Playing for a team in which the average height falls somewhere between 6-1 and 6-3, one would assume men’s hockey freshman Topher Scott could be easily overlooked. Listed at 5-6 — it is unclear whether that measurement includes skates or not — and a paltry 155 pounds, it’s easier to envision Scott standing on his toes to get on a roller coaster rather than banging bodies with college hockey’s elite. However, for the scrappy center out of Buffalo Grove, Ill., donning his oversized red and white jersey every weekend is just about the most natural thing to do.
“I don’t ever really think about [my height],” Scott said. “I have no control over it. I just go out there and do what I know I’m capable of doing.”
Scott has already given coaches, teammates and fans alike a taste of his talents on the ice, and already the rookie has people begging for more. The line of Scott, Matt Moulson and Shane Hynes has been the Red’s most prolific this season, already accounting for six goals and 15 points. Scott himself has dazzled observers with an innate ability to find open spaces on the ice and orchestrate plays worthy of any SportsCenter segment. After stealing the spotlight with two goals in Cornell’s exhibition win over McGill, Scott has worked behind the scenes in the regular season, recording three assists thus far.
So does this mean that for a team which typically prides itself on a rough, physical forecheck and an intimidating defense, size suddenly doesn’t matter?
“A lot of opponents underestimate me and think they can control me,” Scott said. “All I can do is work my hardest and play the way I know I can.”
Much of Scott’s success can be credited to his on-ice intellect and his ability to outwit rival defenders – a critical attribute in this age of increasingly colossal defensemen. Furthermore, Scott makes up for one physical disadvantage by offsetting it with a key advantage – he is one of the most well-conditioned and hard-working athletes on the Red.
“[Topher] is one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with,” Moulson said. “He always uses his brain on the ice, and he never lets his size be an issue.”
Another physical issue Scott has had no trouble dealing with is contact after the whistle – especially in terms of the occasional on-ice fisticuffs.
“Sometimes he will come into [a scuffle] like he’s watching my back,” Moulson laughed. “He can definitely hold his own out there.”
For Scott, the bonds of team loyalty and respect run far deeper than any personal apprehensions regarding height, or lack thereof.
“That’s what teammates do – they look out for each other,” he said. “Everyone on our team is dedicated to winning.”
Scott’s journey to Ithaca began with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League, a Junior “A” team based near his hometown. He played for the Steel for four seasons — three during high school and one after graduating – and was among the team leaders in scoring during his final campaign (21 goals, 31 assists). He cites his experience in the USHL as crucial to his current success in the ECACHL.
“[The USHL] really makes a man out of you,” Scott said. “It gets you ready for the college game.”
However, little could prepare the freshman for what he was to witness within the historic halls of Lynah on game night.
“I’ve played before some big crowds, but I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said. “I get the chills whenever I step onto the ice. Everything I’ve seen with the fans here has blown my mind.”
To prepare himself for both the mental and physical rigors of a regular season contest, Scott indulges in two activities meant to provide both a clear mindset and a significant dose of inspiration. True to his roots, this Midwesterner catches a few country tunes (favorites include Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson) and a motivating film each day prior to a game. However, no individual ritual has eased the transition for Scott more than the help and support of his teammates.
“The older guys on the team have really shown [the freshmen] how to succeed,” Scott said. “This is the tightest team I have ever been on.”
A team so close, whether one member is vertically challenged or vertically blessed, there is no doubt everyone is looked up to.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor