October 3, 2001

Men's Hockey Team to Start Season Ranked 21st

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The hockey season is just around the corner. If last weekend’s distribution of season tickets didn’t sufficiently plant that seed into the hearts and heads of fans, more evidence arrived yesterday in the form of the USA Today/American Magazine Coaches preseason poll.

Cornell, which earned 14 points, putting it in 20th place. Topping the list with 263 points and 6 of 19 first-place votes was Michigan State. The Spartans were followed by North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan and Providence College.

Last year’s national champion, Boston College, was sixth, but managed to garner four first place votes.

The ECAC also made its presence felt in the poll, with five of its members claiming spots in the top 20.

In addition to Cornell, Harvard was eighth, Clarkson was 13th, Dartmouth was 15th and St. Lawrence was 17th.

“It’s a little bit disappointing,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of the Red’s ranking.

But Schafer also saw the merit in peaking in the USA Today rankings later in the year.

“That is a poll you want to constantly climb throughout the course of the season and be there at the end of the year,” he said. “You can use that as motivation because I know our guys believe our team can finish in the top 15, top 10. We’ll have to earn our respect as the season goes on.”

Last month, the ECAC released its own coaches poll, which predicted Cornell to finish third, behind Harvard and Clarkson. Dartmouth, St. Lawrence an Rensselear round out the top six.

“It was a pretty obvious pick,” Schafer said of seeing his team in the top three. “We basically return the nucleus of our hockey team that finished in the championship game [last year].

“I know the coaches know what we have coming back.”

“It’s so close every year,” senior goaltender Matt Underhill said of competition in the conference, adding, “You could take the top 6 teams and put them in any order.”

Vermont, Yale, Colgate, Union Princeton and Brown filled up the bottom half of the poll.

Finishing the regular season fourth in the ECAC with an 11-8-3 conference record, Cornell clawed its way into the ECAC championship game at Lake Placid — defeating Harvard before falling to St. Lawrence.

Championship game experience in hand, the Red now sets its goals on climbing the final rung of the ladder and winning the conference title. The Red has St. Lawrence’s trail to follow. The Saints have won the championship the last two years after being defeated by Clarkson in the title game in 1998.

“For [St. Lawrence] making it the first year [to the championship game] and losing was a big bonus going into the next year. They knew what it took to get there, and they knew how to take it to the next level,” said Underhill.

“We’re doing that right now. We know what we have to do.”

Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj