February 20, 2003

Building on Success From the Blue Line

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For the second year in a row, the No. 2 men’s hockey team is primed for an ECAC title run and assured of a berth in the NCAA tournament. And once again, defense has been the key to the team’s success, with the Red currently the best defensive team in the country, allowing a paltry 1.48 goals per game. Ohio St. is second best in the country, allowing almost half a goal more per contest at 1.97.

However, it is Cornell’s sudden offensive exploits which have vaulted the team to national title contender. The team is averaging nearly four goals every time out (3.93) and has shown the ability to overwhelm opponents, as evidenced by its 14 goals two weekends ago against Dartmouth and Vermont.

“We played great defense two years ago and one year ago, and we didn’t have as much offense as we did this year,” senior co-captain Doug Murray said.

Murray and his fellow blue liners are a big reason why the Red has been lighting the lamp a little more frequently this season. As the leader of the best defensive group in the country, last season’s Hobey Baker finalist has scored 21 points in 25 games this season. Classmate Mark McRae also has 21 points in those 25 contests, tying Murray for fourth best on the team in scoring.

“They’re not careless offensively, they both have really good hockey sense,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of his two standout defensemen. “Defensemen get a lot of shots on goal, and they get a lot of opportunities. Both those guys have great instincts with the puck. They get a lot of points where they generate things, because they both have great hockey sense and great skill. They do it responsibly, they’re not out-of-control, high-risk defensemen. They do it and stay within the team concept.”

For his part, McRae is on the verge of joining the 100-point club, a feat that has only been accomplished a handful of times by Cornell defensemen. The senior needs just nine points to reach the centennial mark.

“I never really thought about it until [Stephen] B