NEW YORK - Sophomore goaltender Matt O'Connor made 37 saves and three different Terriers lit the lamp as the Boston University men's ice hockey team defeated No. 14 Cornell, 3-2, in the fourth edition of Red Hot Hockey at Madison Square Garden.
BU (7-6-1) staked itself a 3-0 lead but Cornell (7-4-1) answered with two goals in the third period to cut the Terriers' lead to one. The Terriers were forced to kill a penalty for the final 1:47 of the game, but even with the Big Red's goaltender pulled in favor of an extra attacker, BU held on for the win.
This is the third time BU has won Red Hot Hockey and the Terriers improved their record in the event to 3-0-1. Following the game, the Terriers were presented with the newly-created Kelley-Harkness Cup, named after legendary coaches Jack Kelley (BU) and Ned Harkness (Cornell).
O'Connor was the Terriers' best player on a night that the Big Red outshot BU, 39-11. O'Connor made 16 saves in the final frame and 13 of his 37 stops came while he and the Terrier penalty killers held the second-ranked Big Red power-play unit to zero goals in seven chances.
Two freshmen and a sophomore found the back of the net for BU, with Mike Moran opening the scoring in the first period before classmates Robbie Baillargeon and Nick Roberto scored in the second and third, respectively. Four other Terriers had assists, with junior Evan Rodrigues, freshman Kevin Duane and sophomores Matt Grzelcyk and Danny O'Regan each getting on the scoresheet.
Moran started the play that led to his second goal of the season at the 17:50 mark of the opening frame. He pinched in along the left half-wall to keep the puck in the Cornell zone. O'Regan collected the puck, fought off a Cornell defender and got to the right circle before finding Moran at the left post. The sophomore forward didn't miss and BU entered the first intermission with a 1-0 advantage.
O'Connor was sharp for the Terriers in the first 20 minutes in stopping all 10 Cornell shots on goal. He made three saves in succession from close range when Cole Bardreau and Jacob MacDonald each had point-blank chances. His biggest save of the frame came immediately after Moran's goal when he stoned John Kinsley from below the circles.
Baillargeon had been driving to the net all night and his persistence paid off with 5:22 remaining in the second stanza. Rodrigues made a great hip check in his own zone to free the puck for Baillargeon, who began a 3-on-1 rush the other way. He got it to Rodrigues on the right wing and continued to the front of the net, where Rodrigues found him with an inch-perfect pass for the tip-in and his fifth goal of the campaign.
The Big Red had four power-play opportunities in a penalty-plagued second period, but O'Connor made eight of his 13 second-period saves and BU blocked several more chances while down a man, including a stretch of 5-on-3 play.
BU capitalized on one of its two power plays of the evening just 2:44 into the final frame to extend its lead to 3-0. Grzelcyk's shot bounced off a Big Red defender and right onto the stick of Duane, who quickly backhanded a pass to Roberto at the left post. The freshman forward one-timed his classmate's feed for his fifth goal of the season.
Cornell responded 1:21 after Roberto's goal thanks to a Christian Hilbrich marker from the top of the crease. The play was reviewed, but the goal stood. It became a 3-2 game at the 16:20 mark when Cole Bardreau beat O'Connor. It was the last blemish on O'Connor's night, though the Big Red nearly tied the game moments after cutting its deficit to one. With 3:20 remaining in regulation, Eric Freschi had a great look from the bottom of the right circle but O'Connor saw the puck all the way.
Despite a 6-on-4 advantage in the final minute, the Big Red was held scoreless. Senior co-captain Garrett Noonan blocked a shot and O'Connor made four saves during that stretch to preserve the win.
The Terriers will return to action next weekend (Dec. 6-7) with a home-and-home series against Merrimack. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m., including Saturday night's contest at Agganis Arena.