I must admit when senior goalie Matt Underhill mentioned the words “national championship” as a team goal in preseason interviews, I reacted with a healthy dose of disbelief. I originally considered it start-of-season rhetoric, but as I prepare to trek up to Lake Placid with the hordes of other Big Red fans this weekend, I must say I’m beginning to believe.
It’s not so much the confidence or the stellar efforts of the netminder that have sold me. In fact my faith is not so much a product of the play of the hockey team alone as it is broader events in the athletic department. By many accounts it seems like a bleak time for Ancient Eight athletics. As Ivy League university presidents discuss ways to continually marginalize the presence of sports programs on our campuses, we have suffered similar setbacks at Cornell. Over the last few years we’ve watched as two of our most storied coaches, football’s Pete Manguarian and lacrosse’s Dave Pietremala leave the Hill for greener pastures. Despite the ever-present despair, we are undoubtedly experiencing one of the most exciting and promising periods in the recent history of the athletic department.
Having been an elite team all season, we’ve heard that this was one of the best assemblage of skaters Cornell’s has seen. And the message has gotten around. ESPN, TSN, Sports Illustrated and even the New York Times have made mention of the team.
It seems like anything and everything Cornell hockey related is enough to send the so-called Lynah Faithful into a unrelenting whirlwind of adoration. While ELynah forum debates focusing on whether or not public address Arthur Mintz ’71 is indeed a “legend,” or questioning the exact syntax of RPI loud-mouth Matt Murley may be enough to excite you into a state of joy, it’s time we raise the bar ladies and gentlemen. It’s time we stop making up things to be proud of and time we start demanding results, namely in the form of championships. Unwavering support through good times and bad alike is one thing. It’s time we start expecting greatness and sending the message that anything less is simply unacceptable. And hopefully, the message will spread across the 35 other varsity sports on campus.
Let’s get one thing straight. Anything less than a title at Lake Placid makes this season absolutely, positively inconsequential. In fact, given the talent and potential of this team, I say anything short of a Frozen Four appearance should be regarded as failure.
If this squad hopes to stake its claim as one of the greatest in Cornell history the road begins Friday. Make no mistake about it. It’s about time every single member of the carnelian and white be held accountable by fans and the athletic administration. For starters that means, remembering that no matter how “confident” a team this is, playing the first period with intensity is necessary. I’m tired of watching this team play the opening stanza every fifth or sixth game. It’s about time that we finish our checks early and often.
More importantly, every last player who dons the Cornell jersey should never forget the pride and honor that goes along with that privilege. As you take the ice at the historic 1980 Arena, remember that you are the torch bearers of one of the most history-rich programs in college hockey, following in the likes of legends Ken Dryden ’69, Joe Nieuwendyk ’88, Brian Cropper ’71 and John Hughes ’70. It’s about time we demand that this team plays to its full potential every night from here forward. That means no excuses on rebounds for Underhill. It means expecting an accurate slapshot from Doug Murray more than half of the time. It means that if captain Stephen B