MANCHESTER, N.H. — One of the messages Jay Pandolfo wanted to come through to his team when he was hired last May as coach of the Boston University men’s hockey team was the need to start on time, whether it was referring to the season as a whole, or on a game-by-game basis.
The message was received, and played out again in Saturday’s regional final at SNHU Arena, where the Terriers were able to put the clamps on Cornell, limiting the Big Red to 14 shots and prevailing, 2-1, to head back to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2015.
No. 5 BU will face No. 1 Minnesota on April 6 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay. The Gophers won the Big Ten regular season crown and advanced with a 4-1 win over St. Cloud State Saturday night.
Goalie Drew Commesso was named the Most Outstanding Player of the regional, stopping 37 of 39 shots over the two games.
While both teams struggled to generate offense in the first period, the Terriers broke through at 2:13 of the second period for the game’s first goal.
“Cornell is a very good team when they have a lead,” said Pandolfo. “It was important for us tonight to find a way to get that first goal and see if they will press a little bit, because I know you will be able to open it up a little bit more. We did not really open it up but it was important to play with the lead against that team.”
BU (29-10-0) got on the board first when junior Dylan Peterson forced a turnover behind the Cornell net, and freshman Jeremy Wilmer was able to send the puck out front to senior Wilmer Skoog, who buried it past Cornell goalie Ian Shane (19 saves). It was the second time in as many games that Wilmer connected with Skoog for a goal.
“I think we had some chemistry,” said Wilmer. “It was good to get back with [Skoog]. But I just saw [Peterson] kind of going hard to the wall, so I knew I could kind of swoop in and grab the puck and Skoog just put himself in a great spot.”
Senior Ethan Phillips gave the Terriers some breathing room in the third period when he forced a turnover in the neutral zone. Senior Matt Brown tracked down the loose puck and sent it ahead to Phillips, who had taken off and skated in on a breakaway. Shane made the initial save, but Phillips was able to knock in the rebound to give BU a 2-0 lead at 7:26 of the third. It was the second goal of the tournament for Phillips, who tallied a goal and two assists in the semifinal win over Western Michigan on Thursday.
Commesso did the rest, the junior stopping 13 of 14 shots, with Cornell (21-11-2) unable to score until Dalton Bancroft knocked one in with 29 seconds remaining and Shane pulled for the extra skater. For the Norwell, Mass., native, the win means getting to spend more time with his teammates, whom he credited for limiting the Big Red’s chances. BU blocked 21 shots in the final, and finished with 36 in the regional, nine of which were recorded by 6-foot-7-inch junior defenseman Cade Webber.
“That’s the best part of this team is we’re so close and to get another two weeks to spend with them is so special,” said Commesso. “I’m obviously looking forward to the games and putting together our best effort, but just spending more time with the guys off the ice. They’re my best friends. I love spending every second with them.”
It will be BU’s 23rd appearance in the Frozen Four. The Terriers will be looking to add to this season’s trophy collection, which includes both the Hockey East regular season crown as well as the conference tournament title.
It was a disappointing end for a 13th-ranked Cornell squad that upset No. 4 Denver on Thursday, shutting out the defending national champions, 2-0.
“Congratulations to Boston University for moving on,” said coach Mike Schafer. “I thought they played an outstanding game. They’ve got a great hockey team. Jay Pandolfo and their staff have done a tremendous job with those guys all year long.”
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