When the final buzzer sounded in Saturday night’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Harvard, the storied program that is Cornell men’s hockey had accomplished something it hadn’t done for nearly 50 years: The Red moved to 6-0 on the season, reaching the mark for the first time since the 1971-72 campaign.
Richard Nixon was president when Cornell last stood undefeated through its first six contests.
“I don’t know,” was head coach Mike Schafer’s ’86 simple answer when asked about the quality of his team. “I hope we’re as good as the ’71 team,” he joked.
Cornell was picked to finish No. 3 in the preseason ECAC coaches and media poll, but the Red has overperformed thus far, already earning upset victories over then-No. 11/12 Quinnipiac and No. 5 Harvard. Saturday night over the Crimson was also the team’s second victory when trailing by two goals in a game, adding on to Nov. 4’s 5-4 win over Princeton.
“It really tested us,” said sophomore forward Jeff Malott on the come-from-behind win over Harvard. “It was a real test of character, and it just does an amazing amount for our confidence moving forward.”
Cornell has excelled thus far on special teams — boasting the nation’s top penalty killing unit — and has seen the development of freshman goaltender Matt Galajda into a key cog in its lineup. Aside from a rough outing against Princeton, Galajda has been one of the Red’s most consistent strengths and is just one of now seemingly countless freshman who have already made an impact less than a month into their rookie seasons.
Things are certainly looking up on East Hill. Even so, and despite its historic start, the Red will not be spending much time sifting through the history books.
“It feels good, and I like where we’re at right now, but we can’t get complacent,” said junior defenseman Alec McCrea, the hero Saturday night with his last-second game-winning goal. “I mean, we can’t worry about our record because any team could beat any team on any night. It’s important for us to take it game by game.”
If equaling the 1971-72 team is not enough, Cornell is also the last remaining undefeated team in the country and has a strong case to make for a top-10 spot in the coming week’s national rankings.
“We’ve got to take everything in stride,” Schafer insisted. “The guys went right up and they’re working out right now. We’ll get back to work. We’ve got St. Lawrence and Clarkson next weekend.”
Cornell hosts both St. Lawrence and No. 11/9 Clarkson as it looks to keep its unbeaten streak alive next Friday and Saturday nights. If you asked the team, though, 6-0 just puts a target on their back, and they know there is still much to improve upon.
“We’ve got to trust the process especially during the week and get prepared for these weekends. We’ll stay level-headed,” McCrea added before getting up to return to his post-game workout, a sign that even the most emotional of wins doesn’t stop the team from its continuous desire to get better.