Leilani Burke/Sun Staff Photographer

After sweeping Clarkson despite going winless against the Golden Knights in the regular season, Cornell will look to beat Harvard for the first time this season on Friday.

March 16, 2023

Lake Placid Preview: Men’s Hockey Faces Harvard in Semifinal

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In its first Lake Placid appearance since 2019, men’s hockey will take on Harvard in the ECAC semifinals.

Cornell is coming off a hard-fought sweep over Clarkson in the quarterfinals. The Red dropped the regular season series to the Golden Knights and will hope to continue the trend of having playoff success against teams it struggled against during the regular season. Cornell lost both its games to the Crimson in the regular season.

“They’re a good hockey team…we handled them pretty well the first time,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.

Cornell hosted Harvard for the first time on Dec. 2. Cornell struck early in that game but couldn’t generate much offense for the rest of the game. Harvard’s Sean Farrell went on to score the game-winner in overtime when an unfortunate bounce fell in the crease after a save by sophomore goaltender Ian Shane.

Farrell, a 2020 4th-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens and Hobey Baker finalist, is a force to be reckoned with. He leads the Crimson in scoring with 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 points––six of those points came against Cornell. He recorded a goal and an assist in the first game and four assists in the second.

“Their top two lines are dynamic––they’re great,” Schafer said. “You better play hard and smart [against them].”

Farrell’s linemate, sophomore Matthew Coronato, additionally notched two goals in Harvard’s 6-2 domination over the Red at Bright-Landry Hockey Center on Jan. 28. 

“I think we’re a much better hockey team than we were when we played against them down there,” Schafer noted. “We learned a lot of lessons from that game and then, moving on, about how to play big games against good players like they have.”

In its two games against Clarkson last weekend, the Red was able to shut down a Golden Knights offense that had given them some problems earlier in the season. Both games were tightly contested and not easy wins, which may prove to give an advantage to the Red going into this weekend.

“Playing against Clarkson was great preparation,” Schafer said. “I thought we were disciplined. I thought we got great goaltending. I thought our special teams were good––both power play and penalty kill.”

To beat Harvard, Shane will have to be on top of his game this weekend and continue to ride his recent success. After making 35 saves on 37 shots across both quarterfinal games, he will look to put the Red in a position to win in Lake Placid.

On the other end of the ice will be Harvard’s Mitchell Gibson, who has put up solid numbers this year and has historically performed well against the Red. Gibson has allowed just three goals against Cornell this season, aided by 22 and 31-save performances.

To beat Gibson the Red will need to hone in on creating tips and deflections close to the net and look to take away Gibson’s line of sight. This has been an area of focus for Cornell’s forwards throughout the year, and one they will look to continue into the weekend. 

“We’ve got to be around the net for tips and deflections, take his eyes away and get second chances,” Schafer said. “If he sees it, he’s going to stop it.”

Though the Red acknowledges his success, preparing for a goaltender like Gibson is no different than other opposition goaltenders.

“We’ve played against a lot of good goaltenders. You don’t figure it out by just flat-out beating them––you figure it out by putting people in front of them so they can’t see things.”

While Harvard may be known on paper for its prolific offense and NHL-caliber talent––with an NCAA-leading 15 draft picks on its roster––the Red follows not too far behind in a few categories. Harvard ranks sixth nationally in scoring offense averaging four goals per game, while the Red check in at eighth, with an average of 3.52 goals per game. In scoring margin, the Crimson’s 121-70 margin ranks fourth overall, with Cornell just behind at fifth with a 109-63 margin.

The Red may appear as an underdog on paper, but it is not daunted by the big names on the Crimson roster. And while senior forward Max Andreev is the only member of Cornell’s roster to have played at Lake Placid, lack of experience doesn’t take away from the Red’s ability to come up big in big games.

“This group of guys––they’ve played in all kinds of venues throughout the course of the year, from Madison Square Garden to [Minnesota] Duluth,” Schafer noted. “They’re well prepared to play on a bigger scale.”

And although Lake Placid presents itself as a neutral location in terms of the crowd, odds are it will be anything but that. 

“Oh, it won’t be neutral. It’ll have a Cornell flavor,” Schafer noted, with a laugh. “It’s exciting to play in front of our fans, whether we’re at home, or Madison Square Garden, or Lake Placid, or Harvard.”

Cornell will take on Harvard at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid for the ECAC semifinals on Friday at 7:30 p.m.