April 10, 2003

In Search of Two

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Even though it’s the Frozen Four, it’s still just another game. So say the members of the men’s hockey team, which is approaching this afternoon’s contest in the same manner it has gone about the rest of the season.

Never mind that Cornell is making its first appearance in the national semifinals since 1980. Never mind that the Red will be playing in front of a sold out HSBC Arena crowd of nearly 19,000. Never mind that this afternoon promises a chance for revenge on a New Hampshire team that ended Cornell’s season in last year’s NCAA quarterfinal.

“Every game has to be treated exactly the same in order for us to be consistent,” said sophomore goalie David LeNeveu. “If you change things, you will not be consistent. We are just going to go out there and do the same thing we have all year.”

Today’s game pits the top-ranked Red (30-4-1, 19-2-1 ECAC) against the No. 3 Wildcats (27-7-6, 15-5-4 Hockey East) in a rematch of last season’s contest in Worcester, Mass. In that game, UNH controlled the style of play for the first period, creating a fast-paced tempo that moved Cornell away from its typical grinding style. After one frame, New Hampshire held a 3-2 lead, which the Red evened with a goal in the third. However, the Wildcats’ Jim Abbott was able to net the eventual gamewinner with 2:39 remaining.

The loss has lingered in the players’ minds for an entire calendar cycle, but it hasn’t changed their approach to today’s game.

“It doesn’t really matter, last year; we have come here with a goal and it doesn’t really matter,” said senior co-captain Doug Murray. “Playing UNH is a little more motivating, but our guys would be motivated no matter who it is.”

After the win over Cornell last year, New Hampshire fell flat in the semifinal, letting Maine skate away with a 7-2 win. That loss has been a motivator for the Wildcats over the past year, and they are anxious for another shot at a national semifinal.

“Last year’s semifinal game was very disappointing for us,” said UNH goalie Mike Ayers. “There is still a lot of work for us to do here.”

On the way to the Frozen Four, the Red has compiled 30 wins, the highest total in school history. That figure eclipsed the previous mark of 29, which was set by the undefeated, untied team of 1970. That ’70 team was also the last Red squad to hang a national title banner in Lynah Rink.

Head coach Mike Schafer’s ’86 team, which is well-versed in the lore of Cornell hockey, knows about the feats of that team as well as those of the 1980 team, the last Red team to make it to the Frozen Four. This year’s edition is anxious to join those squads as one of the best in the program’s history.

“We expected to be here, so it is nothing out of the blue that we are here,” said senior co-captain Stephen B