Cameron Pollack / Sun File Photo

Cornell returns to the site of the "Miracle on Ice" for the third straight season.

March 21, 2019

Lake Placid Preview: With Sights Set on ECAC Title, Men’s Hockey Readies for Surprise Team Brown

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Cornell takes on Brown in the early ECAC Semifinal game at 4 p.m Friday. The championship game is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday. All games will be streamed on ESPN+. The international stream will be via Stretch Internet. In Ithaca, the game will be broadcast on WHCU (870 AM, 97.7 FM). More information on broadcasts and tickets can be found here.

Read our preview of the weekend here.

NCAA Tournament implications
After a stellar 2017-18 regular season, Cornell was a lock for a No. 1 seed before its being knocked out in the ECAC Semifinal. This year, the Red is almost guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament. College Hockey News’ Playoff Probability Matrix gives Cornell a 98 percent chance of earning an NCAA bid. If Cornell loses to Brown and multiple other teams succumb to conference tournament upsets, the Red could miss out on an at-large bid and be left on the outside looking in. Cornell appears most likely to be a 3 seed.

Opposition research
Brown’s regular-season record doesn’t stack up to Cornell’s. Nor does its star power. But it’s clear the Bears are on a roll — and are capable of taking down the ECAC’s best, as evidenced by their road sweep of top-seeded Quinnipiac.

“They’re a skilled team. I don’t think they necessarily get as much credit as they deserve,” said senior forward and captain Mitch Vanderlaan. “They’ve really bought into what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well.”

After downing Princeton in the first round of the ECAC playoffs — when Cornell, Clarkson and Harvard were enjoying the week off — Brown stormed into Hamden, Connecticut, and swept top-seeded Quinnipiac to advance to Lake Placid.

Brown wasn’t an easy opponent in either of its meetings with Cornell this season. The Red beat the Bears, 3-2, at home in November and settled for a 3-3 tie in Providence on Feb. 15 after blowing a three-goal lead.

In the tie, Brown scored three goals in a span of 53 seconds in the third period to come all the way back from a three-goal deficit. In their game two win over Quinnipiac, the Bears scored four unanswered third-period goals to win 4-3.

“They play with a lot of pace,” said sophomore forward Morgan Barron. “They get up and down the ice and we saw it there, especially at Meehan [Feb. 15]. They score once and then all of a sudden it’s bang-bang-bang and we’re tied 3-3. They come at us in waves and they’re gonna play quick.”

Senior Tommy Marchin leads Brown in scoring with 26 points.

“Their lines up front, they’ve been getting contributions from everybody. The Marchin and [Tristan] Crozier and [Chris] Berger line has been playing great, played really well against Quinnipiac…,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “They’re playing with purpose, they’re playing with pace and they’re playing well as a team.”

What they’re saying in Providence
Head coach Brendan Whittet on his team seeking its first ever ECAC title: “It’s a great hockey team — they play the game very hard. They play the game with a ton of grit and a ton of resolve and I truly believe it’s a team that’s built to win now,” Whittet said. “We’re going to give everything in our power to come back with Brown’s first ECAC championship.”

Whittet on the Bears’ progression during the season: “We are going up there to win a championship. For us, it is a continuation of what we have done the last three-plus months. We were 2-7 at one point in the season. We were playing good hockey at that point, but the puck wasn’t going in the net. We stuck with the process and have progressed, as such the wins have come.”

It was March Sadness for the Red the last time it reached the ECAC semifinals.

Cameron Pollack / Sun File Photo

It was March Sadness for the Red the last time it reached the ECAC semifinals.

The other semifinal
No. 3 seed Clarkson and No. 4 seed Harvard face off in the late game on Friday, with the winner set to take on Cornell or Brown in the championship game. The Golden Knights and Crimson both finished the regular season with 28 league points, good enough to earn first-round byes. Harvard’s 77 goals scored were tied with Quinnipiac for most in the league; Clarkson’s 42 goals against was second-best to Cornell’s 41.

They see me rollin’ (all four lines)
Freshman forward Max Andreev, who returned to the lineup for the postseason after missing several weeks with a broken collarbone, allowed the Red to dress a fully healthy lineup up front for the first time in months. While he didn’t contribute statistically, he allowed fourth-line forwards sophomore Kyle Betts and junior Noah Bauld to emerge as unlikely playoff heroes.

Forwards like Betts and Bauld contributing offensively — both scored their first goals of the season in the quarterfinals; Bauld led the team with five points on the weekend — plus the continued production of top scorers like Barron, Vanderlaan and sophomore Cam Donaldson figure to make the Red a tough team to match up with in the semifinals.

“I think Cornell teams generally, if we want to win games you need all four lines to be clicking and those guys came through at probably the biggest time of the year for us,” Barron said.

Ice, Ice Baby
The rink at Herb Brooks Arena is an international-sized ice sheet, 15 feet wider than the standard rink every ECAC team plays on throughout the season. The different ice surface presents a set of challenges — and draws Schafer’s annual displeasure.

“It is crazy that you have to talk about the ice surface,” Schafer said. “It’s like basketball playing on a basketball court all year long and all of a sudden they raise the rims by a foot and they lengthen the court by 10 feet. It just changes the game. It always amazes me our league has done this. Everybody says the same thing, ‘everybody’s in the same situation.’ Well I know, but it’s a situation.”

Cornell might be aided by having played on a larger sheet more recently than some of its ECAC competitors. The Red earned a pair of wins on Northern Michigan’s Olympic-sized ice in November.

“Especially for power play [and] PK, you can’t get sucked out too much on the outside, you gotta really focus on playing inside the dots,” Barron said. “It’s a feeling-out process once we get up there and practice.”

Cornell arrived in Lake Placid on Wednesday afternoon and will have two days of practices on the Olympic sheet before Friday’s 4 p.m. game.