Saturday’s showdown at Madison Square Garden – a 2-1 overtime win for the No. 13 Boston University men’s hockey team over No. 17 Cornell University – was a resounding success, but not just on the ice.
For the third time in as many attempts, Red Hot Hockey sold out the historic, 18,200-seat arena. The first two editions – a 6-3 BU win in 2007 and a 3-3 tie in 2009 – were also played in front of sold-out crowds.
There are no solidified plans to continue the tradition, but given the huge commercial success of the event, BU coach Jack Parker had a good idea of what he thought the future held.
“The future of this game is we make money. We fill the building. I think it would be insane not to keep this game going,” Parker said. “Our plan is that we’re going to play it every other year. We said we were going to play it every other year unless there wasn’t enough interest.
“I think we’ll play in two years,” he continued with a smile.
Toiling with the tallies
Twelve games into the 2011-12 season, the Terriers (7-4-1, 5-3-1 Hockey East) seem to have found their groove as a team with four straight wins.
Certain forwards – sophomore Matt Nieto (eight goals, seven assists), senior Corey Trivino (eight goals, four assists) and junior Alex Chiasson (five goals, seven assists) among them – have consistently put up points.
That being said, a pair of Terrier forwards expected to appear often on the score sheet, senior captain Chris Connolly and sophomore Charlie Coyle, have not seen as much success. Connolly has yet to find the back of the net, while Coyle has done so just twice.
“No question it’s on their minds,” Parker said. “For their own personal sake, I’d like to see them break into the goal-scoring columns a little bit more often.”
Still, their seasons have been far from complete failures. The pair is tied for the team lead with nine assists apiece, which is a huge reason for the previously mentioned trio’s success.
“They’re both playing extremely well,” Parker said. “Corey Trivino is having a hell of a year because Connolly has nine assists. Nieto is having a hell of a year; Chiasson is having a hell of a year because Charlie has [nine] assists.
“They’re helping their linemates out and their lines are good, so it’s not as if they’re not contributing.”
Nicastro negating poor start
On Nov. 5, when junior defenseman Max Nicastro was forced to sit out the team’s eventual 7-1 loss to University of Massachusetts-Lowell as punishment for skipping class too often, it was the low point of an overall underwhelming season for the blue liner.
But since then, one of the veterans of the defensive corps has turned his season around. He has played with more brains, effort and skill since being benched, and has blocked 13 shots this year, tying him with sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening for second on the team.
This drastic reversal hasn’t escaped Parker, who issued some strong words about Nicastro last Wednesday.
“He’s playing his best hockey of his career here right now,” Parker said. “[He’s] playing very well without the puck and very well with the puck and making good decisions and not trying to do too much.”
As much as it pained him at the time, missing the UMass-Lowell game might have served as a wake-up call for Nicastro, letting him take a step back to re-evaluate his game from a different perspective.
“Sometimes when you watch from the stands, you can [say], ‘Okay, I can see what they’re talking about now,’” Parker said. “I think he made a concerted effort to try to play the way we want him to play, and I think he just got comfortable slash confident.”
Polls at a glance
The win over Cornell on Saturday was the team’s fourth straight, and the new national polls released yesterday reflected the Terriers’ recent success.
The U.S. College Hockey Online poll, which had BU in the No. 15 slot last week, now ranks the Terriers No. 13 in the country.
The other major poll, the USA Today coaches’ poll, also had BU at No. 13, an improvement over being the first team out last week.