This weekend, one of the most successful senior classes in the history of the men’s hockey team will play in its final regular season home games. For Ryan Vesce, Ben Wallace, Greg Hornby, and Todd Marr, the past four years have been a tremendous collection of successes, emotions, and experiences, topped by last year’s trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.
But to these four players, no on-ice experience can possibly match what the players have gained and learned personally.
“I think it’s been the camaraderie we’ve had throughout my years, it’s been a great bunch of guys,” said goaltender Marr, who has been a backup his entire Cornell career, falling behind Matt Underhill ’02, David LeNeveu ’05, and now freshman David McKee on the depth chart. “We’ve really gelled every year as a team and it’s been exciting to watch other guys move on and see other guys improve, and I’ve had a great time and experience with these guys.”
“I think every senior coming away from a program like Cornell, it’s a great tradition of hockey here, just the discipline you need to compete at this level is huge,” said defenseman and assistant captain Wallace. “I think I’m a lot more disciplined not only in hockey but also in life.”
The Class of 2004 has also enjoyed almost unprecedented success on the ice. After being part of a Red team that reached the ECAC championship game in 2000-01, the class has not looked back.
“They know nothing but success. They have been to the ECAC championship game every year since they’ve been here,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “They know nothing except getting to the final four in our league, being successful, and they’ve been a big part of it.” Sophomore year, the class helped lead the Red to a second consecutive ECAC title game, as well as the team’s first NCAA tournament bid since 1996-97. Last season topped all previous performances. The Red went 30-5-1, including the team’s first trip to the Frozen Four since 1980. The current seniors were instrumental parts of the team’s run.
When asked his favorite memory of his experiences with Cornell hockey, Wallace said, “Definitely just going to the Frozen Four. it was a great time, a great experience, and definitely that’s where we want to get back to this year.”
Team success aside, each player has had numerous personal accolades.
Vesce, the team captain, has been the first-line center his entire Cornell career. Last year, he became the first Cornell junior to score 100 career points since Joe Niewendyk ’88.
After playing every game of his freshman season, Wallace missed his entire sophomore year due to injury. He returned last season, fighting his way back into the lineup to become the team’s most consistent defenseman.
Meanwhile, Hornby developed into an effective, physical player, quickly becoming a fan favorite at Lynah Rink.
“They’re kind of a unique class in that they’re determined,” Schafer said. “They’ve fought through a lot of adversity and it’s great to see them have the individual success they’ve had since they’ve been here.”
As much of an impact as the senior class has had on the success of the program, the atmosphere of Lynah Rink has had a similar impact on the players.
“I’ve gained a lot of respect because of the way I play, being a physical presence out there,” Hornby said. “[I’m going to] Savor the moment and the energy of the crowd and just savor my last couple of games here and taking in the atmosphere and trying to play my hardest.”
“Playing in this rink is the thing I will remember the most,” Vesce agreed. “It will be sad to leave it at the end of the regular season.”
For Wallace, the experience of Lynah Rink has been particularly emotional. Having overcome his share of adversity in his career, he is looking forward to finishing out his Cornell career on a high note.
“My sophomore year, I didn’t play very much,” he said. “Coming to the rink and not playing really makes you realize how special it is to pull that sweater over your shoulders and skate down the ice.”
Archived article by Owen Bochner