NEW YORK – Madison Square Garden is the perfect stage for exciting hockey games, and the tilt between the No. 15 Boston University men’s hockey team and No. 17 Cornell University did not disappoint.
The Terriers (7-4-1, 5-3-1 Hockey East) emerged as the 2-1 victors by virtue of senior forward Ross Gaudet’s first goal of the season, which came 2:48 into overtime.
The goal was a bit of a fluky score for the Terriers. BU was pressuring in overtime when junior defenseman Max Nicastro launched a slapper from the right point at the net. The shot bounced off Gaudet’s stick and through his legs before caroming past Cornell (6-3-0) goaltender Andy Iles for the game-winner.
”This is the most exciting goal I’ve ever scored,” Gaudet said. “It was a great game to be a part of too, so it’s probably one of the best moments of my athletic career.”
Gaudet’s highlight moment capped off a back-and-forth game which featured the Terriers as the dominant team in the first period and overtime while Cornell controlled play through most of the second and third periods.
The Terriers began the game by ending a shutout streak for Iles, who held opponents scoreless for 202 minutes and 28 seconds until the BU power play handcuffed Iles on a 5-on-3 11:07 into the first period.
Sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening was stationed on the right point on the two-man advantage and passed to junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson on the left point. The two then switched spots, causing the Cornell defense to scramble to change its coverage. Chiasson put a slapper on net that bounced out to a waiting Clendening, who buried it from the left point for his first goal of the season, giving BU a 1-0 lead.
Cornell began pressuring the Terriers in the second period. Midway through the frame, Cornell dominated play in its offensive zone for at least a minute while the Terriers struggled to keep up and failed to gain any control over the puck.
“They came at us real hard,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “I thought that we were back on our heels a little bit. We looked a little slow on the forecheck. We couldn’t forecheck them as well as they were forechecking us, and I thought that was a big part of it.”
Despite plenty of opportunities, the Big Red failed to score throughout the second period, partly because BU blocked seven shots in the frame, and partly because Cornell shot wide eight times while hitting a post once, meaning only 11 of the Big Reds’ 27 shots that period reached the net.
Cornell finally found its way onto the scoreboard 11:06 into the third period, when Cornell’s Sean Whitney beat Nieto up high in the zone and got a shot on Millan, drawing him out of the crease. Locke Jillson found the rebound and shot it at the net, where it bounced off sophomore forward Charlie Coyle’s skate and into the net, tying the game at 1-1.
The tying goal proved to be a prelude for the most controversial play of the night.
With four minutes remaining in the third, Cornell appeared to score when John Esposito’s shot bounced off the far boards, disappeared for a few seconds, and then hit Millan’s back and bounced into the net, but the whistle blew before the puck went into the goal.
A review confirmed the “no goal” call.
“I’m still at a loss for words to why the goal wasn’t called,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “Officials said they went to the box and they said they heard the whistle on the box. There was no whistle. The puck was clear in the back of the net.”
Parker heartily disagreed.
“What I thought happened on that play was that they lost sight of the puck for a long time,” Parker said. “They should have blown the whistle before that. After they blew the whistle, the puck went in the net. You can clearly hear it on the replay.”
A post-game replay upheld the version of the play Parker and the officials attested to, and in the wake of the call, neither team could find the back of the net, sending the game to overtime.
The Terriers came out the stronger team in the extra frame, outshooting Cornell 4-1 and beating the Big Red in Grade-A chances by a 3-1 margin. Their improved play paid off when Gaudet’s deflection flickered past Iles for the goal, improving the Terriers’ record to 2-0-1 in Red Hot Hockey history. The win was the fourth in a row for BU, which is starting to find its groove after a slow start.
“I think we’re in a mode here right now where there’s some consistency,” Parker said. “We lost to Merrimack [on Nov. 11] and I thought we played a really solid game, one that slipped away . . . And then we won every game since then. So we’re in a pretty good mode of five games in a row playing the way we’re supposed to be playing.”