The last time men’s hockey played in Lake Placid it suffered a heartbreaking and disastrous defeat to Clarkson in overtime of the ECAC Championship game.
“I still think we should have won that game,” said senior forward Max Andreev. “It was a nightmare. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.”
Four years later, Cornell will return to Lake Placid with hopes of hoisting its first Whitelaw Cup since 2010.
“We talk all year long about following the process to give ourselves the opportunity to get [to Lake Placid,]” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “I’m happy for these guys that they’ve now given themselves that opportunity to go into a league championship and win two games to win a championship.”
The championship game loss to Clarkson in 2019 marked Cornell’s third consecutive trip to Lake Placid. After the 2020 and 2021 tournaments were scrapped by COVID and a quarterfinal loss to Colgate last year, Friday will be Cornell’s first trip back to the hallowed grounds of Herb Brooks Arena. Andreev is the only player on the roster who made the trip in 2019.
“In ’95 we had no experience and we won. There’s been other years where we had lots of experience and we didn’t do well,” Schafer said. “This group of guys, they’ve played in all sorts of venues throughout the year… they’re well prepared to play on a bigger scale.”
The four-year path back to the semifinals has been arduous and tumultuous. Cornell was poised to enter the 2020 postseason as the top-seed before it was canceled days before it was set to begin. After the entire 2021 season was canceled, Cornell came within a game of returning to Lake Placid in 2022 but lost a do-or-die game to Colgate in the quarterfinals.
“The guys have committed themselves,” Schafer said. “Since last year when we lost to Colgate, it’s been a long process to get back to where we wanted to, which was to get to this point.”
Cornell’s motto this year has been “Earn It” and the Red will have to do just that in order to end its 12-year title drought. Cornell will meet No. 6 Harvard in the semifinals on Friday night. The Crimson swept Cornell in the season series. If Cornell advances to the finals, it will meet the winner of No. 2 Quinnipiac and Colgate in the championship game on Saturday night.
You can read the preview of Friday’s game against Harvard here.
This weekend will also be an opportunity for the Lynah Faithful to return to Lake Placid. Along with the game at Madison Square Garden and the Harvard game at Lynah, a potential trip to Lake Placid is one of the highlights of the season for Cornell’s fans.
“We haven’t been there in a while, but neither have our fans,” Schafer said. “I think that’ll be exciting for people to get back to Lake Placid, to enjoy it and come to the game.”
Cornell has alleviated some of the pressure of the weekend by essentially securing a spot in the NCAA tournament. While the Red has not mathematically clinched, a long string of out-of-town games would have to go a specific way for Cornell to miss out on the field of 16.
“I think that it might take a little bit off,” Schafer said. “We’ll stay in the moment and go after the league championship and then see what happens next week.”
Cornell’s quest for its 13th ECAC Championship begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night against Harvard. The championship game will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night.