February 15, 2002

Men's Hockey Shoots for 10 in a Row

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For all the fanfare surrounding Cornell’s (17-5-1, 13-2-1 ECAC) run at the ECAC title last year — an overtime win at Lynah in the quarterfinals, a timeless 5-2 dismantling of Harvard in the semifinals, an improbable date with St. Lawrence in the finals at Lake Placid — something major was lacking, namely a banner. In fact, it is has been five years since the Red has brought home any hanging ornaments.

The last came in 1997 in the form of an Ivy Championship. A win tonight at Dartmouth will guarantee the No. 7 Red at least one banner in what has been the most memorable season in recent memory for the storied program. Cornell will look to expand on its seven point lead in the conference when it travels north for the showdown with the Green and ECAC doormat Vermont.

Cornell enters the weekend in the midst of an eight game win streak — its longest since the 1984-85 season when it reeled off 10 in a row. Last weekend, one night after the Red dropped Princeton, 5-1, junior Sam Paolini scored with 15.6 seconds to play to lift the icers over Yale. With the weekend sweep, Cornell is now just one point away from guaranteeing home ice in the quarterfinals, but it is the prospect of an Ancient Eight title that is most alluring to the icers.

“Winning the Ivies is something we’ve always wanted to do,” Paolini said. “We’ve never had a chance to do it in my years. We’ve never really been in a position like this and being in control of our destiny is a really good feeling.”

Dartmouth is the only team to have defeated the Red on the Hill this season. Cornell, which has dominated the lifetime series with Dartmouth (62-33-2), will look to avenge a 5-3 loss. The Green has been a thorn in the side of late, taking six of the last ten games.

“Our guys are going to be very focused. It’s very much like the Harvard game,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.

The search for redemption is clearly present among the icers.

“Losing, especially losing at Lynah, left a sour taste in out mouths. It’s like the same kind of loss we had against Harvard earlier in the year, but we’re looking for the same kind of revenge,” Paolini said of the Red’s most recent troubles with its northern Ivy brethren.

Added junior defenseman Doug Murray: “It will be revenge for the last three years because I haven’t beaten them yet. It’s definitely a team we want to beat.”

Regarded as a preseason ECAC favorite by some prognosticators, Dartmouth has slipped considerably since its strong start to the season. Now just one game over .500 (10-9-4), it has recorded a mediocre 2-1-2 mark in its last five games, which included dates with Brown, Union and Rensselaer.

If the Red is to taste the sweet fruits of victory this weekend, it must keep its penalty kill in top form. Dartmouth dismantled what appeared to be an impotent unit, tallying four power play goals in its last meeting with Cornell.

Senior Mike Maturo has been one of the most potent offensive weapons in the ECAC with 30 points and will likely garner some extra attention from the Red’s defensive corps — ranked second in the nation with a 1.78 goals against average.

The Red’s power play, which has been less successful of late, is still tops in the ECAC and may be able to rediscover its early season form, facing a Dartmouth penalty kill that is ranked just eighth in the twelve-team conference.

While Cornell is vowing not to overlook Vermont in the back end of the weekend pair, the Catamounts should not pose much of a challenge to their visitors. The Red pummeled lowly Vermont 7-2 at Lynah in mid-January. The home side held a 41-20 advantage in the shots department, collecting goals from six players en route to the victory.

Vermont (3-20-2, 3-12-1) has managed to piece together another chapter of misery in an already awful season, dropping its last six games. The Catamounts last won on Jan. 19, blanking Clarkson 2-0.

Schafer has preached to his troops all week the importance of not overlooking Vermont. While a win at Dartmouth guarantees an Ivy League title, a win against the Catamounts would go a long way towards the Red’s goal of finishing first in the ECACs.

“They’d obviously love to have [an Ivy title]. It would be great for our department, great for our university, but we have to stay really focused at the job at hand, he explained.”

Despite a No. 7 national ranking the Red appears far from complacent.

“We have a lot of control in first place, and we want to keep it that way,” Murray said. “We can’t lose to anybody. Every game counts both for the league and rankings so we just gotta keep winning.

Looking back, I’m disappointed that we’re seventh. Looking back at those games, we should have won those games and have been higher up there.”

Schafer exuded optimism for the club’s future.

“I know that if we win the rest of our games, we’re going to clinch home ice, and we’re going to win first place in the league, and we’re going to win the Ivy league title. We’ll just worry about who our opponent is and playing well against them,” he said.

Archived article by Gary Schueller