February 28, 2008

Small M. Hockey Senior Class Makes Big Impact

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“It’s to the point where we’re pretty much brothers,” said senior men’s hockey co-captain Raymond Sawada. “We know exactly what buttons to push to get each other going … to get each other going positively and at the same time give each other a hard time but with that brother kind of relationship that we forget about it five minutes later.”
With Senior Night falling on Saturday’s faceoff with perennial rival Harvard — and playoff momentum and a first-week bye on the line — the four seniors on the team will have an opportunity to show off their chemistry and leadership.
In fact, the men’s hockey class of 2008 wasted no time in making memories; the Red won a championship in the class’s rookie year. [img_assist|nid=28340|title=Band of brothers|desc=Senior co-captain Topher Scott (26) is one point away from 100 career points, just one of the senior class’s accomplishments.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“Winning the ECAC championship our freshman year, especially against Harvard and the way we did it [will stick out in my mind],” said senior co-captain Topher Scott. “We had a really close-knit group of guys that year.”
After years immersed in the tradition of Cornell hockey, the four seniors have just a few short weeks to soak up the Lynah scene.
“I think we’re going to miss the fans,” said senior alternate captain Doug Krantz. “[Lynah is] such a great place to play, and we’re realizing how few games we have left in this building. It’s kind of sad at the same time but it’s exciting too. We can get pumped up for the last few games here.”
There is both team and individual glory to be had for the seniors. Scott notched his 99th career point against Princeton on Saturday. The next point makes him the 44th Cornell player to reach 100. With 75 career assists, Scott will have the fewest number of goals for achieving the feat. Scott has also starred off the ice for the Red as a finalist this year for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and nominee for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.
“I think Topher is playing the best hockey of his career,” said head coach Mike Schafer ‘86. “He’s a great leader, conscientious to a fault, and then, in the sense of offensively, there’s that he’s so responsible that he is creative. … On the power play and everything else, his game has really come together as a senior.”
Schafer cited Scott’s role in the Red’s third goal in a 3-2 overtime win at Quinnipiac on Friday as a sign of the senior’s development.
“To me,” Schafer said, “the game-winning goal at Quinnipiac shows how much he’s grown as a hockey player. With the pressure on, a line rush, he grabbed a pass out of mid-air and challenged the rush, pulled up inside of the blue line and fed Mike Kennedy. That’s a great play. That’s a pressure play.”
Linemates and roommates, Scott and Sawada also both have 24 career goals. In the Quinnipiac game, Sawada scored the first goal of the night for his third on the season.
When InsideCollegeHockey.com posted rankings of incoming Division 1 forwards in 2004, Red recruit Sawada was placed at No. 20. In June of that year, he had been drafted in the second round by the Dallas Stars.
“Ray has had a tremendous career,” Schafer said. “He’s a physical force. I know he’s been frustrated with the offensive numbers that he’s put up, but he can impact the game more than just offensively. [He is a] great leader in the locker room off the ice and comes ready to play, ready to compete, and wears his emotions on his sleeve.”
Over the years, the class has lost players such as defenseman Sasha Pokulok but also gained forward Chris Fontas after he transferred from UMass-Lowell. Though Fontas sat out the 2005-06 season, he saw playing time last year and emerged as a solid center this year.
“Chris Fontas came in as a transfer and with no guarantees,” Schafer said. “He came to Cornell for all the right reasons, transferred because he wanted a challenge academically and knew what Cornell was going to mean for him. And he’s been a tremendous student since he’s been here. He’s a guy that’s persevered, and he’s contributed to the lineup early in the year. He’s stuck with it and found his own niche on the hockey team.”