February 1, 2002

It's Payback Time

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The first loss of a season must always leave a vile taste going down. Especially when it comes against Harvard.

Imagine then how the men’s hockey team felt the night of Nov. 16. After starting the season with four quick wins, Cornell was poised to make it five in a row in Cambridge against the Crimson. Twice the Red held a lead in the third period. Twice Harvard clawed its way back — the second time around coming with only 40 seconds left in the game with its goalie on the bench.

Then came the death blow. A scramble in front of Cornell’s goal a little over a minute into overtime. In the midst of the confusion, Harvard’s Brett Nowak kicked the puck past Red goalie Matt Underhill.

Cue the curtains — Harvard players began to dance around Underhill’s goal mouth. The Red could only sulk and cry over split milk.

It’s more than two months later, but when the two sides go at it again tonight in Lynah Rink, Cornell’s collective memory will be working overtime.

“Everybody on the team has been waiting all year for this game,” said freshman goaltender David LeNeveu. “Losing 4-3 in overtime the way we did, it’s definitely a very sour taste in your mouth.”

As LeNeveu added, Cornell is still haunted by visions of Harvard romping around in celebration after the game-winning goal.

“We definitely remember that,” LeNeveu said. “That picture is very vivid in our mind.”

“I just wanted to get off that ice,” remarked junior defenseman and assistant captain Doug Murray.

“Losing the game sticks in my mind,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 added.

(Schafer has his own horror story about losing at Harvard: his freshman year, Cornell lost late in the contest, and Schafer’s error led to the Red’s demise.)

Granted not much wood has to be tossed into the fire to fuel tonight’s installment of one of college hockey’s most fierce rivalry. Even minus the fish and the Faithful, the game would be worth waiting for — since both teams are at the top of the ECAC right now.

“Harvard is Harvard. You don’t need any other excuses,” Murray rightly pointed out.

However, Harvard’s win last November gives Cornell one more incentive to defeat the Crimson.

“It’ll be great to get revenge on these guys,” LeNeveu said. “We’d like nothing better than to shake their hand and look them straight in the eye [after the game], knowing that we’re the better the team.”

“Losing is always an incentive, Schafer added.

In many senses, the loss to Harvard was — perversely —