BU Tops Cornell at MSG
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
NEW YORK For oblivious New Yorkers, it might have seemed like another red scare.
Saturday night, midtown Manhattan was buzzing with red-and-white dressed fans who stood out conspicuously among the more bleakly dressed locals. On a chilly night in New York, in an arena made famous by men such as Willis Reed, Patrick Ewing, Brian Leetch and Mark Messier, Madison Square Garden was packed with Cornell and Boston University alumni and fans — for an early regular season college hockey game, no less.
But not just any game, of course, but a rivalry game that turned out to be the weekend's other College Hockey Showcase. It was the first of a series of Cornell/BU games over the next few years, but sometimes, rivalry games thrive on these bigger stages.
And as it turns out, the Terriers' and Big Red's collective bite out of the Big Apple may have left them hungry for more.
"I'm a coach, not a marketing director," quipped Cornell coach Mike Schafer. "But obviously, we'd love to be down here every year. I'm sure that [BU] Coach [Jack] Parker and ourselves, and people at Cornell and BU, will talk it out and try and get back here as soon as we can."
"We can't do it next year because we're both booked up with our schedules," said Parker. "But we'd like to come back
here again. The next time we're supposed to play Cornell is this weekend, Thanksgiving Saturday, two years from now at our place [at Agganis Arena]. And then the third year it's supposed to go back to Lynah [in Ithaca].
"So it's possible that we can bring this game back here two years from now."
Would Madison Square Garden object to filling the stands again? Unlikely. And as suggested by a story Parker told after the game, MSG personnel seemed thrilled they were there in the first place.
Said Parker, "When we came into the rink last night to bring in our equipment, our guys wanted to go out onto the court — the Knicks' court was down. Our guys wanted to just go out and take a peek. I said, 'Guys, get off of that.' And somebody said, 'Hey, let those guys do what they want to do. They're the only ones who can sell this building out.'"
And with the considerable help of the decidedly pro-Cornell crowd, that they did. With former Big Red and Terrier players — including Cornell's Joe Nieuwendyk and BU's Mike Eruzione — on hand, BU toppled Cornell 6-3, scoring three goals on three consecutive shots during a span of 2:16 in the first period.
The Terriers were the home team officially but the road team as far as the fan support went. Four out of five times, if you saw a red-and-white jersey inside the arena, it probably said 'Cornell' on it.
Said Cornell co-captain Topher Scott, "We think we have the best fans in college hockey, and we weren't surprised one bit to see all the Lynah Faithful there."
"The Cornell fans were absolutely wild," noticed BU senior forward Pete MacArthur, who tallied the game's game-winning goal.
The game even represented a first for BU's legendary long-time coach.
"It was the largest crowd Boston University has ever played in front of," said Parker. "I told the boys before the game that this was like Monday Night Football. We're going to have a huge crowd, a national audience, so let's play well. And they sure did."
In the end, the game seemed to represent an emergence — certainly for college hockey in a city with no Division I college hockey team, but also for players, for team lessons, and for collective goals. One player who certainly emerged was BU freshman forward Joe Pereira, who started the scoring for BU halfway through the first period.
"I'm not a regular player, either," said the West Haven. Conn. native.
"You are now," said Parker, sitting to his left.
And for Cornell, the Big Red seemed to consider the experience a lesson learned.
"You have to think when you play this game, and if you don't, you're going to be in trouble," said Schafer.
"We're going to learn from it, and we want to get back to playing in front of 18,000 people at the end of the year," added Scott, no doubt referencing the Frozen Four in April.
While each team will use Saturday's game as a motivating force for the rest of the year, keep in mind that, for many of the Big Red and Terrier players, the MSG sellout crowd of 18,200 people will be the largest crowd they will ever play in front of.
Following the game, Parker made reference to this grand stage with some humor.
"Joey [Pereira] says that every kid dreams of scoring a big goal in Madison Square Garden," said Parker. "Well I never dreamed of scoring a big goal in Madison Square Garden. I'm from Boston."
Regardless, for many BU and Cornell players, the experience truly was a dream come true. So we return to that original question: will Cornell and BU return to MSG?
Certainly, with Saturday's game a tremendous success, a potential return to New York seems hopeful. Schafer himself commented that his players "would like to play [there] every day."
For now, an MSG rematch event remains to be seen. One thing, however, is for sure — Cornell and BU playing in front of 18,200 fans in New York is hardly your Garden variety rivalry game.