December 5, 2003

Making a Statement

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Fish, fur, fight songs and fans will fill Lynah Rink this weekend as the ECAC’s No. 1 team takes to the ice. Yet, unlike seasons past, it won’t be Cornell (3-0-1, 3-2-4 ECAC). Instead, first-place Brown (6-1-1, 6-1-0), and third-place Harvard (6-4-3, 3-3-1) enter Ithaca looking to add to their recent strings of victories.

The Crimson burst out of the gates in its first non-conference game, railing the Boston University Terriers, 5-2, on Nov. 25. Senior Tyler Kolarik and classmate Dennis Packard each notched a goal and assist in the win, while junior netminder Dov Grumet-Morris backstopped the team with 34 saves.

The Crimson’s biggest outburst came in the second period. Freshmen Kevin Du and Steve Mandes worked the puck past BU’s Sean Fields for the Crimson’s third goal. Harvard added to its lead with a power-play goal, and later capped the night with a fifth score in the third period.

Harvard went on to shut out St. Lawrence on Friday night, posting 26 shots en route to three goals and its third-straight win. Grumet-Morris saved 25 shots in the win, and repeated the feat again on Saturday against Clarkson. The effort proved not to be enough, however, as Clarkson slipped two by Grumet-Morris and another by his backup, winning the game 3-0.

While Grumet-Morris may be playing well, Brown brings the stronger netminding threat to town. Senior Yann Danis was recently named the Defensive Player of the Week, and ECAC Player of the Week for his efforts in net. Besides stopping 108 of the last 110 shots he’s faced, the senior posted a season-high 39 saves against Providence. Yet, while the goaltender may be hot, he may not be impenetrable.

“He is a very good goaltender,” said Cornell senior captain Ryan Vesce. “Goaltenders like that usually make the first stop, but banging in rebounds, the second the third chance — you’ve just got to bear down and put them in the net.”

“They make a lot of saves look easy, and he does a great job of making himself very square to the puck in position,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We’re going to have to, like many other teams, put a lot of traffic in front of him and let him not see the puck. That’s always the key to our success, and we’re going to have to do that against him because he’s such a good goalie.”

Though Danis has always been a presence between the pipes for the Bears, this year, Brown seems to have also found an offensive punch. The team is fresh off of an 8-0 shellacking of St. Lawrence, with five players netting goals. The difference for Brown appears to be its freshman class, as Brian Ihnacak currently leads the team in scoring with 12 points. His most recent successes came this past weekend, as he notched two goals and three assists on the way to collecting the ECAC’s Rookie of the Week Award.

“They’ve played a lot of games in the league, and that can be an advantage or that can be a disadvantage,” said Schafer. “It can be an advantage that Brown is hot right now — it can be an advantage that they’re in that situation where they’re playing very well.

“All aspects of their game are hitting on all cylinders right now,” he added.

Yet, that’s something Schafer and his team have known for a while. Last year, Cornell battled Brown in three tough contests, including a physical home contest and 2-2 away tie. The last time the two teams met, it was the ECAC playoffs, Cornell escaped with a 2-1 victory after a grueling defensive battle.

Harvard has also offered a strong challenge in recent meetings. While Cornell downed the Crimson 5-2 last fall, the games became closer as the season progressed. February’s meeting was a 4-3 shootout, with Harvard rallying for two goals within five minutes during the second, and a third goal at 2:19 in the third. The Crimson also rallied during the ECAC finals last season, forcing an overtime period before letting Sam Paolini’s ’03 game winner slip through.

“We had three tough games against them last year, and had three very difficult games against Harvard,” said Schafer. “We expect nothing different this year.”

With it’s 0-2-3 home record, however, Cornell may appear more vulnerable than it has in the past. Still, the Red is confident and relaxed about this weekend’s slate of games.

“It’s not really a concern,” Vesce said when asked about the pressure of finding a win on home ice. “We’re playing better hockey each week.”

“It’s going to be an exciting game — obviously it always is with Harvard,” echoed assistant captain Ben Wallace.

Still, while the team may not feel pressured, it would still like to finish this weekend with two home wins

“We’re excited to get a win for this crowd, we want to win at home for ourselves, but I don’t think it’s a concern,” said Vesce.

“This would be a great time for us to get a win, obviously, but we’re just worried about us playing our own game,” Wallace added.

“We’ve played some very good hockey at home the last couple weekends and have come up empty,” said Schafer. “But the process is just to continue to get better, and do the things to generate offense and become better defensively, and that’ll benefit us by the end of the year.”

“We’re just going to work hard, and whatever happens, happens,” said Wallace.

Archived article by Matt Janiga