The fish are fresh, Lynah’s sold out, the fans are resting their vocal chords and the team is hungry — hungry to avenge its early season 4-3 OT loss to Harvard tonight at 7:00. But unlike past years when the Crimson took center stage, the Red has another challenge when the upstart Brown team files into Ithaca tomorrow evening.
This weekend, but especially tonight, has been circled on Cornell’s schedule since the beginning of the season. However, current events have only augmented the importance of the game. Cornell (13-5-1, 9-2-1 ECAC) is atop the ECAC standings with 19 points, but Harvard (9-6-3, 8-3-2) is close behind with 18, although the Crimson has played one more conference game than the Red. The two teams are the only ECAC squads to break into the national rankings. Even without the historic rivalry, the rematch between the two teams has been building up all season long.
“It’s that time of year,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “This year, it’s worthy of the hype and the buildup. That’s where the tradition has always come from — both teams being really good.”
Even the freshmen on the team have expectations about tonight’s game.
“It’s going to be absolutely nuts,” rookie netminder David LeNeveu said. There’s been hype about it all week.
“We’re definitely excited, but we’re also focused,” he continued about his fellow freshmen on the team. “We’ve heard all the rumors, we know all the hype, but we just have to come into it like any other game.”
The game pits two similar college hockey teams — both of which concentrate on strong special teams. The Crimson’s Tim Pettit is among the top scorers on the power play, boasting seven extra-man goals.
However, the Red’s defense, allowing a 1.73 GAA, and its goalie tandem of LeNeveu and senior Matt Underhill (having a combined .926 save percentage) is superior to Harvard’s defense (2.68 GAA) and Will Crothers and Dov Grumet-Morris (.907 combined save percentages).
Unlike the Nov. 16 meeting between the two teams, Harvard will be with Dominic Moore, who was suspended for the game at Bright Hockey Center. Moore is third on the team in scoring (7-11-18).
“People are in for a real good, hard-fought game,” Schafer said. “[The intensity of the fans is] going to be matched with two tremendous hockey teams on the ice.”
Brown (7-9-2, 4-6-2) is tied at eighth, but its record is deceiving since the Bears knocked off then No. 2 St. Cloud, 4-1, and beat No. 9 UMass-Lowell last Tuesday. They also beat Dartmouth and Harvard, two of the top four ECAC teams. Brown cannot be overlooked.
Since naming Yann Danis the starting goalie in front of veteran Brian Eklund, Brown has been gaining prestige in the ECAC and the NCAA with its stifling defense.
“Well obviously, the game might not be as exciting as Harvard, but we know in the back of our minds that it’s just as important,” LeNeveu said.
“[Brown is] going to have a lot of confidence. They’re a good team, we knew that from the beginning of the year when we first played them at Brown,” he added.
In their first meeting, Cornell routed Brown 4-1 as LeNeveu made his first start in conference play.
“[Brown] is a very good defensive hockey team,” Schafer said. “They’ve got good special teams, great goaltending. And when you have those combinations, you’re a good hockey team,” something that was only further supported with the lopsided win over St. Cloud.
As for Cornell, the team will have to make adjustments after sophomore Kelly Hughes sprained his knee against St. Lawrence last Saturday. Senior David Francis will likely replace him on the bench.
“[Francis] gives us another excellent penalty killer,” Schafer said.
The team has battled injuries such as freshman Mike Iggulden’s broken wrist and senior Krzysztof Wieckowski’s shoulder throughout the season. Although it is upsetting to lose Hughes, who was starting to contribute significantly to the team, Cornell’s depth comes to its rescue.
“That’s something that happens every season. It’s too bad, but it’s part of the game,” junior assistant captain Doug Murray said. “We’ve got to find a new combination.”
The Red is also looking to extend its four-game winning streak as it begins a two-weekend stretch against fellow Ivy League teams.
“I think the Ivy League is an important title, obviously, for our department and for the university, Schafer noted. “Our guys would love to win an Ivy League championship. But at the same time, our focus has to be on [the ECAC].”
Billed as the biggest two games around the ECAC this week, one would think the hockey team would be on edge with less than 24 hours till face-off. However, Murray disagreed.
“[Harvard and Brown] should have trouble sleeping.”
Archived article by Amanda Angel