March 8, 2002

Musical Netminders

Print More

This wasn’t what head coach Mike Schafer ’86 had planned.

At the start of the season, senior Matt Underhill seemed to have claimed his place in net. After finishing the season with the second-best goals against average in the nation, that position was all but his. But since the beginning of the hockey season, freshman goaltender David LeNeveu has been too good to sit on the bench in lieu of Underhill.

The highly touted freshman, who has performed beyond expectations, had a shutout in his first ECAC game and has found his way into net every week.

Since the weekend of Nov. 16, LeNeveu and Underhill have taken a game a piece each until last weekend (Underhill did not play due to injury). With the senior starting most Fridays and the rookie between the pipes on Saturday — except for the Senior Night weekend — the tandem proved to be the best one-two punch in net in college hockey this season and in Cornell history.

Neither goalie has had a sub-par performance all year.

But the rotation was supposed to end. Heading down the stretch Schafer announced that he would make a decision between his two goalies with four regular season games left. That goalie would lead Cornell through the remainder of the season and the playoffs.

However, as the team enters its quarterfinal series against Yale tonight, has Schafer made his choice? No.

When asked if he would opt for the senior in the postseason, Schafer answered, “Obviously my original plan was to go with that, but at this point in time I’m not 100 percent set.”

And who can blame him? LeNeveu, coming off his first ECAC Rookie of the Week award, posting the lowest GAA (1.50) and the highest winning percentage in the NCAA, has certainly earned his spot in between the pipes for Cornell.

But Underhill, the newly anointed first-team Ivy Leaguer, isn’t far behind. He tied for third in GAA (1.79) with Denver’s Wade Dubielewicz.

The two are atop the ECAC in GAA, second and third in save percentage and in a four-way tie for most shutouts (2). Interestingly, Brown’s Yann Danis and Clarkson’s Mike Walsh, who also had a pair of goose eggs, played in at least four more games than either of Cornell’s twosome.

“You ask any coach in the nation and they’d love to have the two guys we have in terms of their ability and their competitiveness,” said Schafer, who has been fielding calls from Sports Illustrated and The New York Times about the goalie situation.

“Our goaltending has been flawless so far this year. We are always confident in our goaltending and defense,” junior defenseman Doug Murray said.

One thing is certain though, Underhill will start tonight. Schafer has made no commitments concerning who will start tomorrow, or any other game through the rest of the season.

“Matt will start in goal [today]. He was in practice this week. He was healthy. After Monday, he has been fine,” he commented.

Many suppose that the senior will remain between the pipes throughout his career at Cornell. After all, either tomorrow or Sunday’s game will be his final game at Lynah Rink, and one would expect that Schafer’s intentions of starting the senior wouldn’t have changed drastically since three weeks ago.

Regardless of whom the Red puts between the pipes, though, the team is confident in the situation. Underhill is a proven veteran, while LeNeveu has earned his stripes battling some of the ECAC’s best all season. The two have been successful in net thus far, and they don’t expect that to change entering the most important part of the season.

Archived article by Amanda Angel