Cornell Showcases Resiliency, Depth in Semis Win
by Zachary Silver/CHN Reporter
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. Cornell freshman forward Noah Bauld has never been one to shy away from the big stage. The winger’s first career goal was the game winner in the Big Red’s 3-1 win over New Hampshire at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 26.
But between that Thanksgiving weekend game and the end of the regular season, Bauld managed only a single additional point — the first Cornell goal in a 4-3 win over Miami on Dec. 2.
On Friday night, playing on a Lake Placid ice sheet less than two miles from his former hockey home of Northwood (Prep) School, Bauld put himself back in the spotlight by opening the scoring in the team’s 4-1 win over Union in the ECAC semifinals.
“It was really special to play in the Herb Brooks Arena again,” Bauld said of scoring in a familiar place. “I was really looking forward to it, so glad I got a chance to show myself here.
"When you’re not scoring points you’re putting pucks on the net and keep your nose to the grindstone and that’s what I did."
And what Bauld did on Friday night was not an anomaly for the team from Ithaca. Especially in recent years, Cornell has seldom been a program that relies too heavily on the contributions of a select group of players. Rather, a total team effort is the mantra consistently echoed throughout Lynah Rink.
Part of that this year has been forced. Injuries have kept out key players for the Big Red, some of which have been season-long or season-ending. Blueliner Ryan Bliss was expected to be a high-end player, but had offseason surgery and never saw gameplay this season. Defenseman Brendan Smith’s year ended in the regular-season finale, Dan Wedman has not played in 2017, and last year’s leading point-getter Jeff Kubiak missed significant time to start the season off.
With so many regular contributors out, others have been forced to fill in the holes.
“This team has been so resilient,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said. “We had to go to [forward] Alex Rauter ... one of our top goal scorers [and say] that you’re going to play defense for the rest of the year.”
Many players have had career years. Junior forward Trevor Yates has doubled his goal total from last year with 12, Rauter set a career mark with eight goals this season after just one the year before, and newcomer Yanni Kaldis has adjusted to the college game nicely with 13 assists in his first campaign.
Sharing the wealth and not getting too individualized has been a cornerstone for Schafer’s program throughout the years. Last year’s team had only two skaters with over 10 goals, and this year, that number grew to just three.
By contrast, Friday night’s opponent in Union relies heavily on its top two lines. Hobey Baker finalists Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo own staggering goal totals of 29 and 24, respectively.
This allowed Schafer and his team to put a more clear focus on that duo. If you shut them down —- like Cornell did Friday —- you inherently shut down a huge piece of Union’s offense.
“You got to make sure you know when Vecchione and Foo are on the ice,” Schafer said. “They are great team-guys, they utilize other players on the ice. You have to make sure you don’t let those guys get out of control, don’t let them get on two-on-ones, three-on-twos. They have the ability to make plays -— that’s what makes them so good.”
Whereas teams can take a more narrow focus when facing off against Union, Cornell presents a multi-faceted attack that can strike with any given combination of players on the ice.
“A word was thrown around that we underestimated this team,” Union head coach Rick Bennett said after the loss, showcasing how Cornell has been able to fool opponents with no go-to goal scorer. “I have no idea why we would ever think that going into this game, but that’s the mindset sometimes of a college guy.”
That’s not to say the regular contributors have not been showing up, too. Sophomore Mitch Vanderlaan used a six-game goals streak that extended into the Clarkson quarterfinals series to again finish towards the top of the team in points, and classmate Anthony Angello has weathered a rocky season to currently sit with 12 tallies.
Schafer’s lauding of his team’s resiliency has been present the entire season. Starting the campaign with just two home games before New Year’s to go along with the numerous injuries up and down the lineup, plenty around the hockey world had Cornell counted out. But come-and-go contributions from a player like Bauld has not just kept the team afloat; it has kept Cornell prospering.
Now, a Cornell team that was expected to finish middle of the pack will compete for the ECAC tournament title Saturday night against Harvard.