NEW YORK — No. 7 Cornell and Boston University sold out Madison Square Garden for the second time in a row.
Unlike two years ago, though, when the Terriers trounced the Big Red, very few of the 18,200 fans went home disappointed this year in light of many big hits, near misses, and even a rare six-on-three power play in the waning minutes.
To the respective joy and despair of the bipartisan crowd, Boston University fought back from a 3-1 third-period deficit to tie the Big Red 3-3, thanks to Chris Connolly’s goal with just 51.3 seconds remaining.
BU center Nick Bonino and Cornell defenseman Sean Whitney each had a goal and an assist, while David Warsofsky added a short-handed goal for the Terriers. Ben Scrivens made 32 saves in net for the Big Red.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here and said that it was an exciting college hockey game,” Terriers’ coach Jack Parker said. “I thought after we kind of got blasted in the first 10 or 12 minutes of the first period, we played real hard. Most of the stuff we wanted to do, we did pretty well. When you can outshoot a Cornell team like we did tonight after being down like we were, it was a pretty good effort on our guys’ part to not stay down.
“The best part of the game was our stick-to-itiveness, our persistence.”
Cornell coach Mike Schafer echoed Parker’s comments to a good degree.
“Obviously, a great event,” Schafer said. “Got off to a good start and obviously disappointed with the fact that the game ended up in a tie, but I’m proud of our guys. BU did a good job of scoring on the six-on-four to tie it up.”
Cornell came out strong, as if looking to avenge their loss two years ago. Patrick Kennedy had a good backhanded chance at 1:09, but Grant Rollheiser made a nice save. Within a half-minute, though, Cornell went on a power play that led to the first goal. The Terriers’ defenders blocked several shots, but finally Sean Whitney fired a low shot past Rollheiser from the right-wing circle at 3:07. It was the sophomore’s first collegiate goal in 21 games.
“At least a former Terriers’ brother got the goal,” Parker quipped, alluding to NHL defenseman Ryan Whitney.
Terriers’ center Corey Trivino countered with a good chance at 5:20, but Patrick Kennedy collected the rebound and threaded a quick pass up the ice to launch Locke Jillson for a total breakaway. Jillson juked toward to his backhand before opting to go for the forehand shot that beat Rollheiser low, glove side at 5:27.
Jack Parker quickly used his timeout, and the Terriers seemed to calm down. Two BU power plays helped them regain momentum, and the Terriers ended up the period with an 8-5 shot advantage. Still, the loudest cheer from the Terriers’ fans came halfway through the period, when former star Matt Gilroy appeared via video in his New York Ranger jersey to say he was sorry he couldn’t be there and to “Go BU.”
A Cornell power play at 8:31 of the second period led to a goal for each team. At 9:01, David Warsosky scored after getting the puck near the red line, skating in on the left wing, and taking a 25-foot shot. Big Red goalie Ben Scrivens may have been screened, as the shot went just around Mike Devin, but the goalie got just a piece of it with his leg, and the puck bled across the line for a short-handed goal.
Yet BU couldn’t survive the rest of the power play, and Cornell regained the two-goal margin. Whitney’s shot-pass from the right point found Blake Gallagher camped at the far post for the easy tap-in goal at 10:30.
BU stepped it up after that but couldn’t score through the rest of the period. Corey Trivino missed a half-empty net with one shot at 16:10, and a wild scramble at 17:58 resulted in about three Big Red defenders playing goalie with Scrivens down and out.
The crowd got back into it at 4:03 in the third when BU made it a 3-2 game. Nick Bonino stole the puck at center ice and raced in on the left wing before attempting a backhanded cross to Chris Connolly crashing the net. Instead, the pass caromed off the stick of a Cornell defender and into the goal.
“When they made it 3-2, we stopped making plays,” Schafer said. “Sometimes that happens. You’re up 3-1, and you start protecting the lead, sitting back too much. We didn’t take care of the puck.”
BU threatened with pressure near the net at 9:50, with Alex Chiasson nearly scoring in a scrum. Things got really interesting, though, when two Cornell penalties with 1:58 remaining led Parker to pull the goalie for a six-on-three power play for 39 seconds.
Asked if he could remember the last time he had opted for such a strategy, Parker was quick to reply. “Yeah, the 12th,” he said. After letting the media scratch their head over that for a moment, he added, “The 12th of never.” He went on to explain that he had never tried the tactic in his 37 years of coaching, but that former assistant Ben Smith had been “haunting him” to try it. So, oddly enough, the team practiced the formation for the first time this week.
“We actually worked on a six-on-three this week; it’s funny that we got one,” Connolly said. Cornell got the first man back, but the Terriers scored six-on-four. Bonino threw the puck at the net, and Vinny Saponari got a piece of it. Scrivens thought he had squeezed it between his pads, but Connolly saw otherwise.
“Myself and the ref were the only ones who saw that the puck was free between the goalie’s legs, so he was in great position to see that. I was fortunate enough to pull it out and just stuff it in.”