After a 6-0 romp against Brown in the ECAC semifinals, Cornell men’s hockey is one win away from the ECAC’s postseason crown. The Red meets Clarkson in the conference championship game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.
What’s at stake:
Having essentially locked up a spot in the NCAA Tournament, Cornell will seek to claim an automatic bid and, more importantly, bring the Whitelaw Cup back to Ithaca for the first time since 2010. This will be the fifth all-time meeting between Cornell and Clarkson in the ECAC championship game — the Red is 3-1 in such contests, with the most recent matchup coming in 1997.
Clarkson will compete in the championship game for the second straight year after losing to Princeton — which beat the Red in the 2017-18 semifinals — in overtime last year.
Interestingly, both the men’s and women’s ECAC Championship games this season feature Cornell as the higher seed against Clarkson. In the women’s championship at Lynah Rink two weeks ago, Clarkson beat the Red, 4-1.
Cornell scored two goals on an early five-minute power play and never looked back, coasting past Brown to earn a spot in the league championship game. Recap the 6-0 win here…
The other semifinal:
Clarkson got off to a hot start and put Harvard in an early 2-0 deficit — a lead the Golden Knights never surrendered. Five different skaters scored for Clarkson in a 5-2 win.
This season against Clarkson:
Cornell picked up three points against its North Country rival this season, dominating Clarkson, 5-0, at home in January and settling for a 2-2 tie in Potsdam in the teams’ last regular season game.
“We got labeled down there,” Clarkson head coach Casey Jones ’90 said on Friday night. “We were leaking a little bit at the time and they put it on us pretty good down there. I thought the game at home maybe deserved a better fate than [the tie], but they have a habit of hanging around.”
Scouting the Golden Knights:
Clarkson finished behind only Quinnipiac and Cornell in the ECAC regular season standings. The Golden Knights were 11-4-2 after the new year (14-4-2 including playoffs). Backstopped by second team All-ECAC goaltender Jake Kielly, Clarkson holds opponents to just 1.90 goals per game, third-best in the conference. Like Cornell, Clarkson sports a strong penalty kill (85.9 percent success).
Clarkson’s leading scorer is first team All-ECAC junior forward Nico Sturm, whose 45 points are second in the ECAC only to Player of the Year Harvard defenseman Adam Fox. His plus-24 rating is second-highest in the league.
In their own words
Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86, after his team’s win, on who he prefers to face in the championship game: “It doesn’t matter. They’re both great teams. Both these teams, Clarkson and Harvard, have had great years. They’ve got outstanding players on their team, we’ve had great battles with them this year. We lost to Harvard at Madison Square Garden. We didn’t play very well at Clarkson but they played a big part in that [tie]. This will be an outstanding game, and I don’t care who we play.”
Jones on Saturday’s championship game: “It’ll be a physical game, you’ll have to earn every inch of the ice … We know we’re gonna get their A-game.”
Jones on matching up with Cornell: “We played them [our last] game of the season, so they know exactly what we’re trying to accomplish, we know what exactly what they’re trying to accomplish, it’s gonna be mano-el-mano, every inch of the ice is gonna be contested.”
Sturm on Cornell: “[Cornell] finished where they did in the regular season for a reason, but I expect a close game tomorrow night. We’ve seen each other twice this year and previous games in previous years were pretty close too.”
NCAA Tournament Update
The Red was a near-lock heading into the weekend, and the win over Brown secured Cornell a spot in the NCAA Tournament, according to the College Hockey News Pairwise Probability Matrix. ECAC teams Quinnipiac, Clarkson and Harvard are both set to earn tournament bids. Cornell is currently 11th in the PairWise.