Gillam seemed poised against a Niagara squad that challenged Cornell more than perhaps it should have been able. The two goals that the Purple Eagles converted were off of the Big Red's defensive implosions. Defensive commitment too far down low led to an odd-man rush on Gillam in what was nearly a three-on-one chance for the Purple Eagles that Niagara converted. The second was a result of allowing a Niagara forward to camp out on Gillam's crease unobstructed with live passing lanes from all angles, a fact that Schafer bemoaned later. Then, the goal. Gillam became only the third goaltender since 1947 to score a goal. The question lingered for the Lynah Faithful that departed East Hill if Cornell could compete with the likes of Boston University after surrendering two goals to Niagara and scoring a mere four goals?
The three-game stretch was revelatory for Cornell as a whole. No freshman had scored prior to the contest with Brown. Now, three freshmen have scored. Matt Buckles was the first to convert when knotted the game against Brown after the Bears were allotted a penalty shot that Matt Lorito dutifully converted for them. Eric Freschi became the second freshman to score. He wasted no time in becoming the leading scorer of his graduating class with scoring two goals in a 26:27 span against Brown. Gillam's goal added to the offensive output of Cornell's freshman class.
Scoring began to come from unusual sources. Reece Willcox who nearly has perfected his niche as a responsible stay-at-home defenseman who makes few errors tallied an empty-net goal against Brown. It was his first goal in carnelian and white. Jason Weinstein during the call mentioned that when Willcox told his children about his first collegiate tally that instead of an empty-net marker it would become a breakaway goal in which the sophomore defenseman beat the Brown netminder top shelf. This musing became prophetic. It seemed as though Willcox's scoring could not be stopped. When Cornell seemed moribund against the Purple Eagles, it was Willcox who ignited the Red's fire with a goal on a four-on-four opportunity when he streaked across the ice and challenged the goaltender post to post. It was a memorable goal from a great player.
The heavy lifting of defeating the defending national champion fell to the lofty talents of Brian Ferlin and Joel Lowry. They seemed that they would have had it no other way against the Elis. Brian Ferlin scored a goal off of a face-off during Cornell's first power play. Keith Allain must have known what was coming. Then, Joel Lowry forced past Lyon a gritty goal that would stand as the deciding tally. From expected leaders to newcomers, it was apparent that Cornell's offense was clicking, but the fissures that Cornell's second-most heated foe would exploit were present during most of the three-game streak.
An easily ignored fact is that Cornell's power play had converted on a mere 23.1% of its chances during the lead-up before Red Hot Hockey IV. The Big Red had scored a power-play goal in each contest against Brown, Yale, and Niagara, but over that three-game span it scored only one such goal per game despite enjoying five or more opportunities on two of those occasions. This seems prophetic in retrospect.
Red Hot Hockey IV is the biggest event of the regular season for Cornell every other season. This season, the game ranks among the four most emotionally important games of the season. The game against Yale was one those contests. The other two have yet to be played. This is all just to highlight that there is no excuse for any effort less than the best at this contest. Since its inception, Boston University and Cornell have become increasingly invested in winning this contest. However, only one program has won it.
Most would have assume that Cornell's skaters would be the shortcoming of the Big Red against Boston University. Such would have been a reasonable assumption, although arguably a foolish one, but when one is looking for worst case scenarios about how Cornell could have lost the contest against Boston University before it happened, it seems plausible. Cornell's penalty kill had killed 85.7% of opponent's power plays during the three-game stretch. Additionally, Andy Iles boasted a 0.944 save percentage at Madison Square Garden in Red Hot Hockey III and the inaugural Frozen Apple. Few believed that Cornell's greatest weakness could come from behind the Red's blue line.
When the puck struck the ice for the first time in Red Hot Hockey IV, it was apparent that Cornell wanted this win. It needed this win. The game began 11 years to the day after Cornell began its triumphant sweep of Boston University during the 2002-03 season. The now-legendary player who opened scoring in that series against the Terriers, Sam Paolini, was in attendance at Madison Square Garden to watch his alma mater fall to Boston University for the third time in six years.
Cornell dominated play. Boston University leveled a few challenges, but Andy Iles, after some questionable times in his last two outings against Brown and Yale, seemed to have regained his characteristic form at that point. Cornell squandered a power play in the first period in which Boston University was even to go on the offensive and the Big Red failed to cycle well and seemed too timid to even challenge O'Connor in Boston University's net.
The deadlock was broken with 2:10 remaining in the first period. A lot has been made of Gotovets's fall prior to the first goal. The stumble on the ice was neither the sole nor proximate reason that an otherwise savable puck found itself buried in the back of Cornell's net. Regardless, Cornell attempted to respond in the 130 seconds that remained, but was unable to do so. The Big Red was down 0-1 early in the contest.
Cornell killed off a penalty with relative poise midway through the second period. Then, in quick secession Cornell's power-play unit took to the ice. The Big Red enjoyed 31 seconds of five-on-three hockey. Unlike Cornell's first power play, the Big Red seemed far more comfortable and threatening, but O'Connor was equal to every challenge that the Red leveled at him. At times, it was O'Connor with little defensive help from his Terriers who stood alone against Cornell's onslaught. The two-man advantage was squandered. Then, 1:29 later Boston University killed off the second of the penalties. Cornell still controlled the flow of play even though Boston University had fought its way back into the game far more than it had in the first period.
Boston University broke out on a bad turnover. The Terriers made Cornell pay for one of its few defensive lapses in the contest and blasted a puck into the net. The rush precipitated in Boston University's end and ended with the Terriers up by a two-goal margin. Cornell would be given a chance to get into the contest 20 seconds later, but frustration or angst had overcome Cornell's power-play unit.
The power play was good, but far too conservative. Cornell unleashed few shots on O'Connor. More frustratingly, the few crisp seam passes on which the Big Red connected, the receiver usually waffled and missed a one-timer opportunity allowing O'Connor and Boston University's defensemen to recommit to covering the changed ice positioning. This latter problem plagued Cornell for the remainder of the contest as anxiety took its toll. Cornell was very close to converting at this moment and in the final seconds of the contest, but anxiety undermined the Big Red's commonly calculated and smooth puck handling on the power play. Cornell needed to be better to beat a goaltender as good as O'Connor.
In a play that was similar to the cross-ice pass that bested Iles for Boston University's first goal, the Terriers found the back of the net again on a power play in the first three minutes of the third period. The play was nearly identical in all other elements. Boston University clung to its three goals. Cornell would need to do the unthinkable to win the contest. Cornell had scored four goals against St. Lawrence in one period. It would need to do that to topple the Terriers.
The two goals that Cornell scored are most noteworthy for the assists that led to them. The first goal was from a perfect backhanded pass from Ferlin at the left face-off circle to the crease in front of O'Connor. Ferlin grinded Boston University's MacGregor down behind the net. The junior forward outmaneuvered MacGregor behind the net and out front to create time and space. Christian Hilbrich tipped the puck in, but Ferlin's pass was so beautifully delivered that one cannot help but believe it was predestined to end up in the net. The Big Red took over 12 more minutes to solve the formidable O'Connor again.
The Captain, from a similar position as did Ferlin, saw linemate Cole Bardreau racing in on Matt O'Connor, following McCarron on the rush. The Captain spun and lobbed a pass to the point of the crease that landed on Bardreau's stick. The alternate captain drove the puck home to put Cornell within one goal. Both of Cornell's goals were so perfectly executed that they deserved consideration for top plays of the week. Neither made the final list, but they showcase the upper-end talent that Cornell has at its disposal.
Cornell needed to muster that talent to best Matt O'Connor who was the difference throughout the entire contest. Goaltending made the difference. In the second period and third period, O'Connor saw more shots than Andy Iles faced throughout the entirety of the contest. O'Connor made 23 saves through the first two periods. Cornell surrendered only 11 shots. Boston University's O'Connor faced 39 shots during the game. Most were of a high quality.
The skaters of Boston University played well. They showed that they are a good team. Glimmers of greatness were there, but Cornell's skaters showed that at this point nearing the mid-point of the season, they were the more skilled group. Goaltending is what closed that gap.
In what one could argue was Cornell's best holistic effort of the season to date with how disciplined Cornell played, how responsible it was with imposing its physical game, and how skilled it was when it finally converted, the Big Red endured a loss. Cornell was far from perfect, as good as its power play has been, it needs to improve. Skaters at the point need to pull the trigger when the shot is there and cannot hesitate because of the stakes of a shot or contest. If Cornell resolves that issue, it will win contests like that Cornell played during Red Hot Hockey IV.
The loss stings even more because of other factors. Not only did Cornell deliver its best or one of its best efforts of the season, but lost, it came in a contest that is biennial. The lingering, dull, aching pain of losing to Boston University will nag at Cornell and the Lynah Faithful for possibly as long as two seasons. Even more related to this specific loss, alumni from Boston University and Cornell endowed the creation of a championship trophy to be exchanged between Boston University and Cornell after each meeting of the programs. The alumni agreed that the trophy would bear the name of the historic coach of the program that won the contest first. Accordingly, the trophy became officially the Kelley-Harkness Cup after Cornell lost.
In short, the Cup forever commemorates this near miss at Madison Square Garden. That pain will linger for a while. That is why in many regards Cornell let down the legacy of Ned Harkness. Which brings this piece to one of its final points, how much sense does it make to name the Cup with Jack Kelley's name first? Let's try some empiricism.
Ned Harkness and Jack Kelley were two of the greatest coaches in the history of college hockey. However, the Cup does not commemorate contributions to college hockey in the abstract, what it commemorates is the role of both coaches in the Boston University-Cornell rivalry. Jack Kelley began coaching at Boston University in 1962. This was one year before Ned Harkness took the helm at Cornell. Ned Harkness departed after completing his perfect 1969-70 season. Jack Kelley rode off into the sunset from Boston University after winning consecutive national championships in 1971 and 1972.
The Boston University-Cornell rivalry played out between Harkness and Kelley between 1963 and 1970. Harkness bested Kelley for the ECAC Championship and national championship in 1967. Kelley never beat Harkness for a championship of any variety. Kelley could not win a national title until Harkness resigned. For that matter, Kelley never coached Boston University to victory over Harkness-led Cornell. Never. While the two coaches squared off against one another at Boston University and Cornell, Cornell went 9-0-1 against Boston University.
Dick Bertrand who took over at Cornell the season after he graduated from Cornell University maintained a 0.500 record against Jack Kelley and his Boston University squads. Jack Kelley ended his career at Boston University and his chapter in the Boston University-Cornell rivalry with a 3-12-1 record against the Big Red. A 0.219 winning percentage proved sufficient to list Kelley's name first.
It was a great wager. It yielded a nonsensical result. Harkness comes first alphabetically. Harkness never lost. Harkness won first. Harkness won best. It should be named the Harkness-Kelley Cup. That is what it is.
This just adds another exploitable and contentious wrinkle to a rivalry already rich with such dimensions. Cornell fans refuse to refer to Harvard by its formal name, opting for Sucks instead, as to show the opposition not even a modicum of respect. Also, what's the name of ECAC Hockey's regular-season hardware? I bet you cannot say. Boston University and Cornell may be a more respectful rivalry, but who is to control what Cornell and the Lynah Faithful call a piece of hardware? I am not saying that Cornell should refuse to include Kelley's name, to do so is sophomoric and disrespectful, what I suggest is merely to put it in its proper place: behind that of Harkness.
The crude contours of the accord between Boston University and Cornell stipulate that the trophy is eligible for exchange after any meeting of the teams. It is always in play. This includes necessarily post-season meetings. Members of the Lynah Faithful can hope for a sooner chance at redemption in the national tournament rather than waiting two years. In that case, Cornell could return to East Hill with two sets of hardware from the national tournament including the Harkness-Kelley Cup.