NEW YORK, N.Y. — Some poise and extra effort early on combined with a timely goal was what Boston University needed to win what is believed to be the first college hockey game to sell out the world’s most famous arena.
Pete MacArthur’s scored a late second-period goal to supplement a strong start by the Terriers and key Boston University to a 6-3 victory over Cornell in a highly-anticipated non-conference matchup in front of 18,200 in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
“I thought they came out in the first period and really took control of the game,” Cornell coach Mike Shafer said. “They played with poise and confidence and made plays the way we wanted to come out and play. Obviously we dug ourselves a big hole and we were never able to recover from there.”
Energized by the big crowd, Boston University (4-7-2, 3-3-1 Hockey East) played with fire from the start, outshooting Cornell (4-4, 4-2 ECAC) 7-0 in the first four minutes. But consecutive tripping penalties by Brian Strait and Chris Higgins left the Terriers short-handed for 3:55.
Cornell had a couple good chances during the power play but Brett Bennett made a few key saves to hold Big Red off the scoreboard. Forty-five seconds after killing off the penalties, two freshmen connected to give BU a 1-0 lead when Nick Bonino fed Joe Pereira for his first collegiate goal.
Pereira, who along with MacArthur and Brandon Yip finished with a goal and an assist, was playing just his fourth game of the season, and for him, it was about as good of a first career goal as he could imagine.
“Growing up, everybody thinks of scoring a goal in Madison Square Garden,” said Pereira, from West Haven, Conn. “It’s a dream come true, especially the first college goal of my career.
“I mean, I’m not a regular player either, I just work hard every week in practice and when Jay (Jason Lawrence) went down I just went up to the assistant coach and (said) I want to help this team; I want to do everything I can.’”
Pereira set up what turned out to be a big first period for BU. The Terriers didn’t give Cornell an opportunity to respond because 18 seconds later Pereira set up sophomore Luke Popko, who beat Bennett with a wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle to make it 2-0.
Yip made it 3-0 when he snuck behind the defense and caught a Matt Gilroy pass for a breakaway. He deked to the forehand and beat Ben Scrivens to the upper-right hand corner at 11:06.
“The score is a little deceptive of the game,” BU coach Jack Parker said, noting that the Terriers’ 22 blocked shots in the game largely accounted for the shot total gap that favored BU, 42-28.
Cornell got its share of chances, but the excitement of “Red Hot Hockey” at The Garden didn’t translate into a successful game plan for Big Red.
“We have to work smart, not just work hard,” Cornell forward Topher Scott said. “Coaches preach that. We didn’t do that tonight. It’s really easy to get hyped up for these games. But you have to be smart and trust your systems.”
Gilroy nearly made it 4-0 early in the second period, slipping through the slot with a shot that Scrivens scooped up with his glove. Less than a minute later, Cornell generated some solid offensive pressure on the Terriers and drew a boarding call on Strait at 9:45.
On the ensuing power play, Cornell defenseman Mike Devin made a sliding play to break up a short-handed 2-on-1 rush – the second time in the game he had done so – to set up a Big Red counterattack, and a Riley Nash goal from the top of the circle with three seconds left on the Strait penalty, sending two-thirds of the Garden crowd into a frenzy.
Minutes later, BU drew a tripping penalty on Brendon Nash, who had an assist in his first game back from injury. Cornell stifled the Terriers power play for the first 90 seconds of the kill before MacArthur got his stick on a puck delivered by Higgins, knocking it past a surprised Scrivens for a 4-1 lead.
“I think he wished he had a couple of them back, but he also made some huge saves for us,” Shafer said of Scrivens. “I thought the turning point in the game, (the MacArthur goal), – That took the wind out of our sails.”
Riley Nash scored his second power-play goal of the game on a 5-on-3 late in the third as the teams exchanged goals for the 6-3 final.
Saturday’s game was the first in a series between Boston and Cornell over the next three years to renew a rivalry that dates back 82 years. Playing in a sold out Madison Square Garden was an experience both teams appreciated.
“I thought it was a fabulous venue to play in, fabulous scene with all the red in the building,” Parker said.
“I don’t think I’ve played in front of half that many people before so it was great to come out – and see all the fans and all the support.” Scott said. “It was something special.”