Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of the Big Red Sports Network, which provides excellent Cornell sports coverage throughout the year for alumni, parents, students and fans everywhere.
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Before he set off for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Philadelphia Flyer’s AHL affiliate, Cole Bardreau sat down with BRSN to discuss his time with the Cornell Big Red:
The senior forward signed a two-year contract with the Flyers last week, capping off a season where he led the team in scoring with five goals and seventeen assists. A native of Fairport, NY, he notched 18 goals and 35 assists in four seasons on the Hill, and helped lead team USA to a gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championships.
A few days after Cornell’s season ended, Bardreau said he got a chance to visit the Flyer’s facilities and front office. Upon receiving the news that he had an offer from the team, he admitted he was, “basically in shock”, saying that the feeling at the time was “indescribable”. When asked what about the Flyers organization that particularly appealed to him, he responded that they “saw me as a player the same way I see”, such as one with grittiness and tenacity, who can bring an edge and a lot of energy to a team.
Bardreau also discussed how’s he grown and improved as a player during his four years in Ithaca. He admitted that he played “like a chicken with his head cut off” as a freshman, and credited Coach Schafer and the rest of the staff for helping him with his decision-making and control of the game. He also pointed to the family-like atmosphere of the hockey team as a reason he felt he was able to succeed, saying it will be the aspect about Cornell he will miss the most.
However, Bardreau’s path to professional hockey to this point has been anything but easy. Describing his college and overall hockey career as “a lot of ups-and-downs”, he has experienced both exceptional highs and debilitating lows. He mentioned the NCAA tournament his freshman year, when a Rodger Craig overtime goal helped Cornell pull of a stunning upset vs. #2 Michigan in the first round when asked about his most memorable game as a player. He also brought up each of the last two Harvard games at Lynah Rink. The Big Red won 3-2 last year on senior night in the final minute of overtime, and then beat their archrivals again this year in a 3-2 upset victory, when Eric Freschi scored the game-winner with just 40 seconds remaining.
But even with these moments, Bardreau still remembers many of the down times he’s had to endure. He mentioned this year’s shocking loss to defending national Union in the ECAC playoffs and narrowly missing the NCAA tournament last season, and of course, his neck injury. He fractured his C-7 vertebrae in both the front and back of his neck after receiving an illegal check at RPI during his sophomore year. Even though he finished that game, the injury forced him to miss the rest of the season, all of this happening just a few weeks after impressing scouts en route to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships. However, he said he refused to let the injury get the best of him, and said he used it “for more motivation to become a better player.”
The injury was yet another reason for people to doubt the potential and abilities of Bardreau. Despite being an alternate captain, he was the only undrafted player on the 2013 US Junior Hockey Team. Whether it be his injury history, or his slight frame (he is listed at 5’10), he has not let any of these doubts hold him back. He said how he cherishes the role of underdog, after “having been doubted my whole career”, and anticipating more as he gets to the next level. For players going down a similar path, he encourages them to use criticism and doubts as motivation to become a better player, and not to let them put you down.
As Bardreau prepares to embark on the next step of his career, he is looking forward to starting his professional career. While he half-jokingly admitted he was looking forward to not having to do schoolwork as a pro, he will cherish his time at Cornell. Whether it be the family-like culture of team, or the “incredible feeling” of playing in front of the Lynah Faithful, he has a lot to look back on as he continues his pursuit for his life-long dream of playing in the NHL.