Stage set for third edition of Red Hot Hockey

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, the third edition of Red Hot Hockey at Madison Square Garden is finally here. The No. 15 Boston University men’s hockey team seems to have found a rhythm recently after winning three straight games, and the Terriers will have a chance to prove themselves on a big stage Saturday against a tough opponent in the No. 17 Cornell University hockey team.

Like BU (6-4-1, 5-3-1 HE), the Big Red (6-2-0, 5-1-0 ECAC) started the season in inconsistent fashion, losing to Mercyhurst and Brown while beating Yale and Harvard to go 2-2 through their first four games. Since then, however, Cornell has been in the drivers’ seat, running off four straight wins and riding a three-game shutout streak.

“I think it’s a better team than we’ve seen in the last two years against Cornell,” Parker said. “I think they play like [the University of] Vermont and [the University of New Hampshire] just played. They play hard, hard forecheck. They come at you real hard at times. They also can all of the sudden just drop back and play a 1-2-2 at center ice while you’re still waiting behind your goalie. So they give you different looks that way.

“Playing Vermont and UNH these past two games as far as style is concerned, obviously Cornell is a better team than those two teams right now probably but as far as style is concerned, that was good for us because we’ll see similar stuff from them.”

The Terriers will see a different face in the Cornell net than Ben Scrivens, who held the Terriers to a 3-3 tie last time the teams faced off at the Garden. The Big Red will rely on sophomore Andy Iles, a 5-foot-9 Ithaca native who has earned a .918 save percentage and a 2.01 goals against average so far this season.

BU will counter Iles with senior goaltender Kieran Millan, who did not play in Red Hot Hockey two years ago. Millan has had an inconsistent season, but looked better in his last two games out, a 4-1 win over the University of New Hampshire and a 5-0 blanking of then-No. 2 Boston College.

“It’s not a matter of Kieran being Kieran,” Parker said of his goaltender’s inconsistent play this season. “It’s ‘Can he be it every night?’ And that’s the consistency factor we’re looking for. He looks like he’s in pretty good shape right now, his frame of mind and the way he’s handling pucks, positioning himself on shots.”

Beyond Millan’s frame of mind, BU will have a chance to show it can enter a one-game weekend in the correct frame of mind as well. The Terriers are 0-for-2 this season in one-game weekends, as they lost to Holy Cross 5-4 at the end of October and then suffered their worst defeat so far with a 7-1 beating at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell in the first weekend of November.

But both of those games came before BU finally won consecutive outings, and the loss to Lowell seemed to especially be a turning point for the Terriers. Add in the excitement of Red Hot Hockey gets into that equation, and both Parker and junior forward Ben Rosen said they think the Terriers will have their heads in a better place for Saturday’s game.

“[We have to] just keep rolling off of what we’ve been doing, keep playing how we’ve been playing,” Rosen said. “I guess those games, those one-weekend games, were earlier in the season. We hadn’t really had our heads right and I guess now we’re on a roll right here and we’re going to try to keep it going.”

Rosen, a Syosset, NY native, grew up rooting for the New York Rangers, who call Madison Square Garden home. Rosen was a healthy scratch for his freshman year’s Red Hot Hockey, and he said he is extra excited to finally take the ice where his childhood hockey heroes played.

“I grew up going to games at Madison Square Garden and love the Rangers obviously, so getting on that ice and playing there where all those guys played is going to be unbelievable, especially in front of my family and my friends,” Rosen said. The junior estimated that he will have at least 14 guests at the game, including his grandparents, who have never seen him play live.

Rosen is one of three Rangers fans on the team. Freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera, a New Jersey native, and junior defenseman Sean Escobedo, a Bayside, NY native, count themselves among Blueshirts followers. Sophomore defenseman Patrick MacGregor, a western Connecticut native who follows the Yankees, grew up rooting for the Bruins rather than the Rangers.

But regardless of which NHL team each player follows, the Terriers and their coach agreed that the third edition of Red Hot Hockey should be, at the very least, a great night for college hockey.

“I think the idea of playing Cornell anywhere is always big time for us and big time for them because both perceive ourselves as being teams that are vying for national honors every year and league honors,” Parker said. “So that’s all great that we’re playing Cornell. Playing in Madison Garden is fabulous. The most famous arena in the world, so to speak. Playing them in Madison Square Garden in front of our third-straight, sold-out building I think is a real feather in BU and Cornell’s cap but I think it’s also a feather in college hockey’s cap.”

Notes: The Terriers will not have a pre-game skate on Saturday since the Rangers are playing the Flyers on Garden ice in the afternoon and it was too much of a hassle for BU to find and travel to a different rink during the necessary time slot. Parker said the team will hold an alternative version of exercise instead … BU spent Thanksgiving in the Boston area, meaning out-of-towners had to find some place to go. Most of the freshmen and sophomores had Thanksgiving dinner at sophomore forward Garrett Nooonan’s house in Norfolk, while the juniors and seniors went to junior forward Ross Gaudet’s home in Burlington. That means the Noonans and Gaudets each had to feed about 12 hungry hockey players on Thursday … The Terriers who do not live in on-campus apartments had to stay in Boston hotel rooms over Thanksgiving break.