February 7, 2001

Tenth and Counting

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It’s February 7th. If you haven’t checked out uscollegehockey.com since yesterday, you might have missed something really important.

Cornell hockey is ranked tenth in the nation. Tenth. For a comparison, the tenth ranked basketball team in the nation is Arizona. Yes, the same Arizona that won a national championship just a few years ago.

Top ten is a big deal.

So, despite the fact that there are four weekends left in the regular season, plus that tournament at Placid, it’s time to start speculating. How did Cornell end up in the top ten? Can a team that scores barely two goals a game be that good? Can we really ride our power play to a decent showing in the ECAC tournament or the NCAA tournament?

But one thing at a time. How does this team deserve to be top ten? Yes. Sometimes. There are nights when the Cornell hockey team plays like it’s one of the best in the country. There are those nights of total dominance, flashes of brilliance that makes the Red seem like the supermen of hockey. For one night, the Red is unbeatable. Think back to that 2-1 win over Clarkson from a couple of weeks ago. That night, without the services of two captains and a McRae, the Red held one of the highest-powered offenses in the ECAC to practically nothing. That’s what this team does. It won’t blow you out of the water, it’ll clutch and grab and hold its way to shutting you out.

Nights like that, you think this team can’t be beat. Then Cornell goes out and loses to St. Lawrence 6-3. Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. Who shows up for the final eight games will pretty much determine if the Red ends up in first or somewhere closer to fifth.

Next question, can a team continue to win one goal games? Some people say that winning close games is the sign of a good team, others say its a lucky team. Honestly, this team is both. You don’t go 9-2 in one goal games totally by chance. Problem is we’ve seen this before. It’s called football. A football team that made a living out of winning close games found itself overrun when it came to the championship game against Penn.

I don’t think the comparison is a valid one. Our football team got behind late and had to come back. This hockey team is better than that. It grabs leads, especially 2-0 leads, and suffocates the other team for the final period. As long as the hockey team continues to generate a lead, it will continue to be very successful.

Last question, and an important one. What do you do about a team that is averaging roughly one even-strength goal per game? Earlier in the year, Cornell couldn’t buy a power play goal, now it seemingly can’t score without that advantage. Finding a nice mix is key, and tossing in just one extra goal per game will go a long way towards wrapping up a NCAA tournament berth. As big a problem as this is, the problem seems like something that will work itself out. Something that has gone relatively unnoticed is the fact that this team has been extremely banged up all year long. Captains have been hurt, scorers have been hurt, defensemen have been hurt. Get everyone back in shape and let them work with the linemates they are comfortable with and this team could become the scoring machine we know it can be. Ok, well, at least it could score three a night.

There’s only one group of people on this campus that can answer these questions, the hockey team. Only time will tell how it responds to these bits of adversity. In the meantime, there’s Princeton and Yale to think about. Time to protect that tenth spot.

Archived article by Charles Persons