It’s been a long time since storied rivals Cornell and Boston University have faced off on this big a stage. While Red Hot Hockey in New York City is exciting, this weekend’s rematch is what really counts.
The Red and Terriers will meet Saturday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in Worcester, Massachusetts, in what will be the teams’ first tournament game since B.U. shut out the Red, 4-0, in the 1972 national championship game.
And as the Red vies for its first NCAA tournament victory in six years, its playoff history aligns with its northeast region foes. The Red’s last two tournament victories came in 2012, against Michigan and in 2009, against Northeastern. If the Red downs No. 4 seed B.U. Saturday, the No. 2 Huskies or No. 3 Wolverines will be waiting for a rematch.
Although B.U. and its fans will need to travel less than an hour to Worcester while the Red will bus five hours from Ithaca, junior forward and captain Mitch Vanderlaan said his squad will thrive on the energy a rivalry and local crowd bring.
“There’s going to be a lot more energy in the building and we’re going to be able to feed off of it too,” he said.
While a potential matchup with Michigan or Northeastern could develop new playoff foes, it won’t be anything close to the decades-old Cornell-B.U. rivalry, one that has waned since the 1980s but is still a source of excitement for alumni.
“B.U. is a rival for our alumni,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “People who were here in the 70s, 60s and even late 80s. [In] 1984 they switched leagues. That was my sophomore year and I heard all about the history, but when they switched leagues, we never played them again.”
Renewed six times in the new “Red Hot Hockey” Thanksgiving weekend contest in New York, the old rivalry dates back to 1925 and has included two national title game clashes — legendary goaltender Ken Dryden ’69 and the Red won the title in 1967, and Cornell lost to B.U. in 1972. Since the Terriers’ victory in 1972, B.U. has won three national titles, most recently in 2009. Cornell hasn’t done it since 1970.
The nature of the rivalry changed in 1984, when B.U. left the ECAC to join the new Hockey East conference, ending the historic yearly rivalry. But clashes of two of the nation’s top programs will always hold special weight.
“I think B.U. and Cornell have got the two most expensive student tickets in the country,” Schafer said, pointing out the popularity of college hockey at the two universities. “When you have great fan bases and teams that win, there’s going to be some rivalry.”
If Red Hot Hockey isn’t enough, another NCAA tournament meeting promises to bring a taste of the days of old — plus good marketing for the next installment of Red Hot Hockey.
A win over the Terriers would bring Cornell a step closer to returning to the stage where it couldn’t overtake B.U. 46 years ago.