On Friday at 7:30 p.m., the Red will take on the Crimson in Atlantic City, N.J. No. 2 seeded Cornell and No. 3 seeded Harvard will face off at Boardwalk Hall in the ECAC Hockey championship semifinals. The winner of this match-up will move on to the league championship the following day.
“We’re excited we have an opportunity to win a championship,” said sophomore goaltender Andy Iles. “Not many teams have that opportunity, so we are cherishing it and taking advantage of it.”
Last weekend, the Red swept its quarterfinal series against Dartmouth at Lynah Rink. Harvard had more of a struggle, losing the first game of its series to Yale, winning the second in double overtime, and finally coming away from the weekend with a strong 8-2 finish over the Bulldogs on Sunday.
Cornell defeated Harvard, 4-2, back in November on the road, but when the Ivy rivals met again at Lynah in January, the end result was a 2-2 tie.
“[Harvard is] a really good team. They thrive on their special teams. They have a really good power play, we are going to need to be really disciplined and not take in penalties,” Iles said. “When we do take penalties, we are going to be really disciplined in our kill. They are offensive minded and pretty aggressive, so we may have to slow down the game a bit.”
If the Red is able to win on Friday night, it will face either top-seeded Union or fourth-seeded Colgate in the ECAC Hockey championships. Winning the league title would also secure the Red an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“We are just focusing on Friday night right now,” said junior defenseman and alternate captain Nick D’Agostino. “We are looking at Harvard and really sticking to our game plan against them … Whether it’s Union or Colgate in the finals, it doesn’t matter. We know when we are playing on our game we can beat any team in this league.”
An important part of Cornell being on its game is having support in the net from Iles. According to head coach Mike Schafer ’86, Iles has been producing even better results lately than he has been all season.
“Andy has been good all year long, [but] he’s been outstanding,” he said. “He’s been consistent, but last week I just felt there was an extra edge to his game where he was even sharper. I think that he has raised his level of performance.”
Schafer went on to discuss how crucial that is as the team continues to play in the post season.
“He has been very very sharp,” he added. “You need that — if you look back on all the championships we’ve had, the goaltenders have always played a major part in it. And they have to. You’re not going to get through without those guys playing well in each of these two games.”
This will be the fifth consecutive year that Cornell is competing in the ECAC semifinals.
“I think there’s a certain comfort level with some of our older guys,” D’Agostino said. “Our seniors have played in the championship game three years in a row, this could be their fourth time, us juniors [have played] twice, our sophomores were there last year too. It’s new and exciting for our freshmen but for our older guys, we know what to expect — we know the routine.”
Win or lose, the Red still has many recent accomplishments to celebrate. On Thursday, freshman forward Brian Ferlin was honored with the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Year award. Ferlin — also the Ivy League Rookie of the Year — was also named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team. Cornell has not had an ECAC Rookie of the Year recipient since Riley Nash, who won the honor in 2008. D’Agostino and Iles were placed on the All-ECAC Hockey Second Team as well.