Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Cornell

The penultimate (I love that word) edition of Know Your Enemy rolls into that beloved region in the Finger Lakes that New York Post columnist Fred Dicker so lovingly refers to as "10 square miles surrounded by reality." As far as the ECAC goes, it's frequently a harsh reality, however, and this year promises to be little exception.

Nickname: Big Red
Location: Ithaca, NY
Founded: 1865
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 2 (1967, 1970)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2010
Last Frozen Four: 2003
Coach: Mike Schafer (17th season)
2010-11 Record: 16-15-3 (11-9-2 ECAC, 4th place)
Series: Cornell leads, 59-31-6
First Game: January 31, 1908 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: March 13, 2009 (Ithaca, NY)
Last CU win: February 12, 2011 (Troy, NY)

2011-12 games: February 3, 2012 (Troy, NY); February 25, 2012 (Ithaca, NY)

Key players: F Sean Collins, sr.; F Locke Jillson, sr.; F Jordan Kary, sr.; D Keir Ross, sr.; D Braden Birch, jr.; D Nick D'Agostino, jr.; F Greg Miller, jr.; D Kirill Gotovets, so.; G Andy Iles, so.; F Cole Bardreau, fr.; F Madison Dias, fr.; F Brian Ferlin, fr.; F Philippe Hudon, fr.; F Joel Lowry, fr.; D Jacob MacDonald, fr.; D Joakim Ryan, fr.

Key losses: F Joe Devin, D Mike Devin, F Tyler Roeszler, F Patrick Kennedy

Previous KYE installment:

Does Cornell play exceptionally boring hockey? Their fans will deny it to the death ("nothing boring about winning!"), but yes, they do. Unfortunately, that exceptionally boring hockey has worked exceptionally well - in the ECAC, anyway - since Mike Schafer got his start behind the bench. The Big Red haven't finished outside the top four since 1999 (they were the 5th seed in the playoffs in 2008 but tied with Union for 4th). So be prepared to watch exceptionally boring hockey when Cornell plays for the foreseeable future.

The Big Red got off to a slow start last season that had some observers wondering if that streak was in jeopardy, but in the usual fashion Cornell made a late season charge to finish right there in a tie for fourth with RPI and Princeton, claiming the bye based on their season sweep of the Engineers (to include that farce in Troy back in February, but whatever). Much like Dartmouth, they just barely missed out on the NCAAs, but they had a more direct route since they played in the ECAC Championship, where they were thoroughly dismantled by high-flying Yale, proving that, yes, speed does kill. And, for what it's worth, that loss was the last element to fall into place for RPI to make the national tournament.

Mike Schafer has always had a keen eye for talent that will play his system well, and last year the team had a bit of adjustment to make in assimilating freshmen and a pair of goaltenders. This year, they won't have the adjustment to make in net, although there will not be a rotation this year as Mike Garman left the program with one year of eligibility remaining. That means Iles, who split time with Garman last year, will be the man for the Big Red. He's got lots of talent - he'll be on the World Junior Championship team again this year - but last year seemed a bit vulnerable at times. Then again, he was a freshman, and they're sometimes prone to early struggles.

Offensively, a lot of the top scorers from last year are gone, namely, both of the Devins and Roeszler, but there's plenty returning. Miller was the lead scorer based primarily on his solid contributions in the assist column (25 on the year), and expect to see a jump in goals from Collins and Jillson.

Then there's the incoming freshman class, which is among the best if not the best in the league. Ferlin and Hudon are two names you're going to be hearing a lot of in the coming years, and incoming d-men Ryan and MacDonald promise to add to the litany of Cornell blueliners who contribute immensely to making their goaltenders look like the next Ken Dryden year-in and year-out.

Basically, given all we've ever come to expect from Cornell, combined with what they've got and what they're bringing in, it should come as no surprise that the Big Red will be among the best teams in the ECAC once again.

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