Red Hot Crowd + Red Hot Terriers = A Night To Remember

NEW YORK, N.Y. - So, how good a night was it for college hockey at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, as Boston University defeated longtime rival Cornell, 6-3, in the Red Hot Hockey Classic?

It seemed all anyone could talk about was how soon they could do it again.

"It's possible that we could bring this game back here two years from now," BU head coach Jack Parker said, "I'm sure that Madison Square Garden would like another packed house."

"It was a great experience for our players," Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said. "College hockey can really benefit from a night like this, and hopefully, our programs will be back here as soon as we can. It was a great event to be involved in, and I feel very privileged as a coach that we could be down here."

The talk about the next time didn't just start after the game, either.

"We came in the building to drop stuff off last night, our equipment," Parker said. "My guys wanted to go out on the court; the Knicks' court was down. I said, 'Hey guys, knock it off with that,' and someone said, 'Hey, let those guys do what they want. They're the only guys who can sell this building out.'"

Once that sellout crowd packed into the World's Most Famous Arena, it was a sight to behold.

"Pretty uneblievable," Cornell co-captain Topher Scott said. "18,200, I think, was what they said. I don't think I've played in front of half that many people. Just coming out and seeing all the fans, I don't think it was something that any of us will forget."

That unforgettable sight may have factored in early on in the game - and yes, remember, there was a hockey game - for the Big Red, as the Terriers posted the first eight shots on goal in the game.

"There's evidence right there," Scott said. "We've got to work smart, not just work hard. We didn't do that tonight. It's really easy to get hyped up for these kinds of games, but you have to be smart and trust your systems and play the gameplan that the coaches set out for us."

"There's a difference between wanting to play and playing," Schafer said. "What I mean by that is that we watched the puck an awful lot in the neutral zone. I thought they were very good in transition, and we gave up two-on-ones and three-on-twos, and guys just didn't think. They were full of energy and full of excitement. BU came out and they executed early on, and caught us out of position. Give them credit for capitalizing."

Meanwihle, the Terriers subdued their jitters early on to take command of the game, outshooting the Big Red 15-5 in the early portions of the game, and it would be a group of Terriers with ties to the greater New York area who led the way as BU built the lead it would not relinquish.

"I was thinking about that when they were introducing the starting lineup," Parker said. "We had some New Yorkers, the fact that Bonino's a Connecticut kid, Joey is, MacArthur figured in, Gilroy figured in. That's nice for them."

The Terriers built a 5-1 lead over the first 41:17 of the contest, and each of the five goals included at least one player with ties to the area:

- Freshman forward Joe Pereira, a native of West Haven, Conn., scored the first goal, with the assist going to Nick Bonino of Unionville, Conn.

- Sophomore forward Luke Popko, from the central New Jersey town of Skillman, scored the second goal, with Pereira getting one of the assists.

- The assist on Brandon Yip's goal to make it 3-0 came from junior defenseman Matt Gilroy, who hails from North Bellemore, N.Y.

- Pete MacArthur, who scored the fourth goal, is from the Capital District town of Clifton Park, N.Y., but in an area that splits NHL loyalties between the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers, MacArthur counts himself a lifelong Rangers fan.

- Colin Wilson scored the fifth BU goal, and while he calls Winnipeg home, he was born in Greenwich, Conn., while his father, Carey Wilson, was playing for the New York Rangers.

The local ties probably didn't make anyone more comfortable, but it certainly made the goals and the win a bigger thrill.

"It's a dream come true," Pereira said. "Growing up, everybody dreams of scoring a goal at Madison Square Garden. First goal of my career."

While Parker was a bit skeptical on his freshman forward's claim - "I never dreamed of scoring a big goal in Madison Square Garden," Parker said, "I'm from Boston" - he was certainly happy to acknowledge the excitement for his team to play - and win - in an environment like this.

"This was a fabulous venue to play in," Parker said. "This is the largest crowd a Boston University team has ever played in front of. I thought it was quite a show that way. A lot of people got to see how enthusiastic college hockey is."

For Schafer and the Big Red, obviously, the feelings were more bitter than sweet.

"Obviously, we dug ourselves a big hole," Schafer said, "and we were never able to recover from there."

Of course, it wasn't that the Big Red didn't put up a game effort, as Parker found both the score and the shot totals deceiving.

"We attempted 64 shots," Parker said. "They attempted 63, so we were in each other's zones about the same amount of time. The major difference was that we blocked 22 shots. That was a great job by us."

Cornell's defense was at less than full strength without the suspended Justin Krueger, but Schafer didn't think that his absence or that of Joe Scali was a major factor in the game.

"It's really unfortunate that he couldn't play tonight," Schafer said. "Justin's probably been our top defenseman. If those guys had shown up, I don't think it would have made a difference whether they were playing or not. It's a team game, and you've got to overcome the injuries and things that we had coming into tonight's game."

BU certainly stepped up to the plate, and will look to continue doing so and improving on its 4-7-2 record. The Terriers begin a home-and-home series with Boston College on Friday at the Eagles' Kelley Rink at Conte Forum, while the Big Red returns to Lynah Rink in Ithaca to meet No. 10 UMass.

"It's easy to get up when there's 18,000 people," MacArthur said. "These next two [against rival Boston College] shouldn't be tough, but no matter how many people there are, we need to realize that every game counts."

After a game like this one, though, thoughts do return to how much it counts for college hockey, and Parker certainly isn't hesitant to think about the next time.

"I think the only way it works is with us and Cornell," Parker said. "I don't think it could happen every year. In all probability, we could pack this building again in two years."

Scott, though, probably spoke for all of the participants in focusing on a different location, one on the other side of the country.

"We want to get back to playing in front of 18,000 people at the end of the year," Scott said, "and this is going to be a great learning experience for us."

How about a great experience, period.

Good night from Madison Square Garden!

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)