Editor’s Note 1: 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.
Editor’s Note 2: Since writing, Andy Iles has signed with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL and is pursuing his pro career. He has since won his pro debut. He graduated with his classmates last summer.
This story is a look back at his time at and impact on Cornell.
Ithaca, N.Y. — The reigning Ivy League player of the year was slouched over in a gray Cornell hoodie and completely unaffected by his coach’s praise, the same praise that compared him to Cornell alum and current NHL starting goalie Ben Scrivens, who recently inked a $4.6 million deal. Positively unbothered.
Praise is not something head coach Mike Schafer usually doles out easily. Andy Iles, like so many others his age, was more interested in his phone. Like a lot of seniors, his job prospects might not be exactly what he hoped. Undrafted by the NHL, Iles is essentially a free agent during his last season on the hill.
You can forgive Andy if this is old hat by now. Every team needs a face and Andy’s been the face of his team for four years. The senior goaltender is as used to the media attention as anyone. One day before the playoffs, he wasn’t brought out to answer our questions for fear we’d never stop asking them.
Face of the team
Andy Iles is the obvious choice for face of the team. He’s a senior and an Ithaca native. Andy is the first Ithacan to play for his hometown Big Red in over two decades. Iles is a local kid who backstopped Ithaca High School to a state title, and he’s trying to do the same his last season at Cornell. Isles is also the consummate media savvy, all-around good guy, leader.
Playing goalie at Cornell carries expectations, maybe more so than any other school. The fraternity of Big Red goalies is headlined by Ken Dryden and littered with All-Americans. On top of that, Cornell is a notoriously challenging school. It was named the most stressful school in America by College Magazine, over military academies and BYU. Iles’ GPA is listed in the game notes (it’s 3.82). On top of all that, Andy Iles doesn’t have the commitment of an NHL draft pick. He’s trying to win a title and deal with everything that comes with, while proving himself as a pro prospect. It’s hard to imagine any college goalie, or player, having to deal with more than what senior Andy Iles has to deal with.
Nevertheless, the Cornell goalies deflect these expectations like an oncoming puck. “I’ve been in pressure situations growing up. Coming into junior teams that expect the most out of me,” explained fellow Cornell goalie and possible successor Mitch Gillam. “We’re the last line of defense so there’s that added pressure.”
Praise for Iles
His teammates and coaches offer nothing but praise of Iles.
“Doesn’t take a day off,” his backup Gillam said. “Love Andy! Great work ethic,” alum Greg Miller ‘13 told me via Twitter. Iles head coach raves, “How much more can one athlete give? And I think Andy has given in all those areas everything he’s got. It makes him a great player, but it makes him a great person, Cornellian, Ithacan. He covers every aspect.”
Isles doesn’t usually show much during a game. He’s very even keeled. Win or lose, he’s tough to read. Isles says thats just being a goaltender. Gillam agrees. “If you let one in, you just try to bounce back mentally. Be yourself,” adding “Bounce back and stop the next shot.”
In a different sport, Iles might be a star. Cornell has been on the fringes of great things with him in net. Andy Iles was just named the Ivy League player of the year and the ECAC student athlete of the year, and it’s no surprise. The stats bear it out. In Ivy League play Iles went 8-1-1 with a 0.950 save percentage.
But he’s too short. Andy Iles has done everything right, everything but being tall. His predecessor, Scrivens, who also had done everything right, had the requisite height of 6’3. Goalies are trending bigger and bigger.
Iles is listed at 5’9 and that’s probably generous. Coach Schafer says he’ll “give him 5’8.”
Mark on Cornell
For once, Iles does reflect on his achievements before the final home games of his college career. He’s glad he’s left his mark on Cornell with his name on the record books as Cornell’s all time saves leader, finishing his career with just under 3,000 saves. He then deflects the comment by saying saves are a product of staying healthy.
There’s no mistaking Andy Iles has left his mark on Cornell.
He holds the school record for saves, ties, shutout streak — also an ECAC record, is fourth in wins, fifth in shutouts, sixth in GAA, and eighth in save percentage.
His career line is 58-42-17 with a 2.26 GAA and a 0.917 save percentage. He’s made his mark on the community, organizing the Teddy Bear toss which gives to local charities.
Andy Iles will leave Cornell as one of the most decorated Cornellians of all time.
I’d like to thank Brandon Thomas, Jesse Sherman, Hudson Belinksy, Mitch Gillam, and of course Andy Iles along with the whole men’s ice hockey team. Everyone was very accommodating.