For Cornell hockey fans, upon close examination of the rafters at Lynah, a banner is missing. After finishing last season with a 17-3-2 conference record and storming its way into the ECAC championship game, the men’s hockey team fell to Harvard in double overtime. Despite dominating the regular season in the 2001-02 campaign, the Red could not bring home the championship trophy. Tonight, however, the No. 2 Red (24-4-1, 19-2-1 ECAC) will begin its quest for redemption and its first ECAC tournament championship since the 1996-97 season, when it hosts 11th-seeded RPI (12-23-3. 4-15-3) in the first game of a best-of-three series.
By virtue of winning the regular season crown, the No. 2 men’s hockey team was able to enjoy a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs and take the wait-and-see approach.
“We’ve obviously waited a long time for this time to come around again this year,” sophomore goalie David LeNeveu said. “I’ve been waiting over a year for this.”
A major disappointment for much of the season, the Engineers pulled off the big upset of the first-round last weekend with consecutive victories over rival Union. RPI took a 1-0 series lead last Friday with a 2-1 victory on the strength of breakaway goals by Vic Pereira and Kevin Croxton, along with a heroic 37-save effort from Nathan Marsters. The Engineers then stunned the Dutchmen the following evening with two Ben Barr shorthanded goals late in the third that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 advantage.
“They’ve obviously got some momentum coming into the weekend having beaten Union,” LeNeveu said. “We’re definitely going to have to be ready for them because playoffs is a whole different season as well. Anything can happen in the playoffs and teams come out with their best effort all the time, so we know we’re going to have to be on top of our game.”
“They put it together last weekend, so they could be getting hot,” senior defenseman Mark McRae said.
The Red and Engineers also faced off in last season’s ECAC semifinals at Lake Placid, with the Red winning the contest by a 3-0 score. Sophomore defenseman Charlie Cook had two goals in the win.
Despite its poor conference record, RPI has given Cornell trouble this season. The Red squeezed out a 3-2 win in Troy in their first meeting, with two of the three tallies coming from senior co-captain Stephen B