of senior leaders Doug Stienstra ’00 and Ryan Moynihan ’00, Pierce and Powell (along with senior forward Andrew McNiven) have had to step into the roles of team captains on the ice and in the locker room.
“It’s awesome,” said Pierce, on the thought of skating onto the Lynah ice with a ‘C’ stitched on to his jersey.
“I think it’s an honor,” Powell echoed, “We were voted [by other players]. So it means a lot to have the other guys have faith in you like that.”
“And you don’t want to let them down,” Pierce finished off. “So you always want to do your best and help them do their best on the ice.”
It’s little wonder that Pierce and Powell will be serving as captains this season. After all, they only displayed their mettle and heart time and time again last season.
For his part, Pierce — who’s been nothing less than a walking injury throughout his career — broke his hand a month before the end of the season, and nonetheless ignored the pain and continued to play out the season.
“I could have sat out, and I ended up having the cast on for three months after the season because it took so long to heal,” he explained. “But just the thought of sitting out and missing a game killed me.”
At the end of the year, Pierce was presented with the Ironman Award for the second consecutive time.
“It’s just tremendous that Larry can go through seven weeks of the critical part of the season with a broken hand,” Schafer said, adding, “It just shows how mentally tough the kid is.”
But don’t think that Powell is any sort of slouch when it comes to proving his worth on the ice. In a very different sense, he has also been the epitome of the ironman at Cornell, having played in every game since freshman year.
“He doesn’t let anything bother him,” noted Schafer. “Especially for a kid that plays so physical and is involved in physical altercations all the time.”
It’s almost clich