February 5, 2004

Men's Icers Still Eying ECAC Title

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It had been a game characterized by defensive gridlock, and as the clock began to tick off the final minutes of overtime, it looked as if Cornell was headed for its sixth tie of the season.

But things drastically changed in the last minute and a half. Brown’s forwards engineered an odd-man rush, scoring the gamewinner and handing Cornell its first conference loss.

Unfortunately for Cornell, the Jan. 10 overtime loss was only a sign of things to come. The icers have managed just one win in their last six games, and have tumbled to sixth in the league standings. Still, while some may have written the Red off as postseason contenders, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 has another thought on his mind: winning another ECAC championship.

“You set high expectations for yourself every year,” Schafer said. “The goal still remains the same as far as winning an ECAC championship, and who knows? If we rattle off eight-straight, we’re going to be hanging around there.”

Yet while the coach’s goals remain the same as they did when the season started, he’ll be the first to tell say that there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“I’ll give us an A in effort, but that doesn’t go a whole lot of the way, though,” Schafer said.

As has been a hallmark of Cornell hockey during the Schafer era, the Red has continued to put up solid defensive numbers, allowing just 1.95 goals per game while killing off nearly 87 percent of their penalties. The team, though, has struggled on the other end of the ice, scoring just six times in its last seven games.

“As far as execution, we’re inconsistent. As a team, I didn’t think at this point in time we’d be in a transitional phase, but we are. We challenged many guys to step up their game, not to do more, but just to do their job,” he added.

With injuries slowing key verterans, the team’s 15 underclassmen have been called upon to step up and fill the gaps. Yet, for as much work as they’ve done on the ice, they’ve done even more when it comes to learning league history.

“We talk to our guys all the time about the path to getting to an ECAC championship — you look at the 10 different championships, and I’ve been involved with four of them — and they come in all shapes and sizes,” Schafer said.

While the team’s most current memories are of last season’s tournament juggernaut, Cornell has also had squads that needed to finish the season strong — similar to this year’s team.

“In ’86 it was really different. We had to come on strong at the end to get home ice. In ’95, it was the same thing,” Schafer said. “Things happen in many different ways, but the focus at the end — to win a championship — still remains.”

Something that also still lingers for Cornell is time — an essential ingredient if the Red is to make a 2004 ECAC run.

“At this point in time, they haven’t shown it. Not just the young guys, but our team hasn’t shown the consistency it takes to win championships,” the coach said. “But we’ve still got a month left in the year, and a lot of hockey in front of us to get ready to do that at the right time.”

Archived article by Matt Janiga