Morgan Barron chose to play hockey at Cornell because he wanted to win a national championship, now that may never happen.
The 2019-20 season, Barron’s third with the Big Red after he was drafted by the Rangers in the 2017 NHL Draft, was beginning to look like his best chance at accomplishing that. But as the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation, suddenly there was no national championship to play for.
Cornell had lost just two games all season and was set to play in the Eastern College Athletic Conference men’s hockey quarterfinals just before the NCAA suspended play. The Big Red was on a 9-0-0 tear, charging to what would’ve been the program’s first Frozen Four appearance in 17 years.
“A lot of the emphasis for me at the start of the year was that I wanted to go and help the team win a lot of games in the postseason,” Barron told The Post in a recent interview. “Obviously, I didn’t get the opportunity to do that. I’m sure there’s a handful of teams around the country who were feeling the same way we were about having a really good chance. Especially for our program, who hasn’t won a national championship in 50 years, it was probably one of the better chances that Cornell has had to go in a deep postseason run.”
For Barron, the Rangers’ sixth-round (174th overall) pick in 2017, not having an opportunity to finish out this season may influence his decision regarding his hockey future.
The 21-year-old center was in the midst of the most dominant season of his career, collecting 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 29 games to lead Cornell. He was a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, given to the top player in college hockey, and was named ECAC Hockey Player of the Year.
After such a prolific season, Barron admitted he became more confident in his ability to compete at the NHL level.
Assistant general manager Chris Drury, who doubles as the general manager of the team’s AHL affiliate, Hartford Wolf Pack, said Rangers brass had a feeling the 6-foot-3 lefty shot would have a breakout 2019-20 season. But the organization, according to Drury, has known Barron is special since drafting him.
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“The more I’ve gotten to know him, over the last three-plus years, is that he’s just one of those kids and players that wakes up every day, looks in the mirror and says, ‘How am I going to get better today?’ ” Drury told The Post in a recent phone call. “It’s such a great quality to have because every year he has gotten better and better. Not only does he have the size, but his skating is very good for someone that size.”
Barron said he is still unsure if he’s ready to forgo his senior season to make the jump to the NHL. If he opts to go pro, the Rangers are sure he’s ready.
“We’re very confident that he’s ready to be a pro with what he’s done and his maturity on and off the ice,” Drury said.
Barron considers the extra time he has to make his decision the only positive part of the suspended 2019-20 season.
“There’s a ton of stuff [to consider],” Barron said. “Obviously, where I feel I’m at with hockey is going to be a big one, whether I’m able to jump in and make an impact at the pro level or whether I could use one more season in college. … My education is a big thing, I went to Cornell because I wanted to graduate and I need to figure out if that’s going to be a possibility if I leave.
“And like I said, I wanted to go to Cornell to win a national championship. That’s something that’s always going to be in the back of my mind while making this decision.”