BU-Cornell Both Facing Questions
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Both Cornell and Boston University face the challenge of dealing with a week of distractions — not just in terms of their game in New York on Saturday but with the Thanksgiving holiday and, for BU, having to play a mid-week game against Harvard as well.
"We weren't happy with our effort," said BU coach Jack Parker. "It looks like it was a pretty good game because we outshot Harvard 40-20, but it was still a loss. We need to get back in the win column, and no matter who we're playing, we need to be more mentally ready to play. The fact that you put us on the same sheet of ice as Cornell in front of 18,000 people will automatically get everyone pretty jacked up. Now, I don't want them too jacked up, but I think they'll be mentally ready to go."
Cornell coach Mike Schafer also commented on the unique circumstances surrounding this game and his team's preparation for it.
"I don't think the preparation on the ice is any different at all. I think off the ice, I think it's important that you let the kids enjoy it. It is different, but it's a unique, once-in-a-lifetime event for a lot of these kids. We're not going to avoid distractions as much as we're just going to take it all in. I think it's important that kids are learning the lesson to be totally focused. Once they arrive at the rink on game night, it's just like any other preparation.
"Just driving in the bus to get to Madison Square Garden will be an experience. So we'll enjoy it, but we'll be focused once we get to the rink on Saturday night."
Two players whose focus is particularly important for the Big Red and the Terriers will be starting goaltenders Ben Scrivens for Cornell and Brett Bennett for BU, both sophomores.
Parker discussed the challenge Bennett has faced in terms of his lack of experience playing competitive college hockey before this year.
"Bennett played in only one game last year playing behind both [All-American goaltender John] Curry and [now-senior Karson] Gillespie. And the year before that, he was the goaltender for the Under-18 team development program in Ann Arbor, the US National team. And he got hurt in November and missed the entire rest of that season. He actually hadn't played hockey for two full years, so we've had to get him back in the game — mostly mentally, being game-ready. We think both [Gillespie and Bennett] can be good goaltenders, but I do think Bennett will emerge as the guy that gets most of the work this year."
Added Schafer of his own young netminder, "[Scrivens] has gotten off to a good start, especially with these last four games where he has been very very consistent. He's only given up five goals in four games — all on the road. And that has brought some consistency, and the guys have confidence in him. So, as of now, he's the guy who's doing a great job for us."
Scrivens certainly has a vested interest in another ongoing Big Red storyline — the possible return of sophomore defenseman Brendan Nash, brother of freshman Riley who was the Edmonton Oilers' first round pick over the summer. The elder Nash underwent knee surgery before the season, and though he had hoped to return for Saturday's game, his status remains questionable.
"He's really day-to-day right now," said Schafer. "He's been practicing with contact, and it all depends on how he feels from day to day and week to week. There would be an outside chance right now."
Two Big Red players who definitely will not be on the ice will be sophomores Joe Scali and Justin Krueger, who received game disqualifications during an on-ice scrum at the conclusion of last week's road victory at Dartmouth.
"It's really unfortunate," said Schafer. "Justin's parents came all the way from Europe to come to the game, and Joe's mom is flying all the way from British Columbia. It's frustrating. They kept their gloves on and stayed disciplined, but you have to live by the official ruling. I tell our kids, every time you get involved in a scrum like that at the end of a game, you have to push off and just keep backing away. So even though they didn't throw any punches, they have to take responsibility for what happened. But I really feel bad for the kids. It's a chance of a lifetime."