Under new head coach Tom Cranfield, the Cortland Red Dragons are off to a 3-0 start.
How did they get there? Hard work.
After downing Potsdam and Fredonia in the SUNYAC Challenge, Cranfield said, “I don’t know if we’re as talented as those teams, but we worked very hard.”
That work ethic is something Cranfield has stressed to his team: “We take everything game by game and day by day. We try to break games into periods and periods into shifts and try to make them as small as we can and just try to instill a positive work ethic.”
More Than Just Hard Work
Cortland returns a roster of players who made it to the playoffs for the first time since Cranfield played for the team in the early ’90s.
“[The four seniors] have taken a lot of pride in that, and a lot of ownership, too. They were here when they won three games in their first year,” said Cranfield.
With nine freshmen and five sophomores, the rookie coach is depending on the leadership of his veterans to help with the development of his underclassmen.
“Trevor Bauer is one of our captains, and I’ll tell you what, there’s not a kid with better character. I think that’s important, especially when you have the number of young kids we have. While we feel we have a great young team … our senior leadership is right where we want it to be, so I think that’s going to mean a lot later in the careers of these freshmen and sophomores.”
Goaltending is the team’s biggest strength, according to Cranfield.
“I think with John Larnerd, and with a good backup in Mark Paine as well, we can steal some games with our goaltending.”
Cranfield is effusive in his praise of Larnerd: “I have had the privilege of working with some Division I goalies who have just entered college, and John is quite an athlete. He works hard at it, and he’s a focused kid, and I think his numbers speak for themselves. He’s just a great athlete and he works too hard to be denied. It’s early and I don’t know all that much about him. But he stops the puck, I know that.”
Seven of the team’s top ten scorers are back, and Cranfield is pleased with the depth he has on offense. “I don’t see a lot of difference between our third and fourth lines; we’ve got a lot of skilled guys. You’ve got to play four [lines] if you can. I think it makes a big difference come third period.”
Cranfield said that the area his team needs to work on the most is on defense.
“I think we struggle defensively. I think we need to get stronger, and work on conditioning.”
Cranfield wants to keep his team from leaning too much on its goaltending: “We need to tighten up in our defensive zone and make teams work for what they get.”
What Lies Ahead
While Cranfield is happy with the start of this season, he’s not willing to look too far down the road.
“We don’t want to jump the gun and make any predictions yet, I’ll tell you that. We want to take it one game at a time and what happens, happens.”
Strong goaltending, hard work, and some young talent can put Cortland back in the playoffs this year.