The road to Lake Placid comes to an end this weekend. And for either the Cornell men’s hockey team or the Princeton Tigers, the season will be over by Monday.
The Red (13-11-5, 11-8-3 ECAC) comes into the series as the fourth seed in the league, while the Tigers (10-14-5, 9-9-4 ECAC) were seventh. The teams split the regular-season series, with Cornell winning 3-0 on East Hill and the Tigers taking a 4-1 decision in New Jersey.
The best-of-three games series will start tonight at 7 p.m. in Lynah Rink.
“Something you work for all season is just to get here,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.
These teams had a playoff series in 1999, with the Tigers moving on to Lake Placid in the first-to-three points series.
After a 4-4 tie the first night, the Red took the lead into the third period only to fall 6-5.
“We though we had the win already. It was such a letdown, going into the third period with a three-goal lead and then have it taken away,” junior Denis Ladouceur said. “It was a pretty abrupt season and it took us all off guard.
“My freshman year we played them up there and they beat us. It will be nice to get them here at home and show them what Cornell hockey is like.”
And the Red will be stronger than it has been in recent weeks because sophomore Doug Murray returns from injury. His presence will add a physical dimension to the Red’s game which Schafer felt was missing during last weekend’s loss to Rensselaer.
“For our team there is two different ways to play. One is to exchange scoring chances with the other team and the other is finish every check and be strong over the puck and treat every possession like it is going to be your last one,” he said. “When we play [the second style] I think we wear teams down.
“We have to come out the first game and be very focused about playing physical consistently. We need to take the body for the whole course of the first game and set the tone.”
Ladouceur feels that if Cornell is able to play this physical style, it will slow down the Tigers team speed.
“They are small and they are fast, but our style is hitting. If we come out and hit, they won’t be able to use their speed at all,” he said.
Because the teams will play each other both today and tomorrow (and possibly Sunday), the Red hopes to use its depth to grind its way to Lake Placid.
“I have full confidence in all four lines and all six defensemen so we can just roll them over. We don’t need to worry about who is on the ice and who they are out there against. We can make use of our depth,” said Schafer.
“We are much deeper than they are,” Murray agreed.
However, Princeton does boast some very talented players in Kirk Lamb, Chris Corrinet, Brad Parsons and Shane Campbell. The four have combined for 47 goals and 101 points on the season.
Dave Stathos had been a workhorse in net, posting a 3.12 goals against average and .897 save percentage.
“The way I see them is that they have five guys who are very skilled and can score. They have a good power play and a goalie who can get hot in net,” Murray said.
Cornell counters the offensive power of the Tigers with junior Matt Underhill in net, who has the third best goals against average in the nation at 1.91 and the seventh best save percentage at .924.
While in the offensive end, the Red will look to underclassmen to score. Sophomore Stephen B