The Boston University men’s hockey team (4-9-2, 3-5-2 Hockey East) lost 6-4 after taking the stage at Madison Square Garden to face off against Cornell University (8-1) for the eighth edition of Red Hot Hockey. Under the brightest lights, the Terriers and the Big Red put on a high-scoring performance where the scarlet and white ultimately could not keep up.
“I think we reverted back a little bit tonight. We had some moments where we didn’t manage the puck properly which cost us,” Head Coach Albie O’Connell said in the post game press conference. “Cornell’s a good hockey team, and they challenge you in a lot of different ways.”
Junior forward Matt Brown made his return to the lineup after missing four weekends due to injury. With two points (1g, 1a) in the five matchups he’s skated in, and a big personality in the locker room, the Terriers were no doubt excited to see him back in the BU sweater.
“I thought Matt had some good shifts out there. It’s tough, it’s his first game in a long time,” O’Connell said. “He’s not moving as well as he normally does but it was probably good for him to get in a game and see what he can do.”
Scratched from the roster––it’s unclear whether he’s healthy or not––was junior forward Ethan Phillips. He has been an integral component to BU’s offense thus far, but the Terriers have become familiar with a changing lineup this season, so they took the absence in stride.
The Big Red dominated the early minutes of the opening frame and notched the first tally of the night at 7:00. Launched by junior defenseman Sebastian Driven at the point, the puck was then deflected in front by freshman forward Kyler Koich to give his squad the 1-0 advantage.
BU kept themselves in the game and countered Cornell’s rush as they got more shifts in and threw some rubber on freshman netminder Joe Howe––most shots from above the faceoff circle. Sophomore forward Dylan Peterson took the alternative approach, though, driving to the net at 10:30 to tie the competition at one a piece.
Carrying the puck on the backhand through three Cornell players, Peterson garnered his sixth of the season by roofing it top shelf over Howe’s left shoulder. The beauty of a goal showcased the unwavering confidence the forward has gained this year and the leader he has turned into for the group.
Junior forward Zach Tupker was sent to the box at 10:55 for a hooking penalty, giving the Terriers a chance to take hold of the lead. Unsuccessful on the man-advantage, BU then capitalized moments later with both teams at even-strength.
Soaring into the Big Red zone, freshman forward Brian Carrabes released a snapshot that beat Howe left side, lifting BU to their first lead of the evening at 2-1. Junior forward Wilmer Skoog collected his seventh apple––in the big apple––of the year on the play.
Cornell found the equalizer with a goal almost identical to their first––this time the initial shot from the point came from senior defenseman Cody Haiskanen. Freshman Ondrej Psenicka’s strong netfront presence redirected the puck past sophomore goaltender Drew Commesso.
With time ticking away, sophomore forward Luke Tuch took an unnecessary and undisciplined cross checking penalty with 1:38 left on the clock which allowed senior forward Max Andreev to secure the Big Red a 3-2 lead going into the second period.
20 minutes down, BU looked exceedingly better in the latter half of the first period despite some serious pressure from Cornell’s big and fast squad. They battled to stay at the Big Red’s compete level, but it wasn’t the prettiest hockey we’ve seen this season.
“I thought some guys had some really good nights on a big stage––it was good to see––and we had some guys that faltered in that setting,” O’Connell said.
The second period was arguably the Terriers’ worst of the matchup as they were getting pushed off of pucks and swarmed in all three zones. Senior forward Brenden Locke took advantage of BU’s flat play, mustering the puck from a Terrier turnover in their defensive zone, swooped around, and snapped it five hole. The 10:17 tally was one Commesso might’ve wanted back and propped Cornell up 4-2.
Cornell put their physicality on display when junior Sam Malinksi absolutely dropped Skoog as he skated over the blueline on the offensive rush. There was no penalty on the play, but Andreev got called for hooking previous to the sturdy hit at 13:06. The Terriers had no puck luck on the power play.
We got some 4-on-4 hockey towards the end of the second as junior forwards Jack Malone and Robert Mastrosimone each got sent to the sin bin within 30 seconds of each other. Junior defenseman Domenick Fensore and Case McCarthy collabed for BU’s third with 1:48 on the clock while each team was down a man.
Swinging the puck from the left to the right side with a cross ice pass, Fensore connected with McCarthy––who leads the defensive group in scoring with 5 goals––who then dumped it into the open net that a sprawling Howe could not cover. The middle frame would end 4-3, the late tally giving BU some momentum heading into the final 20 minutes of play…but they didn’t act on it.
The Terriers simply got outworked in the third period. Cornell was the more aggressive and detail oriented team who capitalized on the disheveled and sloppy performance BU put on the ice.
“If you watched the way Cornell blocked shots, compared to the way our guys blocked shots tonight, it was night and day. That’s an area we really need to improve,” O’Connell said.
Malinski deflated the BU bench at 3:40 as he weaved his way through three Terriers, right down the middle from center ice, and lifted it gloveside past Commesso. The highlight-reel-worthy goal reclaimed the two goal advantage for the Big Red who now led 5-3.
With a majority of the period still left, BU lacked a real sense of urgency to get themselves back in the competition. Weak passes and muffled communication hindered the group from making any tangible progress anywhere on the ice. Cornell also played a great shutdown period, so big credit to them.
Junior forward Ben Berard scored with under five minutes remaining and it officially felt like the nail in the coffin. With their third goal off of a faceoff win, it was another soft shot from the point that got tapped in on its way to the net through traffic.
Although freshman forward Tyler Boucher scored at 19:04 to reach the final score of 6-4, it seemed as though the Terriers lost hope early on in the closing frame. The grit and determination seen from BU in both the Northeastern and UMass series was missing in a good chunk of tonight’s game.
Commesso faced 23 shots in the loss, letting in an uncharacteristic six goals, but he was put in some tough positions. O’Connell said he wasn’t worried about the goaltender.
“Statistically, obviously it’s not a great night when he looks at it. But there’s times when goalies don’t have a chance,” O’Connell said. “I think he has played terrific of late and he’s a confident kid, he’ll bounce back.”
An unwanted outcome still warranted an entertaining game at the World’s Most Famous Arena. The Terriers have a lot to take from going up against a group with immense talent and tenacity like Cornell.
BU will now prepare for their upcoming series against the University of New Hampshire which they’ll play on Friday and Saturday this weekend. Friday’s matchup is at Agganis Arena and will start at 7:30p.m.. We’ll have a preview up later this week and live coverage for both games. Per usual, follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog for all things Terrier hockey.