By Brian Foisy
After a dominant 5-1 victory over one of the highest scoring teams in college hockey, the Terriers will now face a familiar foe with a chance to punch their ticket to the Frozen Four.
Red Hot Hockey will be making its triumphant debut in ManchVegas tomorrow night as the No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team (28-10-0) take on the No. 12 Cornell Big Red (21-10-2).
The Big Red pulled off a major upset shutting out the defending champion Denver, who were also the fourth ranked team in the country, to get to this spot in the finals of the Manchester Regionals.
In the last matchup between these two teams on Jan. 14, the Terriers came away with the W in a tight game that ended thanks to a last-second game-winner from Lane Hutson.
Cornell head coach Mike Schafer told reporters after Friday’s game that he contacted Terrier head coach Jay Pandolfo after the January matchup.
“I said that they taught us some lessons that we needed to learn,” Schafer said.
When asked by reporters how his team would plan to play against BU he said, “same way we played last time. We gotta control those guys. It’ll be difficult but so was Denver, Denver’s a hard team to control.”
Since that loss, the Big Red have gone 10-5 on their way to a 12th place finish in the USCHO poll. Cornell lost a hard-fought overtime battle 1-0 to No. 7 Harvard in the ECAC Championship game.
The Big Red are known for shutting down their opponents and playing a tough physical game. Cornell ranks second in goals allowed per game behind No. 3 Quinnipiac.
Their goalie, sophomore Ian Shane, ranks in the top 25 of collegiate goalies in save percentage and is tied for the fifth most shutouts. While he’s been an above average goalie all season, he’s been elite in tournament play over the last few weeks, having the second highest save percentage in the country.
Senior forward Ben Berard is the leading scorer on the team with 11 goals for the season, and he continued to lead his team, netting one of the two goals from the opening frame in last night’s contest against the Pioneers.
Cornell’s two senior captains –Travis Mitchell and Sam Malinski– have a combined 44 points this season, with Malinski hoping to sign as an NHL free agent whenever his season comes to a close.
Despite their strong defense, the Terriers will be a tough out for Cornell, especially with the continued dominance of freshman forward Lane Hutson.
Hutson’s first period goal in Thursday’s matchup against Western Michigan gave him 48 points for the season, which makes his rookie campaign the highest scoring one for a U-19 defenseman in NCAA history, passing a record which stood for 35 years.
Coach Schafer said Hutson was “one of the best defensemen” he’s seen in college hockey.
BU’s goalie Drew Commesso has also been on a tear recently, with a 1.75 GAA since the beginning of the Hockey East tournament, while also making 104 saves during that stretch.
While the Terriers have a tall (literally) task ahead of them in the Big Red, they do have the advantage of facing a familiar foe, especially with a quick turnaround between the semifinals and finals.
“We try to really just focus on how we’re gonna play,” Pandolfo said in regards to a rematch against Cornell. “There’s plenty of time to look at either team… you can find out pretty quickly how teams play.”
With the Terriers only one win away from a Frozen Four appearance in Tampa, they’ll need to lock in and hope their play carries over from last night; arguably one of the most complete efforts by the team all season.
Puck drop is scheduled for 4:00pm tomorrow in Manchester. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on the ground coverage so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.