Lying in Wait at Lynah-Cornell Crazies Ready for Crimson
Two Cents Wurf
When the Harvard men's hockey team hits the ice at Cornell's Lynah Rink tonight, the icemen should get the kind of reception the Clantons gave the Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday at the O.K. Corral.
The Crimson (6-0, 4-0 ECAC) goes into the contest as the only undefeated Division I hockey team in the nation, while the Big Red boasts only a 3-3 (2-2 ECAC) slate.
But, as the saying goes, throw out the records and the stat sheets for this one.
Tomorrow night, Harvard visits Colgate, to take on the highly touted Red Raiders, but this weekend's focus is on Cornell.
The biggest event in Ithaca, N.Y. is the yearly visit of the Crimson, so the folks who stood in line overnight three months ago to purchase their Big Red season tickets want to get a healthy return on their time investment.
And if history is any indication, a good time at the rink means throwing huge dead fish on the ice, tying squabbling chickens to the Harvard net and jeering the visitors.
Most ECAC, schools have vocal fans who like to razz visiting goalies with "sieve" chants and the like.
But at least they wait until the game begins.
In Lynah the "sieves" will start raining down on Crimson netminder Grant Blair in warmups, as the 4100 fanatics salute each of the Harvard icemen who beat Blair with a practice shot.
Even the Big Red players get into the act. Last year, as the hosts were introduced, they skated out one by one and skidded to a halt at mid-ice, kicking up a spray of ice at the Crimson. Defenseman Mike Schafer topped off the display by cracking his stick over his helmet and furiously shaking the splinters at the visitors.
The Lynah story gets even more bizarre.
Crimson freshman Steve Armstrong who went to Ithaca High School is looking forward to a big homecoming celebration.
The left wing secured 40 tickets for his friends and family and the Armstrong clan had a big night at the rink planned, because Armstrong's sister, a champion teenage figure skater, was scheduled to perform between periods of the game.
But she won't.
According to Donald Armstrong, the girl's father, Cornell Coach Lou Reycroft advised her against skating tonight.
And while it seems crazy to think that they Lynah Fans would disrupt a young hometown girl's skating routine because her brother defected to the Harvard hockey team, Reycroft presumably knows the Big Red crowd as well as anyone.
Last year, the 4100 played a big role in the Harvard game.
The Crimson jumped all over the hosts and took a 4-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the contest.
Anywhere else in the known world the fans would shut up.
In Lynah they just got louder and inspired the Big Red to six consecutive scores over the next 45 minutes.
And a 6-5 win.
A victory that made Reycroft very happy.
"Anytime you beat those bastards [it's a big win]," he said after the contest.
For the Crimson a trip to Ithaca is not a matter not to be taken lightly.
"I was telling the freshman that if you can't get psyched for Cornell, you're never going to," says sophomore Tim Barakett.
"I like playing on the road," says Scott Fusco. "You can see the reaction of the fans when we score."
"We want to stuff it down their fans' throats," says right wing Tim Smith.
Smith, the Crimson's second leading scorer, will have his work cut out Saturday when he and freshman Lane MacDonald have to watch the Big Red try to refigure their center, Fusco.
Fusco has been drawing a lot of attention--and a lot of elbows--since he returned from playing on the U.S. Olympic team.
The reason the Crimson is undefeated can be directly attributed to his presence, but not just because he is the second leading scorer in the country with a 2.67 points-per-game average.
The key to the Crimson's success lies in its potent power play which has been converting at a unbelievable rate of 43.3 percent--after managing to score only 12.8 percent of the time last year.
The power play has been spearheaded by Fusco who does more than just lead the unit on the ice. The junior gets the Crimson a lot of extra-man opportunities when he gets hauled down by slap-happy opponents.
But the power play will have a new look this weekend Barakett will take over for the injured Rob Ohno (twisted ankle in practice) and Randy Taylor (separated shoulder against Western Ontario) at the right point.
The loss of the two might slow down a unit that has been clicking so smoothly.
"The people matter more than the set plays," Fusco says.
The Crimson feels it can outskate anyone, but the diminutive icemen can't beat anyone in a hitting contest, like the kind the Big Red likes to play.
"We talk about who's gonna protect who before each game," Smith said after an early contest. "It depends on who weight the most that day."
Smith and his linemates aren't gonna win any boxing matches but they can, if they get the chance, skate pretty little circles around their hulking opponents.
Last weekend, when the Crimson travelled to Canada, the icemen encountered a pair of big, hard-hitting squads in the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario.
Nonetheless, the icemen were able to elude the blows and earn two satisfying victories.
"They [Western Ontario] manhandled us," Barakett says. "When we skated the game was over."
The Crimson is going to have to get more production out of Barakett's second line if it is to top Cornell and Colgate.
The icemen have been relying on Fusco's first unit for the bulk of their offensive production, but the return of freshman wing Andy Janfaza from a shoulder injury should help the Barakett line.
"Everyone wants to jump in and score," Barakett says. "No one is in the corners.
"Now I'll let those big wingers [Janfaza and Pete Chiarelli] dig in the corners and I'll stay in the slot."
But the big question tonight is not really whether Janfaza can revitalize the second line, but whether the icemen can play their skating game with twenty players and a rink full of crazed fans breathing down their necks.
Forty-one hundred and twenty who'll be asking the Crimson, "Come on, make my year."