NEW YORK — Matthew Galajda certainly left Madison Square Garden happier on Saturday night than he did his last time at The World's Most Famous Arena. The Cornell men's hockey team's standout junior goaltender made 28 saves for his 15th career shutout to backstop the Big Red to a 2-0 victory over Boston University in the biennial Red Hot Hockey game, exorcising the demons of a nightmarish outing in the team's trip to New York last year.
With the win, Cornell improved to 9-0 for the first time since 1969-70 – a memorable season in which the Big Red was never defeated, leading to the program second and most recent national championship. For the second time in the last three years, the second-ranked Big Red is the last undefeated team in the Division I ranks.
Once again, Cornell brandished a dominant second period to spur victory. Sophomore forward Michael Regush and junior forward Brenden Locke scored goals 20 seconds apart in the middle frame to provide the lead that eventually led to the team's retention of the Kelley-Harkness Cup – awarded to Red Hot Hockey's victor. Cornell has now outscored its opponent by a whopping 22-6 margin in just nine games this season.
"We kind of (bore) down in the dressing room. We had a good little chat about (how) we've got to work the puck down low," Locke said. "That's when we play our best, when we get pucks down low. I think we starting breaking their will in the second a little bit. I don't what it is about second periods, but we just brought it to them and started playing our game."
Cornell's game carried over into the third period, which Big Red allegiances could describe as delightfully uneventful. While the Big Red had a handful of chances to expand the lead narrowly miss at the other end of the ice, Galajda wasn't called upon to make any highlight-reel saves to preserve his first shutout of the season. Perhaps his best stop came on Patrick Harper's shot against the grain from the slot, which Galajda kicked away with his left pad.
It was exactly the kind of outing the goaltender would have wanted to wash away some previous memories. While sporting a gaudy career record of 46-13-5 with a miniscule 1.63 goals against average, Galajda's first two trips to Madison Square Garden hadn't gone nearly as well. While he earned the victory in Cornell's 2017 Red Hot Hockey triumph, BU struck three times in the third period against Galajda.Then last year's Frozen Apple game against Harvard not only led to a stinging 4-1 loss, Galajda suffered an injury in the game that would keep him out of game action for the better part of the following two months.
"It's definitely special. Playing at Madison Square Garden, you can't compare to that," Galajda said. "It's the world's biggest venue. … It's definitely something I'll never forget. Just building off last year's game, it was a pretty sour feeling."
While not as sour, Cornell didn't exactly have a warm and fuzzy feeling early in Saturday's game either. If the Big Red has shown a weakness despite its 9-0 start to this year, it has been in an inability to start games on strong footing. Saturday proved to be no exception, with BU threatening early and often over the opening 10 minutes. Galajda's best save then came in the game's 14th minute, when he shrugged aside a breakaway attempt from Alex Brink.
A big play for the Big Red on its own, that sequence also led to the moment that Cornell started to turn the tide. Brink was hit from behind to draw a penalty a few moments later, and the Big Red built off a strong penalty kill. Shortly after BU's power play ended, Cornell got its best scoring chance of the opening period when freshman defenseman Travis Mitchell's point shot was tipped by senior forward Jeff Malott. While the puck went wide, it came hard off the back wall to junior defenseman Alex Green at the far post. Tucker had to be alert to move laterally and make the save.
Cornell managed to get to the first intermission scoreless, then made the necessary adjustments to take over.
"I think we gave them just way too much time and space in the first period," said Mike Schafer '86, the Jay R. Bloom '77 Head Coach of Men's Hockey at Cornell. "I thought we did a much better job with that in the second and third. The three freshmen defensemen for us were a little bit edgy (early on), but those guys settled down and did a great job the rest of the game."
The Big Red's Lineup:
How The Goals Were Scored:
Cornell's 1st Goal
2nd period, 7:39 • Regush 5 (Kaldis, Barron) • Cornell 1, BU 0
• After Cornell had offensive-zone possession broken, freshman defenseman Sebastian Dirven made a great stick-handling play at the blue line to not only avoid giving up a BU rush the other way, but help Cornell keep possession by whipping the puck to the opposite boards. That's where junior forward Barron eventually turned forward and stick-handled through several BU defenders before saucering a backhanded pass to a charging senior defenseman Yanni Kaldis to enter the zone. Kaldis snapped off a shot that was kicked away by BU goalie Sam Tucker, but Regush was free on the weak side to slam it into the wide side of the net.
Cornell's 2nd Goal
2nd period, 7:59 • Locke 4 (Berard, Donaldson) • Cornell 2, BU 0
• The Big Red had possession in the offensive zone with junior forward Cam Donaldson attempting to feed freshman forward Ben Berard on a jam play out at the near post as they came out of the right corner. The opportunity was stopped, but Berard was first to the rebound in the opposite corner. He immediately picked out Locke popping out from the top of the crease into the slot. Locke had enough space to get off a one-timer that got between Tucker's body and his left arm to double the lead.
• The Big Red returns to ECAC Hockey and Ivy League play for its final game action of the semester, hitting the road to take on Harvard at 7 p.m. Friday and Dartmouth at 7 p.m. Saturday.