By: Matt Dresens
So, by now you have probably heard No. 13 BU won the Hockey East Championship last weekend. You probably also have caught wind that the Terriers are playing in a rematch of Red Hot Hockey against No.4 Cornell in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Saturday afternoon in Worcester, Mass.
Cornell, unlike BU, lost in the semifinals of the ECAC tournament last weekend to Princeton, 4-1, at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. The Big Red are 25-5-2 on the year and landed the third overall seed in their second straight NCAA tournament appearance. A year ago, Cornell was blanked 5-0 by UMass-Lowell in Manchester, N.H. in the first round.
BU (21-13-4), on the other hand, is making their fourth consecutive trip to the national tournament. This is the longest streak in program history since the 1990’s when the Terriers ran off eight successive appearances from 1990 to 1998. This is the first time BU has been selected to play in an eastern regional when they are neither a one seed or a tournament host since the NCAA adopted the 16-team format in 2003.
“Its nice because the last few years we have been out west,” said coach Dave Quinn. “It’s going to be nice to have some fan support. Hopefully, we get a big crowd. Our crowd over the weekend was outstanding. I think it had a little bit with the way we played. Our guys feed off that energy.”
Along with fan support, one of the main factors enabling BU to go on their immersive playoff run has been the play of their top line. Drew Melanson, Brady Tkachuk and Jordan Greenway have been a dominating force since Greenway returned from Olympic competition in late February.
Since Greenway arrived back on campus, Melanson has scored four goals, including three in Hockey East Tournament play alone. Not to mention, he scored the game-winner on Saturday against Providence on a play where both Greenway and Tkachuk won battles below the goal line in order to find the RPI transfer alone out front.
“I think we all compliment each other pretty well,” added Melanson. “Those two guys can be real beasts down low. They both think the game really well, and it just gives myself more opportunity to play offense.”
Scouting The Big Red
The Madison Square Garden meeting back in last November yielded a 4-3 Cornell victory, but that wasn’t without some serious pressure from the Terriers in the later stages of play. BU trailed 3-0 entering the third period and got it to 4-3 before the final buzzer killed the BU comeback.
BU has matured a lot since the first encounter in the Big Apple. Coach Quinn was quick to point that out Thursday afternoon after practice.
“Its funny, we have been watching the game and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself, ‘oh, we don’t do that anymore.’ There’s just a lot more continuity. I think its going to be a completely different hockey game than the one people saw in November.”
Cornell is an extremely balanced team, with not one dominating figure on the stat sheet. In fact, four players have over 20 points and a staggering 15 skaters have hit the double watermark. That said, the hallmark of this Cornell team is defense.
The Big Red ranked tops in the nation in team defense, allowing just 1.53 goals per game. They play a complementary brand of hockey to that of Providence; for comparison, PC ranked ninth in the nation, allowing 2.18 goals per game.
“They do play similar styles. It’s gonna be that strong, tough, down-low grind that we faced against Providence,” Quinn voiced.
Emerging from the pack offensively is junior Anthony Angello, who has netted an even 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points on the year. Right behind him is Trever Yates. Yates, a senior from Beaconsfield, Quebec has 25 points on a dozen goals and 13 assists. Other players to watch include Alex Rauter, Jeff Malott, Mitch Vanderlaan and Brenden Locke.
Between the pipes, Matthew Galajda has been nothing but incredible. The freshman from Aurora, Ontario holds a .940 save percentage and a 1.49 goals-against average, to go along with his 21-4-2 record. Galajda was recently named a finalist for the Mike Richter Award for the nation’s top goaltender. The other finalists are Denver’s Tanner Jaillet, Cale Morris from Notre Dame, Colton Point out of Colgate and Northeastern’s Cayden Primeau.
“You gotta make him move and you gotta take his eyes away,” Quinn explained on how to beat the stout Cornell netminder. “No matter what goalie you are playing, you have to get there [in front of the net] and you got to make it hard for him. One of the things we talked about is, you got to go be the goalie. Who’s going to go stand on top of him? If we do that, we got a chance to score.”
BU and Cornell have played twice before in the NCAA tournament and both games were on the grand stage. In 1967, a goalie named Ken Dryden backstopped the Big Red to a 4-1 win and their first national title in program history. BU got their revenge five years later, winning the National Championship against Cornell in 1972 at Boston Garden by a score of 4-0.
Overall, Cornell leads the all-time series 26-19-3.
Puck drop is slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in Worcester.