Today, I was supposed to start off my Spring Break by getting in my car and driving to Albany to cover the ECAC championships with my fellow Sunnies. We had it all mapped out — the driving arrangements, the accommodations — everything. The men’s hockey team was supposed to play Dartmouth in the semifinals for a chance to play the winner of the Colgate-Harvard game tomorrow night. This was supposed to be Cornell’s chance at repeating as conference champions and at making it to a third consecutive NCAA tournament. But none of that’s happening because of two of the worst performances I’ve seen put forth by a Cornell team during my four years here on the East Hill.
The season wasn’t supposed to end that way. I almost could have accepted defeat in Albany. Almost. But to have the season end at Lynah Rink? What about the “Thank you, seniors” chants? What about hopping onto the ice to congratulate the players on a job well done?
During head coach Mike Schafer’s ’86 tenure at Cornell, his teams have been known for their tough defense and strong work ethic. Sure, Schafer’s teams haven’t always been the most talented, and at times, have been downright anemic on the offensive end. And this was just one of those years, when the offense, despite generating a ton of scoring chances, had a hard time finding the back of the net against teams not named Princeton.
But regardless of the opponent or the score, you could always count on a yeoman-like effort on the ice, whether it be finishing off checks, forechecking, or winning the battles along the boards. Cornell definitely suffered its fair share of setbacks during the course of the season, including disappointing results against Western Michigan, Mercyhurst, Bowling Green, Ohio State and a rough stretch in the middle of its conference slate. But you could never say that Cornell was simply outworked. That is, until last Saturday and Sunday.
After the Red dismantled Clarkson on Friday night, I was almost positive the series was over. It was, “Albany, here I come.”
Unfortunately, the Red was probably thinking the same thing.
How is it possible that a team that allowed an average of less than two goals a game give up 10 in two nights? And how did Clarkson manage to net three goals in a period in consecutive games against a Cornell defense that had only let that happen one other time this year? Shorthanded goals, poor power play execution, numerous odd-man rushes? What the heck went on?
Quite simply, Cornell didn’t show up. Maybe it was the absence of injured senior captain Ryan Vesce. Maybe it was overconfidence after the first game. I just don’t know. All I know is that Clarkson broke my heart and ended Cornell’s season by “out-Cornell-ing” Cornell.
Of course, there is hope for the future. Freshman netminder David McKee, showed that goalies from Texas can be pretty darn good. When the trio of sophomores Matt Moulson and Shane Hynes and freshman Byron Bitz played together on a line, they were one of the best I saw all season. Chris and Cam Abbott still have that sixth sense for each other, while vets like juniors Mike Iggulden, Mike Knoepfli, Charlie Cook, and Jeremy Downs will have one extra year under their belts. And how about freshman Mitch Carefoot, who scored two big goals during the playoff series? Meanwhile, fellow rookie Mark McCutcheon, who I contend has the best natural instincts of any player on the team, went from a skinny kid who could be blown over by a gust of wind to a guy looking for some rough stuff by season’s end. Just give the kid a summer and watch out. For all the promise the future holds, I’m still looking for something to do this first weekend of Spring Break …
I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my condolences to the family and friends of fallen men’s lacrosse player George Boiardi ’04. I never knew George, but like many others on this campus, am shocked and saddened by his sudden and tragic passing. As a writer and then as an editor for The Sun, I’ve had the privilege to interact with many athletes and coaches during my four years at Cornell. As such, I understand the hard work and sacrifice that our student-athletes put forth year round not only to represent themselves and their respective teams, but to represent all Cornellians. Thanks George … we know you’re in a better place.
Alex Ip is formerly the Sun Sports Editor. In Your Cup will appear every other Friday this semester. Alex can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Archived article by Alex Ip