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After last weekend’s drubbing at the hands of Quinnipiac, Harvard men’s ice hockey head coach Ted Donato said that his team would need to play “markedly better” on the road this weekend if it wanted to be successful against Colgate and Cornell.
With a 2-2 tie against Colgate on Friday and an enormous 3-2 victory over Cornell on Saturday at notoriously hostile Lynah Rink, the squad seems to have gotten the message this weekend, and may be starting to round into form.
“This weekend I thought there was just a really good buy-in all weekend,” Donato said. “These are obviously really two tough teams and tough places to play on the road, so really proud of the guys and felt like this was a real buildable moment for us.”
The team received contributions from across the lineup in its two games, getting goals from first-year forwards Ryan Fine and Ben MacDonald on Friday night before veteran forwards Joe Miller and Alex Gaffney lit the lamp on Saturday evening. The Crimson’s goaltending was also strong in both games, as sophomore Aku Koskenvuo, who started on Friday, and senior Derek Mullahy, who started on Saturday, allowed only two goals each while recording over 25 saves.
“I think every game we’ve played so far this year, we've gotten a little bit better, a little bit better,” Mullahy said. “If we stay fresh, everyone's healthy, I think we're going to be a tough team to beat going down the road.”
Despite the progress made over the weekend, Harvard did suffer two important injuries, as junior defenseman Jack Bar did not play on Saturday night, while junior captain and forward Zakary Karpa left Saturday’s game early. Donato did not have an update on either player after Saturday’s game.
Harvard 3, Cornell 2
Cornell’s Lynah Rink is a notoriously difficult place to win, with a raucous home crowd, a cowbell played during the second and third periods, and a tradition of throwing fish on the ice to welcome Harvard to the rink.
Miller’s goal in the opening minute of play was crucial to negating some of the crowd’s impact. After a great play by sophomore forward Philip Tresca along the boards, Miller skated around the Cornell defense and fired a quick wrister from the right circle, beating Big Red goaltender Ian Shane and giving the Crimson a critical early goal.
“I think it's the biggest thing,” Gaffney said about scoring first. “Joe had a great shot, and especially with that crowd that’s so juiced up right from the start, I think the biggest thing is to get on them early before the goalie settles in.”
Harvard took two penalties in the first period, both called on junior defenseman Kyle Aucoin, and while the Crimson penalty kill was able to keep the puck out of the net both times, Cornell was able to capture some offensive momentum. With five minutes to play in the period, the Big Red found an equalizer, as forward Luke Devlin feathered a backhand shot from the circle through traffic and past Mullahy to knot the game at 1-1.
However, less than two minutes later, Harvard got its own opportunity with the man advantage, and Gaffney was able to capitalize. After a strong rush up the ice by sophomore defenseman Ryan Healey, Gaffney received a pass in stride along the left wing and beat Shane with a wrister to give the Crimson a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
“We acted like it was a five on five,” said Gaffney regarding the keys to the Crimson’s power play. “Getting to loose pucks is key, getting it back up to the point and just having that intensity knowing that you're on the power play, you need to score. It’s a big part of the game and to keep the momentum for the team.”
Special teams continued to play a critical role in the game in the second period, as Cornell started the period on the power play after a late Crimson penalty in the first period carried over. However, this man-advantage was erased after the Big Red’s Ryan Walsh took two penalties only 24 seconds into the period. Harvard was unable to capitalize on its extended power play time, keeping the score tied. The teams traded chances at even strength in the second half of the period, but Shane and Mullahy kept scoresheet clean, leaving the Crimson up 2-1 heading to the third.
With the crowd tensely awaiting an equalizer, forward Jake Kraft got the Lynah faithful back into the game only two minutes into the period. After Mullahy couldn’t cover the loose puck following a rebound chance from the slot, Kraft was able to tuck home the rebound from close range, tying the game at 2-2 and giving the Big Red critical momentum.
Only five minutes later, the Crimson power play and Gaffney struck again to seize the lead once more. After a shot by MacDonald got knocked down in front, Gaffney, MacDonald, and Tresca swarmed the front of the net, and Gaffney was able to poke the loose puck past Shane to give Harvard the lead. Cornell challenged the goal, but the referees upheld the tally after review.
Less than two minutes after Gaffney’s go-ahead goal, Cornell was handed a 5-on-3 power play after penalties on MacDonald and junior defenseman Christian Jimenez. While the Big Red kept the pressure on during nearly two minutes of 5-on-3 time, Mullahy and the penalty kill kept Cornell off the board.
“That was obviously a huge turning point for us,” Mullahy said. “I'm supposed to be the best penalty killer on the ice as a goalie. As long as they do their jobs and I get to see pucks I mean, I'm gonna stop it, and they did a great job kind of keeping shots from the outside, really forcing them to throw pucks that didn't have a high percentage chance of going in.”
Despite failing to convert its power play opportunities, the Big Red continued to press for the tying goal. However, the Crimson defense and Mullahy were up to the task, with the team blocking six shots in the final half of the third period and Mullahy taking care of the rest. With Shane on the bench for an extra attacker, Harvard’s defense stepped up and denied Cornell any quality scoring chances, preserving the 3-2 victory and giving the Crimson its first win.
Harvard 2, Colgate 2 (Colgate wins in shootout)
After being dominated in the shot column in last weekend’s games against Princeton and Quinnipiac, Harvard played a much more evenly matched 60 minutes against the reigning ECAC Hockey Champions. With the Crimson looking for redemption after a 3-2 loss in last year’s conference finals to the Colgate Raiders, a hard-nosed effort ultimately fell short in a shootout.
After a relatively uneventful start, Raiders forward Jake Schneider put Colgate on top just over halfway through the opening frame with a shot from just inside the hash marks, beating Koskenvuo through the five-hole. Harvard responded with a late goal from Fine, who glided through the attacking zone before firing a harmless-looking shot from the point through traffic past Raiders goaltender Carter Gylander.
The game remained tied 1-1 for almost all of the second period, and while the Raiders took the period’s only penalty, the Crimson only managed to get one shot on goal on the power play. Much of the second was a back and forth battle, but ended with the Raiders heading into the third with a 2-1 lead. The Raiders’ goal came with just two minutes left in the period after a turnover at the top of the circles in the offensive zone. Raiders forward Simon Labelle intercepted a drop pass and headed down on a fast break 2-on-2 with teammate Alex Dipaolo. Beating the Crimson defense wide, Labelle found Dipaolo open in the slot who buried the shot high to the glove side.
Despite being outplayed for most of the final twenty minutes, a tripping penalty to Colgate just over half-way through the third period gave Harvard a chance to even the game. A stretch pass from junior captain and defenseman Ian Moore found Miller in stride as he entered the offensive zone. Miller then slid the puck to MacDonald, who fired a wrist shot over the goaltender’s shoulder from an impossible angle for his first career collegiate goal. Koskenvuo turned aside all 13 third period shots and the Crimson headed to overtime for the third time in four games.
“I think they're playing really well thus far,” said Gaffney regarding the team’s young forwards. “They're getting more comfortable every game, they’re playing with confidence, and they’re shooting the puck and it's awesome to see.”
Heading into overtime the Crimson controlled most of the five minutes, forcing Gylander to make multiple saves, while Koskenvou had multiple saves for the Crimson. With just 45 seconds left to play, sophomore Marek Hejduk almost ended the game with his shot off the post, but with neither team being able to find the back of the net the game headed to a shoot-out.
In the shoot-out, Gylander came up big again, stopping both of the Crimson's first two shooters. With Colgate having scored on its first attempt, the Raiders’ second shooter Ben Raymond ended the game with a nice deke, just barely beating Koskenvuo low pad to give the Raiders the victory.
Harvard has an extended layoff before its next game, as the team will be back in action on Friday, Nov. 24 at home against UMass before a big test at home on Sunday, Nov. 26 against No. 1 Boston College. The break in between games makes it that much more important for the Crimson to maintain its momentum in practice.
“I think we’ve got to keep the intensity up in practice,” Mullahy said. Obviously, playing in a game is a lot more intense than practice, so I think just having that high practice intensity is gonna be big for us.”
-Staff writer Aaron Shuchman can be reached at email@example.com
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