By Mark Fraenkel
After cruising to a 6-2 win over the No. 19 University of Massachusetts Minutemen (9-9-3, 3-7-1 HE) on Wednesday night, the No. 7 Boston University men’s hockey team (14-6-0, 9-4-0 HE) returns to action against the No. 15 Cornell Big Red (10-5-1, 7-3-0 ECAC) on Saturday. The Red Hot Rivals typically meet every other year at the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden, but will stay local this year as Cornell makes the trip to Agganis for the first time for a 4 PM puck drop.
“Coming off a big win for us against UMass, coming back from the road trip, I thought it was huge,” BU head coach Jay Pandolfo said during his Friday afternoon media availability. “I thought we were ready to play. I thought we played a pretty complete game,” he added.
BU enters Saturday’s game riding high after scoring four first-period goals against the visitors from Western Massachusetts. Freshman forward Devin Kaplan would score the other two goals for the Terriers. The Bridgewater, New Jersey native now has six goals on the season.
Junior goaltender Drew Commesso made 17 saves and picked up the win, improving to 10-4-0 on the season. Commesso’s play has not gone unnoticed, and this week, he was named to the 2023 Richter Award Watch List.
Cornell travels to Boston on a two-game winning streak. Last weekend the Big Red defeated the Union College Dutchmen (8-12-1, 3-7-0 ECAC) and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers (8-12-1, 3-7-0 ECAC), and will look to continue its winning streak this weekend.
In Friday’s win over Union, Senior forward Jack Malone scored twice, joined by goals from four other veteran players en route to a 6-1 win. The next night, forwards Ben Berard and Gabriel Seger found the back of the net once again. In addition, sophomore defenseman Hank Kempf, senior forward Zach Tupker, senior defenseman Sam Malinski, and freshman forward Sean Donalson each scored to help the Big Red win.
“They have really good structure,” Pandolfo said of Mike Schafer’s team. “They’re gonna have four or five guys back… They protect the middle of the ice, so we can’t expect an easy game.”
The first-year head coach also confirmed that senior forward Jamie Armstrong will miss Saturday’s game.
“He actually ended up getting sick yesterday, so that held him off the ice,” Pandolfo said. “He’s starting to feel a little bit better, but he didn’t get on the ice even today, so he won’t be available tomorrow.”
Wednesday’s three points were important for BU in the Hockey East standings. The Terriers now sit in third place with 26 points. The No. 10 Merrimack College Warriors (14-6-1, 9-2-0 HE) and the No. 11 University of Connecticut Huskies (13-6-3, 8-5-2 HE) are tied in first with 27 points, while the Northeastern Huskies (9-9-3, 7-4-2 HE) hold onto fourth with 25 points.
Cornell is currently seeded second in the ECAC, with NCAA leader and top-ranked No. 1 Quinnipiac (17-1-3, 12-0-0 ECAC) leading the league.
BU had success in their one matchup against ECAC opponents this season. An overtime goal from senior defenseman Domenick Fensore put the Terriers over the No. 9 Harvard Crimson (10-4-1, 8-2-0 ECAC) on Dec 30. Saturday’s game against Cornell will be the last regular season game for Jay Pandolfo’s team against a non-Hockey East opponent unless BU faces Harvard again in the second round of the Beanpot.
Following the Cornell matchup, BU will host the University of Maine Black Bears (8-9-2, 2-5-1 HE) for two games before taking on their archrival, the Boston College Eagles (8-6-4, 5-3-3 HE), in a home-and-home series the following week.
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