Cornell Crashes In Blowout Loss
NCAAs on Line in Saturday's Consolation Game
by Rob Moore/CHN Reporter
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. Cornell’s junior defender Braden Birch and senior defender Sean Whitney collided off a third period face off, giving up puck possession to Harvard. Birch, who had just been burned by senior forward Alex Killorn in a breakaway goal, now struggled to to catch up to a Crimson double breakaway that lit the torch for a sixth time on the Red’s sophomore goaltender Andy Iles.
By this point, the 6-1 semifinal game had unravelled on the Red past a point of saving face. In its worst loss of the season, Cornell suspended its chance for an NCAA at-large bid to the consolation game of the ECAC tournament.
“As a head coach I take full responsibility for not having my team ready to play tonight. I didn’t push the right buttons in order to have them compete harder and overcome that kind of adversity,” said head coach Mike Schafer.
Harvard’s head coach Ted Donato , while carefully stepping around a question of whether Cornell was playing their best hockey, said, “they are one of the best coached programs in the league.” So where then does the issue of Cornell’s semifinal loss and Cleary Cup flop versus RPI lie?
The answer may lie within the team’s student leadership. Cornell is graduating just four seniors of its 27-man roster and entered the season with nine fresh faces. Compared to Harvard which has five seniors and five juniors on their offensive squad, Cornell has just two seniors and four juniors.
Freshmen account for 31 of the Red’s 93 goals this season and have been an integral part of the team’s systems from the first game. Freshman defenseman Joakim Ryan and forward Brian Ferlin can even be described as stand-outs on the roster. So lack of seniority does not necessarily correlate with lack of talent. However, it takes more than skill to be a successful college hockey team; it takes poise.
“As a leader, it’s really disappointing not having mentored the younger guys the way we should have as a leadership group,” said senior captain Keir Ross, “That’s the worst part of it: not that it’s my senior year or three other guys’ senior year, but that maybe we didn’t take charge the way we should have. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
In its semifinal game, Cornell took several undisciplined penalties, a symptom of having little depth of playoff experience for the least penalized team in the ECAC regular season. Sophomore forward Armand de Swardt accounted for a third of the total penalties awarded to both teams. “It was just embarrassing,” said Schafer.
The Red needed a win against RPI Feb. 25 in order to share the Cleary Cup with Union and clinch a first-seed tournament slot, but Cornell demonstrated a stagnant offense and dropped the game, 2-1 in overtime, coming off a seven-game undefeated streak. Cornell, which maintained first-place status for much of the regular season, struggled with mental preparedness and consistency this season in some of its most important contents.
As this young team matures it will be able to take lessons from these two tough losses into the postseasons of future years. Of course, it may also get the chance to apply these lessons to an NCAA game, if it can apply them to Saturday's consolation game too.