November 26, 2007

B.U. Doubles Up Cornell at MSG

Print More

NEW YORK — From the opening seconds Saturday night at storied Madison Square Garden, the men’s hockey team’s matchup with long-time rival Boston University was steeped in college hockey tradition and program pride. In the teams’ first meeting since Cornell won two games at Lynah Rink in 2002, the rivalry was renewed this weekend, as legendary former head coaches Ned Harkness, escorted by former Red captain John Hughes, and BU’s Jack Kelly presided over the ceremonial puck drop, with the red carpet rolled out and a vocal Red crowd having filled the stands to capacity.
Despite the familiar Cornell fans and historical figures in attendance, however, the Red (4-4, 4-2 ECAC Hockey) looked completely out of its comfort zone for much of the game, eventually falling to BU (4-7-2, 3-3-1 Hockey East), 6-3, after surrendering three goals in the first period.
“It’s nice to get a win against an age-old rival that I remember more than my guys remember probably,” said BU head coach Jack Parker. “But other than that, [the Garden] was a terrific place to play. I told the guys before the game that this was like Monday Night Football, where we’re going to have a huge crowd and a national audience and let’s play well, and they did.”
The Terriers came out with an aggressive mindset. The BU forecheck stifled the Red’s offense and kept a lot of the action in the Cornell defensive zone. Over the first four minutes alone, BU outshot Cornell 8-0.
“First off to congratulate [BU],” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86, “I thought [BU] came out in the first period and really took control of the game. We dug ourselves a big hole, and we were never able to recover.”
The Red wasn’t able to overcome BU’s early 3-0 run. Cornell began to unravel about halfway through the first period, as BU freshman Joe Pereira scored his first collegiate goal on a pass from classmate Nick Bonino 11:10 into the game. Sophomore netminder Ben Scrivens, who recorded personal best-tying 36 saves on the night, blocked one quick shot, but the Luke Popko sent the rebound past the scrambling Scrivens just 18 seconds after BU’s last goal.
The Terriers’ offensive burst continued less than two minutes later, when Brandon Yip came out on top of a one-on-one matchup with Scrivens after getting the puck ahead of the Cornell defenders.
The decisive first period ended with a 16-11 shot advantage to the Terriers. Cornell, however, had given up chances by not capitalizing with man-advantage. Though the Red had three first period opportunities on the power play, the Red was unable to convert, going 2-for-7 on the day with an extra man.
To start the second period, the Terriers once again came out full-blast on offense, outshooting the Red 7-0. With the crowd quieted by BU’s domination, junior Michael Kennedy managed to get a reaction from Red fans almost five minutes into the period as he went in for a shot with a run down the left side, though BU goalie Brett Bennett stopped the attempt — Cornell’s first of the second period. Bennett finished with 25 saves.
The Red soon began to gain some momentum, attempting several long-distance shots and also working the puck inside, albeit unsuccessfully. A Terrier wraparound attempt less than 11 minutes in was saved by Scrivens, sprawled on his back from the effort. The save charged up the Red even more, and Cornell caught a break less than a minute later when BU’s Brian Strait was called for boarding.
“We’ve got a lot of pride in our systems and our coaches, and we’ve got a lot of trust,” said senior co-captain Topher Scott. “So I think that’s why we dug ourselves in a hole and [BU] scored so many goals, because we got away from that [trust]. But when we starting sticking to the systems and trusting each other and trusting the systems, we started getting some good chances and getting some offense out of it.”
Sophomore defenseman Brendon Nash returned to the starting lineup against BU after missing the whole season thus far from an injury, and he was on the ice Saturday when his younger brother Riley stole the show by putting Cornell on the board.
With 8:17 remaining in the period, the freshman Nash got the crowd to its feet with a long-awaited power play goal. Sophomore alternate captain Colin Greening had passed to classmate Blake Gallagher, whose shot was deflected by Nash at the near post.
The lessened Terrier lead didn’t hold for long, however. With only 2:17 remaining in the period, a series of BU passes cut through the short-handed Cornell defenses just as a penalty on Brendon Nash was about to run out. Pete MacArthur, assisted by Chris Higgins, got the Terriers back to a three-goal lead going into the final period.
“[Cornell] had us back on our heels pretty good for a long period of time in the second,” MacArthur said. “They got a nice back-door goal on the power play, and we were able to answer. We worked on finding the guy up the middle in the breakout, and … we just did the breakout perfectly. It was good, because we were really back on our heels and that enabled us to tie up the period 1-1.”
During the intermission, three former BU players who also represented the United States in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games were introduced. Dave Silk, Jack O’Callahan and U.S team captain Mike Eruzione contributed to the shocking U.S. victory over the Soviet Union and the team’s eventual gold medal win.
Though these representatives of the “Miracle on Ice” took center stage at Madison Square Garden, there would be no miracle for Cornell, as BU’s Colin Wilson made it 5-1 1:17 into the third.
The Red, however, refused to go down without a fight. Brendon Nash’s shot missed but got Bennett out of position, and junior defender Jared Seminoff collected the puck and sent it into the net to cut BU’s lead to three 3:44 into the third period.
The Red then picked up the intensity in the final five minutes. In a 5-on-3 situation, Cornell called a timeout, and Scott’s shot found the net in the middle of a mob in front of the goal with a little more than three minutes to play.
The Red pulled Scrivens for the extra man, attempting to spark some last-minute offense, but BU’s Bryan Ewing notched an empty-netter on a breakaway with a little over 20 seconds left. The Terriers sustained their three-goal first period lead through to the end. The final attendance tally was announced as 18,200, a sold-out crowd.
“It’s easier to get up [and play well] when you’ve got 18,000 people screaming and yelling,” MacArthur said. “The Cornell fans were absolutely wild, just as ours were. No matter how many people you’re playing in front of, we’re kind of a young team but we need to realize that every game counts, and you don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the year. You don’t know if you’ll really need these points at the end of the year.”
“I don’t think I’ve played in front of half that many people before,” Scott said. “Just coming out and seeing all the fans, especially all the support we got from our fans in Ithaca, was something special and something that I don’t think any of us will ever forget … [But] we’ve got to work smart and not just work hard. The coaches preach that, and we didn’t do that tonight. It’s really easy to get hyped up in these kinds of games, but you know you have to trust your systems and trust your coaches. … We want to get back to playing in front of 18,000 people at the end of the year, so this is going to be a great learning experience for that.”
According to both coaches, the timing of the next meeting in the rivalry will depend on the teams’ schedules. As of now, Cornell and BU are set to face off again on the Saturday after Thanksgiving two years from now, first in Boston and the third game at Lynah Rink, though the teams haven’t ruled out returning to Madison Square Garden.
“I’m sure the Garden would like another packed house,” Parker said. “We were coming into the building last night [with] our equipment. My guys wanted to go on the court. The Knicks court was down, and the guys just wanted to take a peek at it … and somebody said, ‘Let those guys do what they want to do. They’re the only ones who can sell this building out.’”