Puck Preview: Cornell

Submitted by Brian on March 20th, 2012 at 3:52 PM

CornellBigRed[1]The Essentials 

WHAT Michigan vs Cornell
WHERE Green Bay, heart of the CCHA
WHEN 8:05 Eastern Friday
LINE College hockey lines, junkie?

It's a bear.


Record. 18-8-7, 12-4-6 ECAC. The Big Red were a clear #2 to the dominant Union Dutchmen in the ECAC this year, finishing two and a half games clear of third-place Harvard and putting up a +20 goal differential in conference. Union was a whopping +38(!) and Yale was somehow +13 despite finishing .500 in ECAC play; no other league team topped +5.

They made the ECAC semis but then got smoked by Harvard* 6-1:

They bounced back with a 3-0 win over Colgate in the consolation game.

Cornell made the tournament with defense, giving up only 2.1 goals per game in the league. Their offensive numbers were middle of the pack, as per usual. Cornell has been built on tight checking and excellent goaltending since I've been following college hockey.

As an Ivy, Cornell played an abbreviated schedule but the shorter ECAC league schedule did allow them some opportunities to test themselves against teams across college hockey. Results were mixed, with losses to Mercyhurst (a barely above .500 Atlantic Hockey team) and UMass (a 13-18-5 Hockey East team) against a win over Niagara and an old-style three-point weekend against Colorado College. They also lost in overtime to BU at Madison Square Garden.

For what it's worth, KRACH really does not like the ECAC this year. One-seed Union would be the last team in the tournament if it was used to seed the field; Cornell would not even be on the bubble at #22. The nearest CCHA team is #19 Lake Superior, if you're looking for a conference analog.KRACH overrates schedule strength considerably, but the ECAC's performance in the tournament of late reinforces the skepticism of pure math. The 2003 edition of Cornell was the last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four. Atlantic Hockey and the CHA—which doesn't even exist any more—have been more recently.

*[That is courtesy RPI TV, which provides ludicrously high-quality streaming video of various RPI sporting events. Paging Dave Brandon to aisle Something Fans Actually Want.]

Previous meetings. None. How about…

Common opponents. Few. Both beat Niagara in one-off games; Michigan's win was by a more comfortable margin than 1-0. Michigan annihilated St. Lawrence; Cornell swept them but won only 1-0 and 4-3 in overtime. On the other hand, Michigan got crushed by Union at Yost at the tail end of their terrible streak earlier this year. Cornell got a win and a tie out of two games.


Greg Miller is three points short of a PPG.

Dangermen. If the point totals for the Big Red's leading scorers don't seem impressive, keep in mind that they've only played 33 games to Michigan's 40. They're just above average in scoring at 2.9 goals per game. (Michigan is a tie for tenth with North Dakota at 3.25.)

In any case, Cornell has two guys around a PPG, junior Greg Miller (14-16-30) and senior Sean Collins (13-11-24). Collins was a Blue Jackets seventh-round pick in '07, FWIW. Both of those guys are very good at staying out of the box, with just nine minors between them on the season, but it's Miller who drives the bus. They center the top two lines: Miller is +20, Collins +4. Brian Ferlin (8-13-21 and +15 in just 26 games) appears to be another top line guy along with John Esposito (7-8-15 in 22 games, +13). [UPDATE: Cornell fans mention that Ferlin is out with an injury.]

After the big two, Cornell has a bunch of guys between six and eight goals on the year. Two are defensemen; six are forwards. Cornell's scoring goes three lines deep but lines two and three are not outfits you really have to gameplan for.


Defenseman Nick D'Agostino is dangerous on the PP when not getting kneed by opponents. (NH Register)

On the power play, watch out for defensman Nick D'Agostino. With six goals he's the Big Red's leading power play scorer.

Defense. Again, it's hard to extrapolate much here without watching Cornell play a ton. D'Agostino has all the power play points and Joakim Ryan also has 6-10-16; D'Agostino, Kirill Gotovets, and Braden Birch have all been drafted late. It's Birch and Gotovets with the big +/- numbers. Those two are either a shut-down top pairing or a second pair sheltered from the top lines of the ECAC by the high-scoring guys.

Goalie. Cornell starter Andy Iles is like an ECAC Hunwick. He's 5'8" and played every minute Cornell was on the ice this year save the five or so given up to Open Net. His save percentage isn't quite in Hunwick's stratosphere but it is a solid .918; his GAA is a hair over 2.1. CCHA comparables are OSU's Cal Heeter and MSU's Drew Palmisano, both of whom put in .918s this year.

The video from the Harvard game above was not Iles's best day but a couple of differences between him and Hunwick are immediately apparent. Hunwick is much more aggressive at coming out of his crease than Iles, and there was one goal where he waved his glove at a shot and missed entirely. I can't remember a glove side shot Hunwick had a shot at going in since the doom at the end of Fort Wayne.

It looks like there will be room over the shoulders for a Wohlberg, Brown, or Treais to snipe at.

Special teams. Your power plays per game:

Cornell Michigan
PP For / G 3.9 3.7
PP Ag / G 4.0 4.2

Cornell's penalty kill has been a major weakness all year. They're at 79% and are 48th of 58 teams. That's right: Cornell's PK is worse than Michigan's power play, which is 46th. The Big Red's power play isn't much better at 40th; Michigan's PK is a decent 13th. This is a rare game in which Michigan wouldn't mind a lot of penalties… as long as they're evenly distributed.

Michigan vs Those Guys

Single elimination hockey. Is insane.

Nowhere to hide. It's not exactly going up against North Dakota but Cornell has enough scoring depth that Clare and Chiasson/Serville will get thoroughly tested. ECAC teams are usually short on footspeed, which should help prevent the ugly shifts where those guys get caught in their own end for 90 terrifying seconds… but most of these guys can shoot and you know we're getting at least one of those.

Get the zone on the power play. One of the primary reasons Michigan's power play sucks out loud is they have no way to carry the puck into the zone and have been consistently poor at dumping, chasing, and setting up.

Against Cornell they'll be getting power play opportunities against one of the worst penalty kill teams in the country. If they can get set up, they can have success. Getting there has not been easy.

Pound, pound, pound. While Cornell is a big hockey team, the impression I've gotten from watching highlights against Harvard and BU is that they're pretty vulnerable to getting leveled. They may not be accustomed to the pace of play in leagues outside their own and Michigan may have an opportunity get turnovers in dangerous areas if they press hard.

Hunwick > Iles. Michigan goes up against Shawn Hunwick's ECAC doppelganger and should have an advantage in net. If they don't much of their expectation of victory evaporates. I'm not overly concerned about this since Hunwick's had maybe one or two bad games since Michigan removed its head from its rectum in December, but you know the drill: single elimination playoff hockey.

Pray. Here it comes. Drawing an ECAC team is usually good news. Still… pucks bounce.

The Big Picture

Win or die.

I'll have briefer capsules on Ferris State and Denver later in the week.



March 20th, 2012 at 4:20 PM ^

I am a Michigan transplant in Colorado Springs and a Colorado College season ticket holder.  I saw Cornell play CC twice this year.  Here is what I noticed.

1. Size.  Cornell was noticeably bigger than CC. Not just height, but wide bodies.  They were not very fast but were excellent at using their strength to knock CC off the puck.

2. Fitness.  Granted, the games were in the altitude, but CC skated circles around Cornell the third period of both games.  The fast play (and altitude) wore down Cornell, and allowing CC to dominate late in the games.  (This was in January, so their fitness could have changed by this point in the season)

3. Goalie.  Iles played out of his mind.  CC looked like the better team in both games, but Iles was spectacular, especially late in the games when Cornell was sucking wind.  He is the major reason they got any points that weekend.


March 20th, 2012 at 4:26 PM ^

I like our matchup but can't help but feel that uneasy feeling.  We lost our last game against WMU and that reminds me too much of our basketball team.  Sorry, can't help it. 


March 20th, 2012 at 4:57 PM ^

dang it brian, you finally use RPI (NTRPI) in a college hockey article and all of a sudden i realize i have started to assume it's "ratings percentage index".  converted against my will!!!


March 20th, 2012 at 5:12 PM ^

[sorry for the loooong comment, don't have enough points to diary]

i'm almost certainly the only person on here who's actually a Cornell season ticket holder (M alumnus, doing grad school here now). Brian didn't say anything inaccurate, but i figured i'd chip in a few additions:

overall, Cornell was a very solid team this year, definitely tournament-caliber. most of their losses were nights that they came out and looked inexplicably slow, distracted, and just plain bad for 60 minutes. (i didn't see last weekend's Harvard game, but by all accounts, it was one of them.) by the end of the first period on Friday, you'll know if it's one of those nights. otherwise, they will definitely contest the full 60.

Cornell does almost all of its work around the boards, and their neutral ice game is next to nonexistent. they are a dump and chase, dump and change type of team. in a dozen games that i made it to this year, i remember just a couple odd man rushes, and i think most of them were shorty attempts. Michigan should have no trouble keeping them from walking over the blue line in numbers.

on offense, Miller and Collins are the workhorses who have points in quantity. senior Locke Jillson doesn't show up on the scoresheet every day, but when he scores, the goals are pretty, high degree of difficulty pieces of work. John Esposito is your speedy midget — he's listed at 5'10" on the roster but that's either a joke or they measured him with skates on.

Iles is definitely solid, and it's a major benefit to have him as the all-time starter after unsuccesfully platooning him last year. he has a tendency to lackadaisically wander behind his own net. "ANDY GET IN THE NET" is frequently heard in the Lynah stands. Cornell also likes to have players stick-handle in their own crease when setting up a possession, which draws a lot of "AARGH" from me.

dunno what to say about the PK numbers. all i know is that ECAC refs make the Gongshow guys look like they know what they're doing. during a playoff game a couple weeks ago, Dartmouth got whistled offsides for carrying the puck into their own zone. it was the second overtime, but COME ON GUYS.

i have so much fear. it's very, very, very small consolation that i'll be watching the Saturday night game regardless of Friday's outcome. go blue.


March 20th, 2012 at 5:58 PM ^

but I have not been able to wrap my head around Michigan being a good team this year.  Maybe it's the lack of even a Carl or a Rust, much less someone like Hensick, Cammy, JMFJ, etc. Maybe it was the losing streak and I never quite got over it, maybe it was the last few weekends and how close even the wins were.  And the thing is, I know they have the #2 overall seed and I can justify that looking at the numbers and it makes sense to me, I can't think of a team I'm SURE is better, the only one that I would say might/probably be better is BC.  But I just can't see what is making Michigan a good team this year, except for maybe Hunwick (and obviously the coaching staff, but they don't actually play).  So, maybe they aren't a fantastic team.  But they've won a whole bunch of games, so they're definitely something and I think that something is they're clutch.  6-0 in overtime games and though that's a knock-on-wood statistic going into a single-elimination turnament if I've ever heard one, I think it says a lot.  I don't think Michigan has played in 6 OT games in the last 3 years before this one and I think they flat out lost most of them.  But this year they're finding a way to, if not win, at least not lose.  And since games can't go on for eternity, if they won't lose, Michigan has to win eventually.  So, even though I can't seem to make myself believe that Michigan is particularly great at hockey this year, even though they're in a single-elimination tournament where all sorts of pandemonioum has been known to occur and to Michigan more than most teams, I've still got Michigan going all the way to the final game, just because I can't think of anybody better.  I think they'll play BC there (when was the last time #1 met #2 in the NCAA hockey final?!) and BC might just be better.  But this is single elimination, so Michigan has a shot and Michigan has something a little extra, something that might be a little more important than being "great" and I'm not sure what it is, but I think it's enough to win.  Go Blue.  Win Championship #10


March 20th, 2012 at 9:07 PM ^

The former players you list were all great, but it wasn't Hagelin and Rust and Caporusso who got us to the final game last year and shut out North Dakota.  Or at least it wasn't their scoring; it was team defense and great goaltending.  (Although I'm haunted by the two-on-one that Carl and Louie had late in regulation in the title game last year.)

I'm not sure the team "D" is on quite as much as last year's team down the stretch, but that's what's going to be the main factor in whether we can get back to the title game and win it.  That's what Red coaches.  And the close games are much better prep for the tourney than blowouts.

Anyway, the Pairwise and RPI and KRACH aren't perfect, but there's a reason we're ranked number two in all of them, and I think it's accurate.  There have been no truly dominating teams this year, even BC.  And if you throw out an inexplicably bad stretch in November, Michigan has been as consistently good as anyone, at least in terms of wins and losses, and that's really what it's all about.  So we may not be a great team, but we're a pretty good team, and there's no other team who can really claim to be much more than that.

If you want to worry about anything, worry about the power play.  And of course, the somewhat arbitrary nature of single-elimination hockey.  Any of the teams in this tournament could win any game, and most of them could win it all.  But I'll take our chances with Hunwick.  Let's do this!


March 20th, 2012 at 9:47 PM ^

Michigan has had more dominant teams in the Berenson era who have not gotten any farther than the quarterfinals, so you just never know in hockey. If Hunwick gets hot and we get a little puck luck, anything can happen.


March 20th, 2012 at 5:58 PM ^

I will not mention Michigan's overtime record this year
I will not mention Michigan's overtime record this year
I will not mention Michigan's overtime record this year
I will not mention Michigan's overtime record this year
I will not mention Michigan's overtime record this year
I will not mention Michigan's overtime record this year
I will not mention Michigan's overtime record this year
I will not mention Michigan's overtime record this year


March 20th, 2012 at 7:13 PM ^

To say Green Bay doesnt like their hockey makes no sense.  St. Norbert, a private college here in gb, won the div 3 national championship last week


March 20th, 2012 at 7:40 PM ^

that Cornell was the team that Michigan faced that began their 22 year NCAA streak and that the roots of the chants heard at Yost were brought by Cornell. Michigan won that playoff series 2-1 (back in those days, it was campus sites for first round, best of three.)

Michigan went to Boston to play BU the following weekend and got hammered, but at least they were in the NCAA's after suffering through many years of not being there- including Berenson's first five years.

Michigan has played Cornell six times in their history going 3-2-1 against them, including those two wins and a loss in the 1990 NCAA tournament. Their last game vs Cornell was played at Yost in the 1996-97 season and they tied. Michigan has played every team in the ECAC in their history since they met Union this season for the first time. 

There are only three current division I teams (not including the Atlantic Hockey Association) that Michigan has never played in their history: U-Mass and Vermont from Hockey East and Minnesota State from the WCHA. The AHA has seven teams Michigan has yet to see action against, mostly due to their elevation to a division I program in the past ten or so years: RIT, Robert Morris, Canisius, American International, Sacred Heart and, probably the most surprising since they both have had a long hockey history- is Holy Cross and Army. 



March 20th, 2012 at 8:00 PM ^

Does anyone know which is the Michigan section at the Resch Center, and if there's a way to still get tickets in or near that section?

Also, if anyone is driving to Green Bay and wants to crash in Chicago on the way, you can stay at my place if you want to pick me up. I'll pay for gas for the Chicago to Green Bay leg and back.  Contact me at [email protected].  Thanks!  Go Blue!


March 20th, 2012 at 10:53 PM ^

The ECAC has won 3 national championships ever, and none since Harvard in 1989. I do not understand how they always seem to get one of the top seeds. I know the comittee uses the PWR, but this is why I think the KRACH is more accurate.

I guess I shouldn't be complaining, it means we get a team that might be a bit overrated.


March 21st, 2012 at 2:53 AM ^

I'm not an avid hockey fan but there are hocket players whom I can't get enough of. For example, if you want sure points and a strong defense, you have to go for D'Agostino. 


March 21st, 2012 at 8:03 AM ^

Is that nothing bad happens that causes me to accidentally wake up my 14 month old son.  So for his sake, I hope for a Game 7 of the 2002 NHL Western Conference Finals night, a 7-0 Gwen Stefani* of a game for the good guys.

*-Because there is no doubt.  I'll be leaving now.


March 21st, 2012 at 9:55 AM ^

I don't think Iles is an "ECAC Hunwick".  He's got a solid background.  He was on the U18s and was Campbell's backup at the 2011 WJC.  He's probably capable of stealing a game if he gets in the zone and is probably a big factor in Cornell's low GAA.


March 22nd, 2012 at 9:42 AM ^

We're on ESPNU, which has a game at 6:30 airing before ours. If that game runs over, assuming we start on time, I'm guessing we'll be a joined in progress situation. Anyone know of plans for coverage other than espn3?