It has become a mid-March tradition. An important harbinger of the home stretch of the seemingly interminable spring semester, it’s as near and dear to Cornellians’ hearts as Dragon Day. And while the Arts Quad will become the venue for that annual battle between architects and engineers, it will be a different type of battle that captivates the minds of many this afternoon, as the No. 3 men’s hockey team faces off against Vermont in the ECACHL semifinals at the Pepsi Arena in Albany at 4:30 p.m.
Cornell (24-4-3), the top seed in the ECACHL tournament, enters today’s game on a 16-game unbeaten streak, by far the best in the nation. Fourth-seeded Vermont (21-12-4) will be hoping to exit the ECACHL with a bang, as it prepares to join the Hockey East Association in the fall.
The Catamounts finished fourth in the conference during the regular season with a 13-6-3 record and enter this afternoon’s contest after a tiring three-game quarterfinal series with travel partner Dartmouth. Vermont came back to win the final two games at Gutterson Fieldhouse after the Green won Game 1 last Friday night.
Scott Mifsud, a senior forward out of Burlington, Ont., leads the Catamounts with 48 points, including 25 in ECACHL games, which ties him with the Red’s Matt Moulson for third in the conference. Junior captain Jaime Sifers is the emotional leader for Vermont, as he has shown a tendency for the big play throughout the season. This includes Sunday’s Game 3 against Dartmouth, when his power play goal in the first period set the tone early for the Catamounts and helped lead them to a win.
Vermont, like Cornell, is strong on special teams, boasting a .189 power-play percentage and a .874 penalty-killing rate.
“They’re playing well defensively,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We’re expecting a game similar to the game we had here at Cornell.”
The Red won and tied in two previous meetings with Vermont this season. Two third-period goals by the Catamounts led to a 2-2 tie in Burlington, Vt. on Nov. 19, while a pair of power play goals for the Red resulted in a 2-1 victory at Lynah on Jan. 22.
Later tonight, second-seeded Harvard will match up against No. 3 Colgate in the second semifinal game, with the winner set to play the victor of the Cornell-Vermont game tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m.
Harvard, ranked eighth in the country, split with the Red this season. The Crimson (20-8-3) has been on a hot streak of its own over the latter half of the regular season. Since returning from its exam break in late January, Harvard has gone 10-3-1, shooting to near the top of the ECACHL standings. The Crimson swept St. Lawrence in its quarterfinal series last weekend in Boston.
No. 14 Colgate faltered a bit in the middle of the conference season, but remains very dangerous. The Raiders (24-9-3) allow fewer than 1.8 goals per game and are backstopped by Steve Silverthorn, a two-time ECACHL goaltender of the week.
The winner of this weekend’s tournament will receive the ECACHL’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the participants for which will be announced on Sunday morning.
Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Senior Writer