(Lake Placid, March 14) This is the way it's supposed to be. Cornell and Harvard play for the ECAC championship; the winner goes to the NCAAs; the loser stays home. Going into today's play, Cornell knew that they were just barely over the line for qualifying for the NCAA tournament. So as long as a lower ranked team (Harvard in the ECAC or Providence in Hockey East) didn't win their conference tournament, Cornell was likely to find themselves in Michigan next weekend for the West Regional. But after the Crimson upset ECAC favorites Vermont, in the first semifinal, Cornell needed them to lose, and once the Red had won to join them in the final, the only way that could happen was if Cornell won the ECACs themselves, picking up a berth regardless of the actions of Providence, Denver or anyone else.
In the early game the Catamounts came out flat against Harvard; Vermont couldn't seem to get the puck through the neutral zone unmolested, and when the Perrin-St. Louis-Ruid line did set up scoring chances, they couldn't solve Crimson netminder Tripp Tracy. Finally, trailing 1-0 and in the last minute of the period, Jan Kloboucek scored on the power play off of assists by, of course, Eric Perrin and Martin St. Louis. Sometime in the first period I made the observation that the secret to Vermont's success this season is that they have one line that scores about three goals a game and a goaltender (Tim Thomas) who gives up two. It was probably the most prophetic thing I said all night.
When Henry Higdon put the Crimson up 2-1 early in the second, I observed that Thomas had already reached his quota; St. Louis knotted the score less than a minute later, and Vermont seemed to be regaining some form. The Catamounts, with whom I had been fairly unimpressed for the first period or so, started to put together some pretty skating plays, and after Harvard made it 3-2 on the power play, St. Louis had a couple of point-blank shots on Tracy in the span of several minutes before finally tying the contest at 18:16 of the second.
It felt then like the tide had turned; Vermont had regained their offensive poise, and despite never having led, looked ready to take the game back. I predicted that St. Louis would complete his hat trick with the game winning goal. This was the least prophetic thing I said all night, as the Cats were held to a handful of shots in the third, and Ethan Philpott put in the winning goal for the Crimson. In the end, the St. Louis line scored their three goals, but UVM gave up twice the two they were alotted, and that was the difference. The image of the game for me was during the post-game handshakes; as the line of Catamounts proceeded down the line of Crimson, St. Louis stayed down on one knee at the end of the line for about 20 seconds. With two goals and an assist, the Hobey Baker finalist was the star of the game for Vermont, but it wasn't enough.
The late game, between middle seeds Cornell and Clarkson, pitted two teams with long and storied histories, both alone and with one another. From the start, Cornell's Sophomore goalie Jason Elliott came up huge. Midway through the first, after Jamie Papp put the Red up 1-0, P.C. Drouin and Matt Cooney went off within under a minute, to give the Golden Knights a 5-on-3 power play. So the Cornell penalty kill went to work. (At this point, the Big Red special teams are so impressive that there's hardly any air of danger after a penalty. From a fan's point of view, it's very comforting to be able to say "Oh well, they'll kill it off." From the players' of course, that could get dangerous.) While Cornell is becoming known for aggressive shorthanded play, there's only so much you can do 3-on-5, and Clarkson peppered a barrage of shots at Elliott, all of which he turned aside. It was shaping up to be one of those nights.
In the second Cornell made it 2-0 on a power play of their own when a Clarkson player batted an airborne puck into his own net with a high stick. It was also in the second that the Ammian-and-Murphy show began to take over the game. First they called a Cornell penalty and ignored the headlock that a Clarkson player put on in retaliation. Then an apparent Cornell goal was waved off when it was ruled that the net came off its moorings before the goal went in. (From where I sat, that actually looked like a good call, but I feel justified in yelling at Harry Ammian from the upper deck in light of later events.)
On into the third, it became ludicrous as first Ammian then Murphy (same last name as Golden Knight netminder Dan Murphy; coincidence, or conspiracy?) ignored a number of blatant fouls committed before their eyes by Clarkson, but didn't fail to make two borderline calls against Cornell. Again, it's nice to have a good penalty kill in this situation. When the Red scored shorthanded (I think that one was on a dive) to go up 3-0, we knew it didn't matter. Cornell was ready beat Clarkson, the refs, and the whole Adirondack region if necessary. Finally at that point the refs began to distribute their bad calls evenly, as they began to ignore Cornell infractions more serious than the ones they'd previously called, and actually began whistling Clarkson as well. I was afraid that the match would erupt into a brawl, and it seemed like linesman Emmantian was doing the lion's share of breaking up potential confrontations. At any rate, calmer heads prevailed, as did the Red, notching Elliott's second career shutout.
The fan situation on Day One: first, let me say it was a joy to have four bands in the building, after seeing two tournaments (Great Western Freeze-Out and Denver Cup) with no bands. In the early game, Vermont clearly had the majority of the house, and their fans were spread evenly around the arena. The UVM pep band seems to consist of an electric bass, a drum set and four horns. I was more impressed by their cowbell than anything else. But they had the whole arena in on "Go Cats Go", both as a chant and a cowbell cadence. Harvard brought what looked like around a dozen crimson-blazered musicians. Unfortunately, I'd have been hard-pressed to find a dozen vocal Harvard fans. Towards the end there were more Cornell fans cheering for Harvard than audible Harvard fans. In fact, the Cornell contingent, which was about half there at the time, took it upon themselves to attempt to show up both Vermont's and Harvard's fans. So the "Go Cats Go" cowbell cadence was followed up by Cornell's "Fight!" cowbell cadence, and chants of "Let's Go Red" broke out periodically. When the Cornell fans chanted "O-ver-rat-ed" at the beginning of the game I got the feeling it was directed not at the Vermont or Harvard team, but the Vermont fans. By the end of the game, the Faithful were riding Vermont hard, chanting "Cats Go Home" and the like. (Martin St. Louis actually looked up at the Cornell supporters then, but they didn't make him pay for his mistake.)
For the late game, both Cornell and Clarkson brought noisy groups, and it was hard to compare them to Vermont's, since they were mostly confined to their designated corners of the arena. Clarkson's band also contains an amplified bass guitar (What is it with those? UCSB's basketball band has two.), but the rest of the band was large enough that it didn't dominate. They also had a repertoire remarkably similar to The Mr. Squishy Show's playlist, including "Caravan", "Sing, Sing, Sing" and "Powerhouse". The Clarkson fans were diligent in chanting "Let's Go Tech", but every time it started, the Cornell fans started up "Let's Go Red". From where I was standing, we seemed to drown them out, but I don't know how it sounded from a neutral vantage point. After the razzing the Cornell fans gave Vermont, I expected their fans to stick around and root against the Big Red. But if they did, it was in a pretty subdued fashion. (An amusing moment came up between periods when some local radio personality asked who in the crowd was for Cornell and who for Clarkson, then if there were any UVM supporters still around. He didn't ask for Harvard fans, since there weren't any to begin with. I presume that in addition to Cambridge being the longest trip to Lake Placid, many Crimson backers didn't have a good idea they'd even make the ECACs, with a 6th place finish.)
Now for the Cornell fans. When I called and bought my tickets from the Olympic Center Box Office on Monday all I could get were upper level seats. For the first game Mom and I moved down to join Hockey-Ler Paulette Dwen '89 and her friends in Section 23, which was adjacent to the band in section 24; we also visited with Jeff Anbinder '91 (who lamented later that his press pass didn't give him an actual seat!) and Kristin Caruso '96, whom I'd met at the Denver Cup (and who seemed remarkably unsurprised to see me). So we weren't in the thick of the most vocal Faithful (besides which I at least was rooting against Harvard rather than Vermont). Between games the lower deck filled in, and Mom and I decided to move back up to our seats in Section 63, which was directly above Section 24. Surprisingly, this left us more a part of the faithful, since sections 25 and 63 stood, while 23 sat. Mom and I were standing right at the railing, and we were able to pick up the cheers from the middle of the faithful and carry them to the upper deck. Plus we had the upper deck view. So these were surprisingly good seats for the Cornell game. Tomorrow we're in Section 64, one over, but we may try to move into 63. Interesting Cornell cheers from the Consolation, mostly towards the end:
Tomorrow's consolation game pits the two ECAC teams already bound for the NCAAs, Vermont and Clarkson, while the Cornell-Harvard final is for, among many other things, the right to be the third ECAC squad with a shot at Cincinnati.
(Lake Placid, March 15) The third-place game of the 1996 ECAC tournament featured the matchup anticipated for the final, Clarkson and Vermont. The Catamounts once again got three goals out of their top line, with JC Ruid scoring on the power play and Perrin and St. Louis each posting a goal and two assists. Clarkson's power play continued to be dismal, as they failed to convert on six opportunities, including over a minute of 5-on-3. The team of Dell and Noeth (when their names were announced, a number of Cornell fans cried out, "Oh [expletive], we've got Ammian and Murphy again!") called this game much tighter than last night's Harvard-Vermont semi. When they had the gall to call Martin St. Louis for roughing, the Vermont fans began to chant "We want Pierre!" in reference to notorious ECAC official Pierre Belanger.
According the the formula for Vermont's success, St. Louis and company did their part again this afternoon by scoring their allotted three goals. Thomas did his part by making 37 saves and allowing only a single tally, a shorthanded marker late in the second. On the whole, it wasn't a terribly exciting game (one Cornell supporter said he slept in his seat and only woke up when Vermont scored), but it gave the many UVM fans something to cheer about. Again I was impressed more by the quantity of Vermont support than the intensity, with the exception of a few pockets. The band seemed about twice as big as last night. (Someone told me at breakfast that the UVM pep band is mostly non-students; is this true?)
Once again the Cornell fans were a presence in the early game; this time Mom and I had the foresight to sit in the midst of the Faithful and participate fully in the cheers. Only a few "Let's Go Red" cheers this time, but the cowbell was active in showing up the Vermont fans. By the time the consolation ended, the animosity between Cornell and Vermont supporters was extremely impressive, considering they never played one another' this weekend. The Cornell fans again taunted St. Louis and Perrin ("Short--Shorter! Short--Shorter!"), and some of us joined the Clarkson crowd in chanting "Let's Go Tech!" Late in the game there was even a "Let's Go Tech" cheer started by the Cornell section itself. It seems extremely unlikely, but if Cornell gets the #6 seed in the East and Vermont their anticipated #2, a potential Cornell-UVM showdown in Albany would be incredible. (Not that Cornell deserves anything but 5W, but you never know with the selection committee.)
Cornell came out for the final to a roar of fan support, but the upstart Crimson shocked the crowd by scoring in the first minute of the game, before the Big Red's fans had finished singing "O Canada". After giving up a goal on the first shot, Elliott looked tentative for the early part of the game, making a few unconvincing saves and having a few wide shots whistle by him before settling down. Harvard once again clogged down their opponents' offensive attack in the neutral zone, and for their part had a lot of opportunities for deflections with a man in front of the net. The Big Red also gave the puck away in their own zone a number of times. Cornell would eventually establish their game of forechecking, forcing a few defensive turnovers of their own.
The Red tied the game on a freakish goal, when Tracy stopped a shot, but the puck rolled up his chest and over his shoulder. By the time he realized it was behind him, it was in the net. (If I recall from the radio broadcast, Cornell scored a similar goal against the Crimson at the Bright Center in February.)
Elliott, once he recovered from the early goal, had another fine night in the nets, but the save of the game came from a defenseman. In the second period, after the Red had gone up 2-1 on Mike Sancimino's goal, Elliott found himself out of position during a Harvard rally. Steve Wilson covered the other half of the net and blocked two quick shots for what would have been the tying goal. As the puck was finally cleared, the Cornell corner (at the other end of the ice) erupted, and the chant went up: "Ste-vie Wil-son!"
Ammian and Murphy were not as bad tonight as in the quarterfinal, although they were still inconsistent in which infractions they were willing to overlook. For instance, when Ethan Philpott cross-checked a Cornellian near the boards, they whistled both him and the played who retaliated against him, which was exactly the penalty they failed to call against Clarkson last night. Late in the first period, with a delayed penalty on Cornell, the Crimson pulled Tracy for the extra attacker. The only problem was that they put on two extra attackers, giving them seven. The refs didn't call the penalty immediately, and it was only after an extended conference (during which I started the "Kill Schafer Kill" chant, heard several times in each game) that the bench minor was assessed. Again, the officiating did not hurt Cornell, as their shorthanded unit was perfect for the second night in a row.
Cornell got what appeared to be a much-needed insurance goal in the second when Wilson's one-timer sailed in untouched from the point. The goal was waved off, however, as Geoff Lopatka was called for interference. (I believe that was when I finally heard the forbidden "... munch munch munch" cheer; I won't repeat it in this forum, but the beginning was "The refs are out to lunch...") Cornell killed the penalty, and when the time expired, Lopatka skated out of the box full steam across the ice to break up a Harvard pass at the point and tip it out of the zone. The crowd exploded.
The third period was a bit of a standoff, with the Red never setting up the goal that would give them a two-goal cushion, and the Crimson never putting in the tying tally. The last minute or two of the game was played in the Cornell end, with the Red never getting near the empty net. As the final horn sounded, Elliott was mobbed in the goal.
The postgame festivities were like a party for Cornell. The crowd ate up Elliott as tournament MVP, and as the players were announced one by one, chants broke out with varying success. As they moved up in the numbers and 18 approached, someone next to me said, "here it comes, baby..." Number 18, Mike Sancimino. As one, the crowd cried, "SANCIMINO!" Being numbers 30 and 39, Elliott and Skazyk were announced last, and the crowd cheered with all they had left. Eddy may end his senior year on the bench, but he will always be remembered as the goalie who beat Harvard first, back in November. Schafer was of course the crowd favorite, with many cheers of "Thank you Scha-fer" and one "Kill Schafer Kill". (In fact, the Cornell fans had cheered his first appearance in the tunnel during each days early game.)
We were a bit worried about the fan situation going into the final; of course the Cornell section had no trouble getting up for a championship game against Harvard (some had been cheering for their arch-rivals in the semifinal with Vermont last night to set up the showdown), but the Crimson had very few fans in Lake Placid. Fortunately, this time some of the 3,000 UVM fans in attendance did stick around to root against the Red. Most notable were the contingent behind the goal between the Cornell and Clarkson corners, who had played one of the much-maligned "Go Cats Go" cowbells. Speculation afterwards was that they were still offended by the "Safety Bell" taunts and the "Good Bell--Bad Bell" oneupsmanship from the Cornell cowbell. Harvard's band gave it the proverbial Old College Try, but were subjected to taunts of "We can't hear you".
Mom and I again stood in the upper deck and once again managed to move into section 63, directly behind the band. In my opinion, the spot we had on the railing, ten or fifteen feet above the highest concentration of Cornell fans, and with lots more behind us, was the best in the house.
On amusing note is that someone sitting in the next section wearing a Boston University jersey took objection to "that cheer" (Cornell, BU and Harvard fans know what I'm talking about) and shouted back something I couldn't quite make out, but I responded with the ammunition handed to me by last night's Hockey East semifinals, namely "Providence!". Afterwards, Mom said she thought he'd complained because he'd actually been rooting for Cornell (or at least against Harvard). Oh well, if you can't have fun with your rivals, with whom can you? And I think this weekend further defined the difference between a hockey rivalry and the seriousness of the real world. In one of the between-period promotions, a Cornell contestant was asked what he'd do with the money if he won, and said he'd donate part of it to the Travis Roy Fund.
Oh yes, and the fish report. During the consolation game, one
of the Cornell fans took out magic markers and drawing paper and made
a bunch of paper fish, which she taped up on the glass, but eventually
had to take down. I borrowed the markers to draw a couple of fish on
my notepad, one of which featured the inscription
K O P N E /\ /\
in imitation of the Christian IXThYS fish. As for real live--er, dead fish, there were exactly three thrown when Harvard came out, but a larger shower came down when the final horn sounded. After the game we went out for pizza with Beej and part of the KDR crowd, but no one ordered anchovies.