February 6, 2011

Keeping the Faith

Print More

During the men’s basketball team’s NCAA tournament run last season, many argued that Newman Nation had overtaken the Lynah Faithful as the most dedicated fan base on campus. As a hockey season ticket holder who has seen almost every home game in the last two years, I was shocked at the notion that the Faithful was anything but.

When the men’s hockey team began the season with three straight losses and entered winter break with a paltry record of 4-6-1, I was legitimately concerned that Cornellians would jump off the bandwagon. To my surprise, just the opposite happened.

On Nov. 19 the men’s hockey team faced-off against Yale at Lynah, while next door Bartels hosted a men’s basketball game against St. Bonaventure and the No. 1 ranked wrestling squad’s first match of the season. The sold out crowd at Lynah Rink was affirmation that the Red’s fan base would never leave its side, no matter how challenging things would get. After falling to the Bulldogs that fateful night, 4-2, the Red has gone 9-2-3 overall, excluding the Florida College Classic, showing vast improvement in all facets of the game.

Perhaps the most stabilizing factor for the Red has been its goaltending. The goalie competition served as a never-ending topic of discussion as the Red went through early season struggles. Junior Mike Garman and freshman Andy Iles both experienced mixed results in the months prior to winter break, with neither netminder forcing head coach Mike Schafer ’86 to name a starter. Schafer still has yet to name a starter, but this time it has nothing to do with a lack of performance. In fact, Garman and Iles have been so impressive between the pipes that they have continued to split playing time, compiling a combined 2.00 goals-against average since the team returned from the Florida trip in late December.

The Red’s upward climb in the ECAC standings has also been a byproduct of improved play on defense led by senior Mike Devin and sophomore Nick D’Agostino, with both playing key roles in the emergence of freshmen Kirill Gotovets and Mathieu Brisson. D’Agostino, one of the premier two-way players in the conference, is the Red’s fifth leading scorer with 14 points and ranks in the Top-10 among ECAC defensemen in the same category. Devin now leads all Cornell defensemen in scoring with 15 points, while Gotovets has compiled an impressive plus-12 rating on the ice. Brisson has helped solidify a reliable starting tandem on defense, balancing out the aggressive play of linemate D’Agostino.

The recent scoring outburst from senior forward Tyler Roeszler — highlighted by a hat trick in a 5-2 win over Colgate last month — along with strong play from team point-leader sophomore Greg Miller and senior co-captain Joe Devin has provided the Red with enough offense to support its stellar goaltending and defense.

Even with the likes of Colin Greening ’10, Blake Gallagher ’10 and Riley Nash on last year’s offensive unit, the Red was still a team that lived and died with its defense and goaltending — as has always been the case under Schafer. It is unlikely that this year’s team will buck the trend with a defensive unit led by Devin, D’Agostino, junior Sean Whitney and sophomore Braden Birch.

The Red’s dramatic turnaround since what I termed a “fateful night” in November is unquestionably the result of improved all-around play; however to say that the Lynah Faithful played no role would be inaccurate. Just about every men’s hockey player I’ve had the chance to interview credits the Lynah Faithful with providing an energy boost for the team during home games. Likewise, I couldn’t find a member of the Red who would admit to feeling any additional pressure to perform in front of the home crowd. I’m confident that this is not just posturing on the part of Schafer and his players, but rather that they feed off the crowd’s energy and live to please the dedicated members of the Lynah Faithful.

Original Author: Evan Rich