ITHACA, N.Y. — By guiding ECAC Hockey’s youngest team to a Cleary Cup and the nation’s best winning percentage entering league championship weekend, Mike Schafer has been named the ECAC Hockey Tim Taylor Coach of the Year.
After opposing coaches and media pundits alike picked Cornell to finish third in ECAC Hockey this year in preseason polls, the Big Red developed into a juggernaut that went 17-3-2 in league play to win the regular-season championship. It’s the fourth time the Big Red has finished atop the league tables in Schafer’s 23 years at the helm, and the first time since 2005.
This is the fourth time Schafer, the Jay R. Bloom Head Coach of Men’s Hockey, has won the league’s annual top coaching honor. The other three times, 2002, 2003 and 2005, came in a four-year span that re-established the Big Red as one of the premiere programs in the conference. Many statistical superlatives from this season correlate with that period of Cornell hockey history.
Schafer’s calling card has been prominent again this year, with Cornell leading the nation in team defense by surrendering a paltry 1.45 goals against per game — on pace to be one of the stingiest seasons on record. But what’s brought the Big Red back to national contention this year has been a potent offense that’s already scored 100 goals through 31 games. That average of 3.22 goals per game is 10th in the country, and on pace to be Cornell’s best total since 2002-03.
Other finalists for this year’s Tim Taylor Award were Union’s Rick Bennett and Clarkson’s Casey Jones, the latter of whom will be across the rink for Cornell in the ECAC Hockey Championships this weekend at 1980 Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid. The Big Red takes on Princeton at 4 p.m. Friday in the first semifinal, while Clarkson and Harvard meet in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. The winners then meet in the championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.