Cornell Has No Answers For Yale
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. In the end, Cornell ran into the one team it had no answers for.
In a rebuilding year, the Big Red, winners of 12 previous ECAC Tournament championships, grinded it out and grinded it out until the team was good enough to get through to the semifinals. And in Friday's semifinal, it was another grind-it-out, ugly 3-0 win over Dartmouth.
But, as has happened the last seven times these teams met, Cornell met its match in a Yale team that has been near the top of the national rankings all season long. A team that can score seemingly at will sometimes, but it putting together a defensive team to match.
The final results bore that out — a 6-0 whitewashing that could've been worse, leaving the Big Red with runner-up status and one game short of defending its title.
"They very obviously were the better team tonight. They did a lot of things we talked about, but they executed in terms of poise, doing a tremendous job offensively," Cornell coach Mike Schafer said.
"For us it's a bitter end to a terrific ride. ... We knew we were going to be rebuilding this year, getting back to some things we wanted to do, and really grinding it out throughout the whole season to give ourselves a chance to win a championship. I told our guys, 'Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't.' We didn't play the kind of hockey needed to be a championship team, and Yale did. But this is our third year in a row (in the final game), and we'll be back in the future."
After the Big Red were shut down in a 4-1 in New Haven to close the regular season, Cornell still earned a first-round bye. It used the extra time off to refocus on its defensive game, and it worked in getting it to the finals. But Yale's offense is in a different stratosphere, and it's clear the Big Red still have work to do with a young defense before it's ready to combat what the Bulldogs can do.
Consequently, the beginning of this game was like the others — Yale flying out of the gate, getting early power plays, and capitalizing on two of them. That came after three stellar saves by freshman goalie Andy Iles, or it could've been worse.
"It wasn't Andy's fault. We could've had Marty Brodeur in there and it wouldn't have made a difference," Schafer said. "We wanted to win so bad, but there's a certain composure and poise (you need) in a championship game, and we had that last year."
The second period was more of the same, three more even-strength goals before Iles was replaced with Friday's winner, Mike Garman. Cornell had to start taking chances, and that only made things worse.
"That's definitely a team you don't want to get behind," Schafer said. "And then you've got to start making plays, and when you're (trying to) make plays, you start missing on plays, and they're a great transitional team. And that's just not the game plan you can use against them — at least we can't — we don't have enough depth on scoring and experience to overcome something like that."
From then on, it was a matter of just having the clock run out, and doing so with dignity intact.
"Of course you don't want to end on a note like that," Cornell senior forward Joe Devin said, "but I'm very proud of our guys, and I wish Yale the best in the national tournament."
Cornell's championship-winning tradition was only able to carry it so far this year, but it's the kind of thing that motivates the program going forward.
"We sucked everything out that we had in our team," Schafer said. "The expectation at Cornell is to win. ... We were still able to get in that championship game. There was 10 other teams that would love to have that opportunity tonight. The history of our program — we got there and gave ourselves opportunities. Unfortunately tonight, it doesn't go right. They're on top of their game, we don't play well, we don't make them tight, we never got into a game to make them play a little tighter.
"It's hard to sustain it over a long period of time. Yale's been there for a few years now. ... I'm very proud of our program. Our class and players, we run things first class with integrity. Over the course of time, that's what's kept us an elite program, and that's what makes me very proud to be a Cornellian, and very proud of our athletic department, and the support we get from our administration to be an elite program. And we'll continue to battle to be there."