March 15, 2004

Evaluating a Two-Sided Hockey Season

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I was disappointed last night when Clarkson’s hockey team netted its third goal. I was disappointed that the season ended on such a low note — after a a 5-1 Friday night win. I was disappointed for this year’s senior class.

But I wasn’t surprised.

All season two teams have shown up to Lynah Rink; both wore white, but only one came to play. The Western Michigan losses? The Bowling Green tie? Dartmouth? RPI? The Colgate sweep? Cornell didn’t take the ice those nights, at least not the Cornell hockey team I know.

The Cornell team I know faded into the ashes after the overtime loss at Brown. A seven-game skid ensued, the offense collapsed, and all — including the team’s playoff hopes — seemed lost.

Then something happened, and it happened in the most unlikely place. It happened at Dartmouth.

The game was vicious, with the Green netting an early power play goal. Worse still, the intensity and hatred ran deep. Shane Hynes was run into the boards in the first, and struggled to get up. Charlie Cook was also knocked to the ice, suffering a jarring hit in Cornell’s slot. Both Hynes and Cook could have stayed down. They could have finished the game on the bench. They didn’t.

It was a turning point for Cornell. Dartmouth was digging the grave, pounding the nails in the coffin, but the Red refused to lay down and die.

The popgun offense turned into a cannon, with Moulson and Knoepfli harassing Dartmouth defensemen to steal the puck and score unassisted goals. The forecheck became more punishing, with the team dumping the puck and grinding it out along the boards. A team in red uniforms took the ice that night and gave up an early goal. A team we know and love, a team playing Cornell’s style of hockey left the ice that night after winning 4-2. The Cornell team we all know had risen again.

Despite a hiccup at Union, the team continued to steam roll in the final weeks of the season, showing that the Dartmouth game was no mistake. A 7-1-0 record proved it. Cornell was a contender.

So what happened this weekend? Why did that other team show up again?

I honestly can’t tell you, and I don’t think the team can either. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t answers. It doesn’t mean there aren’t positives.

For a team that lost eight amazing players, including its top enforcer, goaltender, and scoring defensman, Cornell reloaded quickly. Again, the Red’s netminder led the ECAC in goals-against average. Again, Cornell had one of the best defenses and penalty kill units in the ECAC.

So was the season disappointing? Clearly not. Not when rookies like Byron Bitz and David McKee have been intricate to Cornell’s success from the first whistle. Especially not when freshmen like Mitch Carefoot and Mark McCutcheon finish the season with the intensity and skill normally reserved by seniors.

Still, I wasn’t surprised when that other team showed up at Lynah Rink this weekend. I will be if it happens next season.

Archived article by Matt Janiga

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