January 29, 2009

M. Hockey Rejects Policy of Payback

Print More

Grudges between teams or players can start with a misplaced elbow and end with a three-game suspension and injury. Hockey is a notoriously physical game, and when players get frustrated it is not surprising that they occasionally express themselves with a dirty check.
It is debatable if the Jan. 17 hit by RPI junior defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer on Cornell senior defender Taylor Davenport was a clean one. However, it seems apparent that it was a product of the frustration felt by the Engineers, who had been shut out all night by Cornell’s defense. After RPI’s Jordan Watts was called for goaltender interference, Cornell sent out its top power play unit, even though the clock was winding down with Cornell leading, 3-0. Davenport exchanged passes with alternate captain senior forward Tyler Mugford, then took an off-balance shot at the goal that left him skating on one leg. Burgdoerfer administered a check that sent Davenport smashing into the boards, and then crumpling to the ground.
“It fires everyone up when that kind of stuff happens. But it’s part of the game, you understand it is,” Davenport said. “You look at the time of the game too, I probably shouldn’t have been down there with seven seconds left in the game.”
[img_assist|nid=34549|title=Against the glass|desc=Senior forward Tyler Mugford (21) goes for a check against a Yale opponent during Cornell’s 3-4 home loss to the Bulldogs Jan. 23.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Davenport lay on the ground for a few minutes before skating off the ice with the assistance of his teammates. He said that he felt “out of it” for about 20 minutes.
Burgdoerfer received a five-minute major penalty and a game disqualification for the hit. The game disqualification carries with it an automatic one-game suspension from ECAC Hockey. Then on January 21, ECAC Hockey handed out an additional two-game suspension to Burgdoerfer for his hit on Davenport as well as an incident that occurred the previous night during the Engineers’ game against Colgate. In that game, Burgdoerfer was given a game misconduct for his hit from behind against Colgate defenseman Mark Anderson. Anderson missed two games from the injury.
Davenport only missed one game, but the mid-week assessment of his injury was not positive. Davenport came back for the Red’s game against Yale, and said his knee was feeling “fine.”
Burgdoerfer has butted heads with the Red before. Last season, he was given a two-game suspension for a hit from behind on junior forward Joe Scali. Despite his track record with Cornell, head coach Mike Schafer said that his players don’t hold a grudge against Burgdoerfer or RPI.
“They don’t have a grudge against the kid. Our guys know the kid pushed Davenport, but Taylor put himself in an awkward position and the kid did something,” Schafer said. “Our guys will come out and play very hard [next time we play RPI.] But it’s a little extra motivation to make sure you’re very thorough in your preparation going into the game, you want to play very hard, very solid and very physical.”
That notion of “don’t get mad, get even” is echoed among the team. The next time the teams play, the Red will be skating and hitting hard, but doing nothing to compromise its chances of winning.
“I think that’s what happens in hockey and it’s unfortunate,” Mugford said. “No one wants to see that happen to any team, but retaliation’s not really on your mind. We’re just going to keep our focus on playing our game and getting the two points from the victory.”
“We’re one of the least penalized teams in the league,” Schafer said. “There’s a reason for that. There’ll be discipline. We’ll go out of our way to make sure we don’t do anything hard against the kid. Obviously they’re going to stick up for a teammate from that standpoint, but after that, our guys are smart enough to realize they don’t want to get kicked out for another game.”
The Red has numbers verifying its discipline. On the season, Cornell has the second-lowest total of penalty minutes in the league with 241. Princeton has the fewest, 187. RPI has the most penalty minutes with 515.
With Mugford and the penalty-kill unit playing well so far, penalties haven’t hurt Cornell too often this season. And though the players promise they will remember hard hits from past games, they are adamant that the memory will only motivate them to play harder and cleaner.
“I’m sure guys remember incidents and stuff but we’re not going to go out headhunting or doing anything crazy,” Mugford said.