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The Cream of the Crop . . .

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

After a series of flip-flops at random junctures cost Cornell a shot at an ECAC title last season, consistency will be the key to the Hunt for a Red March this year.

"To begin with, we need to start off better than last year," Cornell Coach Brian McCutcheon said. "Certainly there were times during the course of games where we were not as consistent as we would've liked to have been. By Christmas, we adjusted and went 12-2 from then on. I'd like to see us play that kind of hockey all year."

CORNELL

1989-90 Record: (12-7-3 ECAC, 16-10-3 overall)

Coach: Brian McCutcheon

Captains: Dan Ratushny, Doug Derraugh

Cornell skates into the season looking deeper than any other ECAC team at nearly every position. Witness the Big Red netminders. Hartford Whalers supplemental pick Jim Crozier saved 90 percent of inbound shots for a 2.47 goals-against-average, good for third in the ECAC and first among returning netminders. Corrie D'Alessio (3.36 GAA, .878 SP) finished a nifty sixth in the league and will alternate with Crozier.

As if a tight net weren't enough, Cornell returns at least as strong a blue line as the one that finished second in team defense at 3.14 goals per game last year. All-ECAC defender Dan Ratushny (5-14--19) captained the Team Canada junior squad to a world championship last year. The Cornell co-captain will anchor the Big Red defensive core. Watch for junior Paul Dukovac, sophomore Etienne Belzile--the Calgary Flames' second-round pick--and freshman Parris Duffuf--the St. Louis Blues' eight-round pick--to help Ratushny close out opposing attackers.

Look for Cornell supersophomores Kent Manderville and Ryan Hughes (7-16--23), senior Joe Dragon (15-24--39) and Co-Captain Doug Derraugh (16-13--29) to make up for the loss of second-leading scorer Ross Lemon and help a dismal seventh-place team offense break out of the gate. ECAC Rookie of the Year Manderville (11-15--26)--a second-round Flames' selection in 1989--looms as Cornell's greatest scoring threat because of his size, explosive speed and power.

No wonder the Big Red has been picked near the top of the polls by most analysts.

"This is not the type of league where you can predict who is going to win," McCutcheon replied. "Our players have matured to realize how many good teams there are out there. The players know you can't take anybody lightly."

After Colgate lost by four goals to Wisconsin in last year's NCAA finals, Coach Terry Slater lost everything but his house.

ECAC first-team goalie Dave Gagnon (2.22 goals-against-average, .902 save percentage) inked a million-dollar multi-year pro contract. The mainstay's of Slater's top two offensive lines have graduated. But the Red Raiders are returning strong. They've already knocked off top-ranked B.U., 9-6, in Boston this year.

COLGATE

1989-90 Record: (18-3-1 ECAC, 30-6-1 overall)

Coach: Terry Slater

Captain: Steve Poapst

Those recalling Colgate's 6-1 win over Harvard last year will remember Greg Menges' netminding heroics after Gagnon was sidelined with a head injury. In limited action last season, Menges and Kenny Baker both had save percentages comparable to the league's best. But Slater has his doubts about his goalies' abilities.

"Menges is a question mark," Slater said. "Neither he nor Baker played that well in our opening games. I believe in one goaltender. This is the first time I've played two goaltenders."

Craig Woodcroft (20-26--46), Bob Haddock (3-14--17) and Marc Dupere (23-29--52)--the ECAC leader in shorthanded goals--highlight the Red Raiders' returning forwards.

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