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The drama couldn’t have unfolded any better for Cornell Saturday night if it had been scripted for a Hollywood film.
Freshman Noah Bauld chose a big moment — 16:47 of the second period — and an even bigger stage — Madison Square Garden — to be in the slot and tip Matt Nuttle’s shot from the right point for his first collegiate goal and give the Big Red a 2-1 lead en route to a 3-1 win over the University of New Hampshire in the third biennial Frozen Apple match. Dan Wedman also had an assist on the play.
“I think my feet are back on the ground now,” Bauld said after the game. “It was an amazing feeling for sure. Great pass from (Nuttle), a nice little pass/shot, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. This is definitely the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of, and the best crowd as well. My teammates are really happy for me, and it’s great to get the win as well.”
Cornell (4-3-1) iced the win on a goal more historic than dramatic. At 12:46 of the third period, Alex Rauter was tripped by the Wildcats’ Vela Marcus and awarded a penalty shot. He then beat Danny Tirone to his glove side and became the first Big Red player to score on such a shot since Hall-of-Famer Joe Nieuwendyk in 1987. Doing it at MSG was even more special for Rauter because he was born and raised in Chatham, New Jersey. He was born two days after the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994 and grew up a fan of the team. His mother and several other friends and relatives were at the game.
“It was amazing,” Rauter said. “My mom was in the building, and to have her and so many friends and family here, and to do it for the team and help everybody out, it was a big one.”
Rauter’s shot was even bigger because it came on the heels of Cornell killing a five-on-three penalty situation after the team was called for too many men on the ice at 5:57 and Wedman was sent off for hooking at 6:01 of the third. For Wildcats’ coach Dick Umile, that was the turning point in his team’s first appearance at MSG.
“It was a tremendous atmosphere and we were thrilled to be here,” Umile said. “I thought the team played well but it was disappointing at the end, because we had a good chance with the five-on-three. That was our chance, and we didn’t do much with it. We had our opportunity right there to maybe win the game, but obviously we didn’t get it done.”
Despite all the drama and history on Cornell’s side, it was UNH (6-6-2) that took the early lead as Patrick Grasso’s shot from the right circle off a feed from Brendan Van Riem beat Mitch Gillam between his pads at 5:06 of the first period. Matias Cleland also had an assist on the goal.
However the Wildcats’ lead was short-lived. With Cleland in the penalty box for hooking, Trevor Yates tipped in a centering pass from Patrick McCarron on the goal line at 11:59 of the first to tie the score at 1-1.
Big Red coach Mike Schafer was pleased with his team’s effort after its slow start.
“We had a rocky start in the first five minutes or so,” Schafer said. “But Mitch (Gillam) was up to the task and he made some great saves. Then we buckled down; scoring on our first power play was key. That made it a 1-1 game and I thought Mitch did a tremendous job and their goaltender played very well also. There were some real point-blank chances for both teams.”
Saturday night’s game marked the sixth consecutive season and eighth time in the last 10 years that Cornell has played at MSG on Thanksgiving weekend. The Big Red faced Boston University in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015 in the Red Hot Hockey series, and the Frozen Apple began in 2012 with Cornell beating Michigan, 5-1, and continued in 2014 with the Big Red defeating Penn State, 3-1.
Cornell travels to Colgate for its next game Tuesday night, while UNH returns to the Whittemore Center to start a home-and-home series with the University of Maine on Friday evening followed by the return match at Maine Saturday night.