Despite Finals Loss, Cornell Goes Into NCAAs Confident
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. A trip to the NCAA tournament may not have been on the line on Saturday night in Lake Placid. But a Whitelaw Cup was — and bragging rights in a historic and intense Ivy League rivalry.
The Big Red fell 4-1 in the championship game. But Cornell, which locked up a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, now has to turn its focus to regionals.
“[We’ll] get back to the hotel try to leave that at the rink and get back to practice. ... Try to turn the page and focus on next week,” Cornell captain Jake Weidner said. “There’s no rest for the wicked so [we have to] take care of things at home and get ready for NCAAs.”
Despite the loss, Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said the team is in the right mindset to focus on NCAAs.
“Our guys are positive,” Shafer said. “I told them after that I have no regrets for how they played in the game. Zero. They came, they didn’t play poorly, they went after it they played with poise. ... It was just one of those nights where we weren’t good enough.”
On Friday night, Cornell defeated Union to advance to the championship game and secure an at-large bid. But its offense cooled at Lake Placid on Saturday. Harvard scored late in the first period on a power play, a deflection by Ryan Donato. The Crimson made it 2-0 in the second and erased chances of a Cornell comeback early in the third. Cornell’s only consolation came with 1:17 left in the game, when Jeff Mallott scored off a behind-the-net feed from Weidner.
“The way hockey is sometimes and the course of the game and they have great players that capitalized on their opportunities,” Schafer said. “We have great players and instead we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities.”
The Big Red didn’t play a poorly, but fell victim to puck luck and a red-hot Harvard team to end their string of victories. The Big Red have struggled against Harvard this season, 0-3 in the season series.
“The game can be cruel sometimes,” Schafer said. “You get a great opportunity, hit a post the back door that we fanned on, [goalie Merrick Madsen] made a couple of great saves and they come down and they fire one in and it hits a stanchion and pops right out to one of their guys and it’s 3-0, game over.
“”But I told our guys I was very proud of the way our guys competed in the third period. I thought they did an excellent job as far as continuing to go after it and stay disciplined, kept getting after it and got a goal at the very end as a coach, when the game’s out of reach, you can have a lot of pride in the team for the way they played and stayed the course and that’s what made this group of guys special.”
The loss, though, was just Cornell’s second in the last 14 games. Despite the series win over Clarkson and the win over Union, Schafer said the team has yet to play its best hockey. But the NCAA tournament will give the Big Red that chance.
“I thought we played well yesterday but I don’t think we played our best game of the year,” Schafer said. “I think we still have something left in our tank a little bit. ... It’s tough because you haven't played your best hockey I think as a game yet and you’re always searching for that. And to move onto the Frozen Four, you’re going to have to do that.
"I think the depth of our league really prepares us well for the NCAA tournament and I think the ECAC will do well.”