November 10, 2004

Pegoraro Looking Good After Subpar Sophomore Campaign

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What’s happened in Lynah rink? Where did the men’s hockey team go, and who are these guys skating around the ice on the weekends? This definitely isn’t the same team that lost to Clarkson in the playoffs last season. This definitely isn’t the same team that went winless at home until the Harvard game last year.

That definitely isn’t the same Dan Pegoraro.

The Dan Pegoraro I’ve been used to watching always seemed a step to slow, or a little unsure of himself around the net. He never finished breakaways. He was fat.

“Dan Pegoraro, nice kid. Can’t finish,” Scott Jones used to say, shaking his head in disappointment as we sat in the press box last season. And Scott was right. Pegoraro would move around the net, teasing defenders, and finding breakaway opportunities. His stick handling always got him to the top of the crease, but his shooting could never seal the deal. He couldn’t finish.

When the team was at full strength, he used to float around the ice, looking like a lost soul. Even his own defensemen used to pass him by when skating after loose pucks, or to the other end of the ice. Things sunk so low for Pegoraro, Cornell was starting defenseman Evan Salmela over him when Ryan Vesce was injured during the playoffs last season.

Then things changed. Then this new guy showed up.

The number’s still the same, but it seems as if Dan’s heart has grown. He’s found himself back in the game, and more importantly back on top of his own game. This guy — this new No. 15 — chases after loose pucks, attempts pickoffs, and finally remembered how to jumpstart the offense.

Did anyone else see the way he was crashing the net last weekend? No one I’ve talked to seemed to catch it. Thank God for Pegoraro’s spot on the ECACHL honor roll, otherwise I would have thought I was taking crazy pills or something. It’s as if Charlie Hustle mugged him on the way to the locker room and snuck onto the ice in a No. 15 Cornell jersey. I honestly couldn’t believe what I saw on the ice from this kid.

So I went and asked head coach Mike Schafer ’86 about it.

“In his situation, an athlete can go either way,” Schafer said. “They can either pretend they’re in great shape, or they can invest the time and get into great shape. Dan chose the latter and it’s paying dividends for him.”

In Pegoraro’s case, the payoff is in ice time. His freshman year he played in 35 games, and racked up 16 points. Last season, however, things dropped off for him. The sophomore slump set in, and he only cracked the lineup 23 times, and his point production fell to two — one goal and one assist.

“A lot of athletes go through it,” Schafer noted about Pegoraro’s decline. “He had a good freshman year, but struggled some sophomore year. I think it really hurt his confidence.

“I think Dan thought he was working hard last year, but once he fully committed himself this summer, he’s realized what it takes to be in shape,” Schafer continued. “He’s really turned the corner.”

From my perspective, it’s as if Pegoraro has gone around the entire block. Scott Jones is smiling somewhere instead of shaking his head. Dan Pegoraro finally remembered how to finish.

Archived article by Matt Janiga