November 17, 2004

Men's Hockey Treks to Vermont For Last Time

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The men’s hockey team’s series against Vermont began in 1974, with a meeting at the Syracuse Invitational, a matchup which the Catamounts won, 5-2. In the 30 years since, the Red has played the Catamounts 50 times, and has for the most part dominated the series, winning 31 of those meetings, with 12 losses and seven ties. This includes a 13-6-4 record in Burlington, Vt.

Friday night, the No. 9 Red will play its last ECACHL game at the Gutterson Fieldhouse, as Vermont makes its farewell tour as a member of the conference. It will join the Hockey East conference next year, joining America East basketball opponents Boston University, Maine, New Hampshire, and Northeastern.

Though Cornell has never had much trouble generating wins in Vermont, it has not been nearly the walk in the park the numbers might lead one to believe.

“They get great crowds. It’s exciting to play there, it’s a great atmosphere,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86, who holds a 11-2-3 career record against the Catamounts. “The size of the rink is interesting in that their ice surface is a little bit bigger. We’ve always done a very good job up there as far as taking care of the puck, as far as puck possession. The better job you do dictating the play and holding on to the puck, the more success you’re going to have. That’s been one of the reasons we’ve had success there.”

In recent years, though, the Red has had its way with Vermont. The last time Cornell lost to the Catamounts was during the 1998-99 season, a 5-3 decision at Lynah Rink. Since then, though, Cornell has won nine straight, a streak that began later in that 1998-99 season.

Vermont has been through its share of difficulties since, including the 1999-2000 season, most of which was cancelled as a result of a devastating hazing scandal that resulted in a massive shakeup of the program.

Though Vermont has found itself near the bottom of the ECAC standings every year since, the trek to Burlington was never seen as easy, particularly considering the recent success of Vermont’s travel partner, Dartmouth.

“The other rink up there [Dartmouth] is where we’ve had problems,” Schafer said. “Early on in my career, it was because they had no crowd there, it was a dead place to play hockey. Now they’ve done a great job of getting their program going there and their crowds are a lot more lively. Last year, we did a good job of pulling back into the game after we were left behind. It’s a tough road trip that you want to get out of the way early.”

The Red is doing just that this year, as this weekend will be the team’s first conference road set of the year. With Cornell looking to add to its unbeaten conference record, this set could easily be a measuring stick of where the team stands.

On the other side of the ice, though, the Catamounts will be looking for one last shot at ECAC glory before moving to the more powerful Hockey East a year from now.

“Kevin [Sneddon, Vermont’s second-year head coach] does a good job, so I think from their standpoint he’ll continue to do a good job recruiting and he’ll continue to do a good job coaching,” Schafer said. “I’m sure they’ll have success.”

Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Sports Editor