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Everyone has their own favorite college sports rivalries: Duke-UNC, Army-Navy. For Ivy League hockey fans, the Cornell-Harvard match-up is one of the oldest and most famous, and it continues to live up to the hype. On January 25th, 2020, this rivalry continued at Lynah Rink in Ithaca, NY in front of a pumped-up crowd of 4,267 fans.

The Harvard Crimson hockey team first faced-off against the Cornell Big Red in 1910 in New York City. In the early years, the Crimson dominated the rivalry, in part because the team practiced on an indoor rink while the Big Red was limited to Beebe Lake. In 1957, everything changed when Lynah Rink was built on the Cornell campus and the “Lynah Faithful”, the name given to the Big Red fan base, was born. The modern rivalry began in 1962 when goalie Laing Kennedy saved 48 shots to clinch Cornell’s 2-1 victory against Harvard. This was the first time Cornell had beaten Harvard since 1911.

Soon, the behavior of the fans intensified on both sides. In 1973, Crimson hockey fans threw dead chickens at Cornell’s goalie and tied a dead chicken to the goal post to mock Cornell's College of Agriculture. Cornell fans retaliated by throwing dead fish onto the ice. According to Brandon Thomas, Assistant Director of Athletic Communication for Cornell, most people think the fish symbolize Boston harbor, but the fans really just wanted to throw something smelly.

Due to bag checks, sneaking in fresh fish is not as easy as it once was in previous years. Students either try to hide them in their jackets or sneak them into bathrooms and air ducts up to a week before the event, creating a fishy odor in the arena. For season ticket holder Stephanie Blodgett of Binghamton, NY, this game is an “absolute must-see since the flying fish are part of the fun and excitement of the game”.

The atmosphere on January 25 was pumped-up. As the teams entered, the standing-room-only student sections erupted. Fresh fish and newspapers flew onto the rink. Both the United States and Canadian national anthems were played by the Cornell pep band to honor the many Canadian players on the Cornell team. Cornell fans enthusiastically cheered the “red” in the “rockets’ red glare.”.

“Those big rivalry games versus Harvard are always fun,” says junior goaltender and co-Ivy League Player of the Year, Matthew Galajda“The crowd especially brings the place to life. And as a player, you’re not changing the way you play, but the energy in the rink really makes the game twice as fun to play in.”

The beginning of the game was littered with huge hits and very physical play. Even though the first two periods were a stalemate with no goals scored, the Lynah Faithful never wavered in their die-hard support of their team” During the second intermission, Cornell honored the 1970 hockey team that went 29-0-0 during their season.

After a stalemate through most of the third period, the game got wild in the last five minutes. At 15:55 into the third period, Harvard freshman Jack Drury scored the first goal of the game, assisted by Casey Dornbach and Ryan Siedem. Cornell fought hard to level the game. Pulling their goalie during a power play to give them a two-man advantage, senior captain defensemen Yanni Kaldis passed it to sophomore forward Michael Regush, who tipped it past the sprawling goalkeeper. The Lynah Faithful went wild with deafening roars. In overtime, both teams looked more defensive, with No. 1 ranked Cornell tying with No. 16 ranked Harvard 1-1 after Overtime.

With the two teams not being able to play each other in the postseason due to COVID-19 concerns, they will have to wait another long off-season to taste the next chapter of this great rivalry. Until then, teammates will have to enjoy what junior defenseman Cody Haiskanen says is the best reason to play for #1 ranked Cornell hockey: “the family-like bond that creates friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.” 

Photo credit: Eldon Lindsay/Cornell Athletics