It may be one of the best attended sporting events on Cornell’s early winter season calendar. The catch is the game isn’t taking place in Ithaca. In fact the proceedings will go on at a particular Ivy League institution in Cambridge, Mass.
The men’s hockey team (4-0, 2-0 ECAC) will travel to Harvard tonight to face its archrival. It is anticipated that throngs of Cornell fans will make the traditional trek to the Crimson’s Bright Hockey Center, affectionately dubbed “Lynah East” by the Red’s most fervent supporters.
“It’s a special weekend,” junior forward Sam Paolini said.
Cornell has started the season on a tear. The icers have unveiled a prolific offense to complement their traditionally stingy defense — a formula that has proved unbeatable.
The Red has notched 20 goals through the first four games of the season — a mark it needed 10 contests to reach last year.
Stellar special teams have also staked the Red to its early season success. The power play, consistently in the top 10 in the nation last year, has picked up where it left off. Cornell is lighting the lamp on the man advantage at a blistering clip, converting on nine of its 22 opportunities.
“We’re very confident of playing with each other,” said Paolini of the power play.
On the opposite end of the ice, the penalty kill has been equally impressive. The Red has not conceded a power play goal in any of its opponents’ 18 man-up chances and now owns a span of 550:13 of flawless penalty kill operations.
Things in the Crimson camp have not been quite as promising. After opening the season with lofty expectations and a top 10 national ranking, Harvard has fallen from national graces, plunging to a 1-2-1 mark this season.
Harvard was dispatched by Vermont last Friday, before salvaging a tie with Dartmouth. The Crimson is led by junior forward Brett Nowak who has six points on two goals.
The Crimson, like Cornell, sports a convincing penalty kill, that has thwarted nearly 78% of all opponent power plays. Meanwhile, the Crimson power play is converting on one quarter of its chances.
The Crimson will have to face the Red — a team it has not defeated in nearly a decade at home — without second leading scorer Dominic Moore who took a game disqualification penalty for butt-ending a Dartmouth player last Saturday.
The main question mark for Harvard going into the season was in goal, with the graduation of Oliver Jonas this past spring. Sophomore Will Crothers is the new man between the pipes; he has a 3.20 GAA and .893 save percentage. Against Dartmouth, he made 44 saves.
However, when asked about Harvard’s goaltending situation, senior forward Denis Ladouceur didn’t seem worried.
“I don’t even know who they have,” he said.
While tonight’s contest will clearly be the highlight of the weekend for Cornell fans, tomorrow in Providence, R.I., the Red will also take on Brown. The Bears, typically ECAC doormats, are off to surprising 2-1-0 start, including a win over Harvard two weekends ago.
“Brown’s always overlooked and underrated,” Paolini noted.
“They always play tough,” added Ladouceur. “It’s not surprising that they’re winning.”
Senior goalie Brian Eklund is the heart of the team, currently holding a 2.68 GAA and a .899 save percentage. The Bears’ offense is paced by sophomore Adam Saunders, who has three goals this season.
According to Paolini, the key to this weekend’s games will be consistency.
“We want to put six periods together,” he said.
“We have to establish our pace of the game,” echoed Ladouceur.
Aside from ECAC implications, both games this weekend are the Red’s first chances to build a bid for a an Ivy League title as well.
Archived article by Gary Schueller