NEW YORK — Any team will tell you that every season is full of its ups and downs, and Cornell men’s hockey — seemingly untouchable in its first seven games — appears to be facing a slope as of late, again evident in Saturday’s 4-3 win over Boston University at Madison Square Garden.
“We came in with the wrong mindset in both of those games,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Against Clarkson we thought, ‘Man this is a big game,’ and against Niagara we thought, ‘Man we can’t lose this game.’
“It’s the exact opposite of what we’ve been talking about — [to] just focus on things we can control and just follow that process.”
So the question on the team’s mind following Niagara was how this young squad will respond to adversity in an environment like MSG and against a ranked team in Boston University that, before Saturday, Cornell had never beaten in the Red Hot Hockey series dating back to 2007.
For the first two periods in Manhattan, it seemed like Cornell had the mindset that Schafer was looking for and brought with it the momentum from the third period of the Niagara game. Cornell built itself a commanding 3-0 lead over BU heading into the final 20 minutes.
But the Terriers would not go down without a fight, storming back with a three-goal third period to cut Cornell’s seemingly comfortable lead to just a single goal and once again test the Red’s resiliency as a team — especially for freshman goaltender Matthew Galajda.
Like the rest of the team, Galajda had a rough two games heading into Saturday’s matchup in New York.
A player who had to step in perhaps before his time given the injury to senior Hayden Stewart, Galajda has been the backbone of the Red. During the Red’s seven-game winning streak, Galajda only let eight goals get past him and posted two shutouts. But in the two games to Clarkson and Niagara alone, Galajda gave up a combined eight goals.
And it looked like Galajda responded well, recording 28 straight saves until BU came in with its first goal with just under 45 minutes played on Saturday. BU then came back with two more, including a goal that any goalie would like to have back.
With less than five minutes left to play, it appeared that Galajda secured a shot to his left side, but Boston’s Patrick Harper was there to gather the rebound and sneak the puck into the Red net, cutting the once three-goal Red lead down to one.
But in the final minute, when Boston pulled its goalie and swarmed the Cornell defense with a 6-on-5 attack, it was Galajda who came back to make crucial saves for the team.
“Even in a situation like today when that third goal went in, he bounced right back and made a huge save, and that’s what he’s done,” Schafer said about his goalie. “He doesn’t let things bother him, and he shows good maturity for that.”
Galajda’s bounce-back mentality is one that extends to the rest of this team, as was showcased in Saturday’s performance.
“[We] did a great job in this venue tonight with all the young guys we had,” Schafer said. “To just focus in on playing the game was a tremendous testament to their mental preparation coming in.”
While Cornell acknowledges that there are things it needs to focus and refocus on, especially after recent performances, this team has shown one thing: It has character. The team has 10 freshmen mixed in with a squad that has had to face a blowout, come from behind victories, and staving off of opposing comebacks.
And with all of this, the Red only has one tick in the loss column.
“Obviously we had some rough patches in the [past few] games, but overall we found the way to get the job done,” freshman forward Morgan Barron said. “I think that’s going to be characteristic of our team this year.”