Men’s hockey head coach Mike Schafer ’86 took home his fifth ECAC Coach of the Year title on Thursday, one day before his team would have taken the ice in the conference semifinal. Schafer last won the Tim Taylor Award, named for the Yale coach who was its first-ever recipient, at the end of the 2017-18 season.
Schafer led the Red to a 23-2-4 record before the postseason was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Cornell did not lose a single game on home ice all season, with the team’s two losses coming at Dartmouth and Quinnipiac. The Red’s effort was enough to secure the Cleary Cup. Since voting for the Tim Taylor Award recipient takes place at the end of the regular season, the postseason cancellation had no effect on the accolade.
The award is bittersweet for a coach who was just recently looking to skipper one of the best Cornell teams in recent memory deep into the NCAA Tournament. But with the national tourney’s cancellation last Thursday, the top-ranked team’s promising season came to a screeching halt.
“I’ve been coaching 34 years — you get a gut feeling that a team’s destined,” he told ESPN last week. “You just wonder in the back of your mind if it’s gonna be your year, that all the things are going to fall into place.”
Cornell ended the season riding a nine-game winning streak while boasting first place in the USCHO.com poll and third in the Pairwise. Had those rankings held, the Red would have been given a No. 1 seed in one of the four NCAA regionals.
Two weeks ago, Schafer was also named Ivy League Coach of the Year.
Schafer’s five Tim Taylor Awards are the most for any ECAC coach, ever. With four awards, Schafer had been tied with former St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh for first. Tim Taylor himself was ECAC Coach of the Year three times.
The other two finalists for this year’s award were Clarkson’s Casey Jones ’90, who won the award last year, and RPI’s Dave Smith.
“I feel very fortunate and privileged to coach these young men,” Schafer wrote in an open letter last week. “I am very proud of my team, our staff and to be coaching at Cornell University.”