BU Finds A Way To Get it Done Over Cornell Again
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
NEW YORK The biannual "Red Hot Hockey" game between Cornell and Boston University at Madison Square Garden has become predictable.
The game will sell out, the Garden will be electric in ways it often isn't for NHL games, Mike Richter and Mike Eruzione will be introduced to the crowd at some point, it will be a fantastic hockey game that goes down to the wire ... and Boston University will win. (OK, there was one tie.)
Boston University did it to Cornell again this year, the fourth installment of the event, despite being outshot 39-11. Cornell, after dominating the territorial play throughout the game but falling into a three-goal hole, mounted a furious third-period rally and had 1:47 of power-play time at the end of the game, but fell short.
As both coaches asserted, there is a skill to finishing, there is a skill to being mentally tough, and there is a skill to preventing bad-bounce goals from going against you.
That's why Mike Schafer wasn't taking any solace in a 39-11 shot edge, and BU coach David Quinn wasn't expressing any concern about being manhandled in such a way.
"You can physically dominate, but you've got to get to the net more, get more people in front," Schafer said. "Our power play, our penalty kill — we lost tonight. There's reasons why we lost. We turned the puck over on the boards on the first (BU goal), we didn't capitalize on our power play ... so there's tons of things to get better at. BU figured out the things to do to win the game. There's a talent to do that. Whether the shots are 39-11 or the other way around, there's a talent to figure out how to win and we didn't do that."
Quinn, clearly, was unfazed by the shot totals.
"What a game," he said. "I've been coaching 20 years now, and I don't know if I've been prouder of a group of guys. We just refused to lose tonight, a lot of obstacles, a lot of hurdles, and we just figured out a way to get it done. ... The way our guys competed tonight, blocking shots ... we just found a way to get it done, against a good team, a very well-coached team, I couldn't be prouder. A month ago we probably lose that game."
The shot discrepancy was aided by the penalty discrepancy. But Cornell, which came into the game ranked No. 2 in the nation on the power play, went 0-for-6, while allowing one power-play goal, the third-period effort from Nick Roberto that proved to be the game winner.
"For whatever reason, a lot of the passes that went to the seam, our guys refused to shoot one-timers and force it to the net," Schafer said. "It's almost like they were looking to be perfect and they just refused to (shoot). And when they start doing that, they hesitate too much. ... But their goaltender played well, we hit a couple crossbars, and some nights that happens."
While Cornell forced penalties with its physical superiority, some of the calls in the second period were dubious.
"You all watched what happened. I'm not going to comment on how the game was officiated because I'll get in trouble," Quinn said. "That comment itself should probably give you an idea. (Our) guys know I never say anything about the referees ... but, four penalties in the second period, your best players are killing penalties over and over again, it just drains them. And I know everyone is going to look at the shots, and they are what they are. But I'll take a 3-2 win with 11 shots all day long."
The shots were 10-3 in the first period, but BU scored the only goal when Cornell defender Kiril Gotovets fell down and forward Matt Buckles lost his man coming off the boards. That man, Mike Moran, put it away for a 1-0 lead.
"(The bounces) worked in our favor tonight, we all know that," Quinn said. "But I'm not going to apologize for that, because I know we put ourselves in position to win."
The second period was more of the same, with Cornell unable to convert on a couple power plays, and one breakdown leading to a BU goal.
"Every time we gave up a chance it was a pretty good one," Schafer said. "We had some guys play very well on the big stage, but other guys struggled, whether it was the energy or nerves, or what. But it was a great experience for them down the road."
Matt O'Connor was again sharp in the BU net with 37 saves, coming off a recent 52-save effort against North Dakota.
"I actually think we defended well," Quinn said. "They spent a lot of time cycling it, but they spent a lot of time on the perimeter. There's times they spent 35-40 seconds in our end, and the only thing that happened was we got tired.
"They're just bigger than we are. I'm 215 pounds. If I go in the corner with a guy 260, I'm going to stay on the 'D' side of him and if I try hard, and he tries hard, he's going to win the battle probably. So now it's about body position. And I know this, there wasn't a time that we went into a one-on-one situation where we didn't try. And as a coach, that's all you can ask. And if we play a team like that again, we're going to keep doing it, maybe play a little better, maybe possess the puck a little bit more and maybe not have that type of discrepancy on the penalties."
The Big Red got goals in the third period from Christian Hilbrich and Cole Bardreau.
BU is now unbeaten in four straight, while Cornell had a four-game winning streak snapped. In both cases, the teams exemplified the kind of good and bad characteristics they've shown throughout the year, and both the good opportunity and possible pitfalls they face going forward.
Schafer said there's no secret formula for why BU keeps beating the Big Red at Madison Square Garden.
"They've been great games. You get college kids down here, in this environment, that's all you can ask for," he said. "Last year, we won against Michigan, but this year, we couldn't capitalize on our chances. That's all it is. It's nothing magical."
Everyone agreed the atmosphere was magical again, though.
"I'm tremendously proud to see all the alumni up there supporting our hockey program," Schafer said.
Said Roberto, who had the game winner, "This atmposhpoere was unbelievable tonight. Right away in warmups, it was loud, the national anthem was amazing. It was just a dream come true playing here."
Note: The winner of the game now receives the Kelly-Harkness Cup, named after legendary coaches Jack Kelly and Ned Harkness, of BU and Cornell, respectively. Had Cornell won the game, it was going to be named the Harkness-Kelly Cup.