When Cornell men’s hockey gets ready to take on Brown Friday at 4 p.m. at Lake Placid’s famed Herb Brooks Arena, two other teams will be in the wings, waiting to take the ice at 7:30. Cornell, Brown, Clarkson and Harvard comprise the four teams left in contention for the Whitelaw Cup — one of these squads will earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a who’s who of who will be at Lake Placid this weekend.
The one team of these three that Cornell is guaranteed to face this weekend, Brown has come out of the woodwork this season to surprise many ECAC hockey fans. Brown kicked off the season winless in its first four games and didn’t see a victory again after its first for another month. While Cornell’s early woes are often talked about, Brown bested the Red when it comes to turbulent starts. Brown has been an underdog all season — and for many years in the past.
The Red is 1-0-1 against Brown on the season after a 3-2 victory at Lynah Rink in November and a 3-3 tie in February. In the tie, the Bears scored three goals in 53 seconds during the third period, demonstrating the team’s tenacity and ability to score in spurts. Brown has shown marked improvement in this latter half of the season, scoring more than half of its power play goals in the last 13 games and clinching a home berth in the first round of the ECAC Tournament for the first time in five years. This semifinals appearance will be the team’s first since 2013.
Brown is coming off a two-game upset sweep at No. 1 seed Quinnipiac last weekend. In the first round, Brown swept Princeton in triple-overtime.
The last time the Red faced Brown in the ECAC Tournament was in the 2010 semifinals, also the last time Cornell took home the Whitelaw Cup.
Another team that tied Cornell in the third period during their last meeting, the Golden Knights are not an unbeatable team — Cornell shellacked Clarkson, 5-0, at Lynah in February.
The tie at Clarkson on the final weekend of the regular season had the feel of a loss, as the Cornell skaters were off their game early in the night before returning to form in the second period. Sophomore goaltender Matt Galajda’s impressive netminding kept the deficit to one despite the rest of his team’s early weaknesses, but in the final minute of regulation, the puck found its way into the back of the Cornell net. Neither team could capitalize in overtime so the final score stood at 2-2. Cornell earned a share of the Cleary Cup with that tie — a consolation prize it shrugged off given its chance to win an outright regular season title.
Clarkson received a first-round bye in the ECAC Tournament and faced Yale in the quarterfinals. The Golden Knights swept Yale, allowing three total goals and scoring eight. Clarkson is also the only team left in the ECAC Tournament with a higher PairWise ranking than Cornell, with Clarkson at 9 and the Red at 11. Junior goaltender Jake Kielly is in his third year starting in net; he started his season strong and really hit his stride in January and was recently named All-ECAC Second Team Goalie for the 2018-19 season.
Following a disappointing outing against Harvard at Madison Square Garden in November, Cornell took down the Crimson in each of the teams’ in-conference matchups. Performances against Harvard have, in a way, molded Cornell’s year. That Madison Square Garden game represented arguably the season’s low, while the Red’s victory over the Crimson on the road next weekend became a turning point.
Harvard, too, earned a coveted first-round tournament bye. Many Cornell fans undoubtedly hope for a Cornell-Harvard ECAC championship game thanks to the teams’ longstanding hockey rivalry. After the bye, the Crimson took down Dartmouth in two games, the second of which went to overtime. This weekend will mark Harvard’s fifth straight trip to Lake Placid; their last time winning the Whitelaw was 2017, when they beat Cornell.
Harvard’s strength lies in its offense — the Crimson leads all Division I programs on power play scoring, with a 29.4 percent conversion rate, and its scoring offense of 3.35 goals per game is good for seventh in the nation.