Rangers prospect Morgan Barron had his expectations set for Saturday's game at Madison Square Garden where he and his Cornell teammates would face off against Boston University at Red Hot Hockey.
Then he stepped out onto the ice and those expectations went out the window.
"It was more than I could have imagined, and I had put expectations on it," Barron told NYRangers.com. "Being able to step on the ice, it was pretty cool. Even for the other guys, my whole team, we were all definitely excited and it's a highlight for the year. It was pretty awesome."
The 2017 sixth round pick called the experience "surreal," and added at times it was difficult to keep his attention on the game at hand.
"You try and stay focused on the game and the ice sheet and try and stay within the glass and keep your mind there, but at the same time, the mind wanders a little bit," he admitted. "It was definitely an interesting experience, and one I really enjoyed. Definitely looking forward to playing there next year with Cornell and hopefully for years to come."
In the end, Barron sure was able to tune out the stage of The Garden and chipped in with a pair of assists to help the Big Red edge the Terriers, 4-3, to capture the Kelley-Harkness Cup in front of 14,606 fans at The World's Most Famous Arena.
Barron, 18, who hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia, is off to a strong freshman start with Cornell. The 174th overall selection in last year's draft has three goals and six assists in 10 games for the Big Red, who are currently 9-1, good enough for second in the ECAC.
"It's been fun," Barron said of the opening month of his collegiate career. "Obviously we've had a pretty good start to the year, and I think when the team is doing well, it makes it a little easier to find individual success. So far, I've been pretty happy with how I've made the adjustment. I just hope I can keep it rolling for the rest of the year."
At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Barron said he was often times one of the bigger players last season at St. Andrew's College of the Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association, where he posted 34 goals and 60 points in 57 games.
The size is still there, but Barron said he's now learning how to use it against players equally as big, if not larger than him, which has been the biggest adjustment he's had to make in transitioning to the NCAA.
Still, Barron described himself as a skilled power forward who tries to "bring pucks to the net and protect pucks," he said. "I like to think I have a heavy shot, so I try and use that as much as I can and put pucks on the net as much as possible."
That blend of size and skill, along with quickness, is what excited Gordie Clark, the Rangers' Director of Player Personnel, to take Barron at the draft in Chicago. That scouting report has remained consistent through the first month of the season at Cornell.
"He has a combination of NHL-like size and skating ability, along with good hands and a sense of the game," said Rangers Amateur Scout Rich Brown. "He has a strong work ethic and plays with determination."
The experience of playing at The Garden certainly got Barron's mind working on what could be in store for him in the years to come. It's been a thought of his since his name was called by New York five months ago. That's only grown following Saturday's experience.
"Ever since they were able to pick me at the draft a few months ago, it's been a dream of mine to play at Madison Square Garden as my home rink," he said. "You kind of start to get an idea of what it would be like to play there on a weekly basis. It's definitely special and it puts it into perspective how much hard work you've got before that point. It was pretty cool to see to keep that dream alive for what could be in the future."