This article has been updated.
NEW YORK — No. 10 Cornell came to Red Hot Hockey in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night seeking to extend its current winning streak to six games and take home its third consecutive Kelley-Harkness Cup against rival Boston University.
The Red stayed hot, beating the Terriers by a score of 6-4.
The game was played in front of a packed Garden that was mostly cheering for the Red.
“I was so happy to see our alumni, that was emotional,” said Head Coach Mike Schafer ’86. “To get back in here and see the support that we have in New York City from our alumni … it’s just awesome.”
While the biennial Red Hot Hockey series was not disrupted by the pandemic, Cornell’s scheduled trip to Madison Square Garden, along with the entire season, was canceled last year.
“It hurt last year, not playing,” Schafer said. “This was outstanding to get back to some more normalcy. To come down here and treat our fans and for our fans to see how proud we are to play for Cornell, I think that’s what makes our hockey program and our school a special thing.”
Ahead of the game, senior tri-captain Brenden Locke predicted that the Red’s skaters would have to deal with some jitters on their first few shifts. Schafer emphasized the need to stay focused and disciplined under the bright lights.
“It’s a great test,” Schafer said. “You walk into a big venue where there are a lot of distractions. How do you manage that … and being in New York City. Are you following your pregame routine, getting your food, getting your rest? It’s a tremendous experience.”
After scoring only one goal in the first period across both its games last weekend, the Red started strong at the Garden.
Cornell struck first at the 13 minute mark, when junior defenseman Sebastian Dirven’s shot from the point was deflected in by freshman forward Kyler Kovich to put Cornell up, 1-0.
The goal was Kovich’s first career goal, continuing a recent trend of Cornell skaters scoring their first collegiate goals in the World’s Most Famous Arena. The feat was accomplished by Noah Bauld in 2016, Tristan Mullin in 2017 and Liam Motley in 2018.
The Terriers responded just past the halfway point of the period when Dylan Patterson cut to the net and wristed a shot past Cornell’s Joe Howe.
Howe, a freshman, drew the start after missing both games last weekend due to injury. He finished with 26 saves on 30 shots.
“I thought he was a little shaky in the first,” Schafer said. “Then I thought he kind of settled in … It was good to see a young guy like that, on this big stage, settle down.”
Shortly after giving up its lead, Cornell was put on the penalty kill after a hooking call against junior forward Zach Tupker.
The box score will say that the Red killed the penalty, but Boston capitalized on its advantage by breaking into the neutral zone with an odd-man rush as the penalty was expiring. Tupker came out of the box, but he was behind the play and the Terriers fired a shot past Howe to take a 2-1 lead at the six minute mark.
“Things just weren’t smooth as far as the whole game was concerned,” Schafer said. “The belief on the bench that we’re going to take care of things was there, which is really impressive for our younger guys that are going through all this stuff for the first time.”
The Red was quick to respond after falling behind. A minute after Boston’s pull ahead goal, the Red equalized. Sophomore forward Kyle Penney broke into the offensive zone and fed senior defenseman Cody Haiskanen across the ice. Haiskanen’s shot from the point was deflected by Boston’s goalie, Drew Commesso, but freshman forward Ondrej Psenicka poked in the rebound and knotted things up at 2 with five minutes left in the period.
With 1:38 left in the period, Cornell went on its first power play of the night. The Red used a designed play to convert just seconds into the man advantage. The Red won the faceoff, and two crisp passes set senior forward Max Andreev up in the circle. Andreev fired a rocket past Commesso to put Cornell ahead, 3-2.
“We try to run some faceoff plays,” Locke said. “Max was in the right spot and the right time, we kind of drew it up like that.”
The Red took its 3-2 lead into the intermission.
The first half of the middle frame was uneventful, except for a hitting from behind penalty against the Terriers with 13:25 left. The Red was unable to capitalize and was lucky to leave the man advantage with its lead intact after Boston’s shot on a shorthanded breakaway hit the pipe.
Cornell extended its lead just past the halfway point of the period when senior forward Brenden Locke intercepted a pass in Cornell’s offensive zone, beat a man and fired a shot past Commesso to give the Red a 4-2 lead. The goal added to Locke’s strong record at Madison Square Garden. The tri-captain scored in Cornell’s 2019 win over the Terriers and added an assist in 2017.
“I just kind of got lucky, it was in the right spot,” Locke said. “I don’t think about it too much, I try to just treat it like any other game, but it’s obviously exciting playing at MSG.”
Cornell was sent on the penalty kill at the seven minute mark after Andreev was sent to the box for hooking. The Red had no problem killing Andreev’s penalty but went back on the kill shortly after his penalty expired.
A penalty against the Terriers 30 seconds into their man advantage sent the game to a stretch of four-on-four play, and Boston took advantage of the extra space.
With just under two minutes left in the period, a pass by Boston’s Domenick Fensore beat Howe and set Case McCarthy up with an open look at the net. McCarthy converted, cutting Cornell’s lead to 4-3.
Cornell got some breathing room early in the third period on a highlight reel goal by junior defenseman Sam Malinski. With just over 16 minutes left, Malinski rushed up the middle, deked three defenders and flipped in a backhander to put Cornell ahead, 5-3.
“That was pretty cool to be able to make a play like that,” Malinski said.
Boston had a few opportunities on power plays down the stretch of the third period, but was unable to convert.
With four and a half minutes left, Cornell took firm control of the game when junior forward Ben Berard redirected sophomore defenseman Tim Rego’s shot into the net.
Boston added a goal in the final minute, but it was too little too late.
Cornell went on to close out the 6-4 victory and bring the Kelley-Harkness Cup back to Ithaca.