Whenever one of the nation’s most prolific offenses dukes it out with one of collegiate hockey’s top defenses, the results are electrifying. But in the land of the Beanpot, the outcome of this exact setup — a 6-5 overtime win by shot-happy B.C. over the stoic Crimson — is, if not exactly ho-hum, pretty standard fare. So spoiled are we.
Consider that the Eagles’ single-goal victory in the title match this past Monday (Feb. 11) at TD Banknorth Garden marks the fourth time in the last five years that the championship was settled in extra minutes. Unfortunately for Harvard (9-11-3 overall), the end result was excruciatingly familiar.
With the win, seventh-ranked B.C. improved its record against its Cambridge neighbor to 6-2 in the storied tourney (including the Eagles’ last conquest of the Crimson at the Garden back in 1994, 2-1, in overtime). In its previous appearance in the marquee game a decade ago, the Crimson program fell to that other Boston powerhouse, BU, by a score of 2-1. You guessed it, in overtime.
Monday’s game, meanwhile, was a seesaw affair featuring four lead changes and a stat sheet boasting similar totals in shots attempted (B.C. fired off 41 pucks to Harvard’s 46) and saves (21 to 27). Harvard’s nationally ranked scoring defense blocked a dozen shots on the night to help out Crimson net minder Kyle Richter ’10, who recorded six big saves in just over seven minutes during the extra frame. And in another notable feat, the Crimson defensemen managed to hold the nation’s leading scorer, Nathan Gerbe, to zero goals.
After forging a 5-3 edge midway through the third period — the first multiple-goal lead of the evening — the Eagles appeared poised to capture the contest in regulation. The Crimson quickly battled back, however.
“There was a feeling on the bench, more than anything, that we were going to tie this thing up,” explained Mike Taylor, one of Harvard’s senior captains, following the loss. Which is just what they did.
At the 11:14 mark of the third period, Jon Pelle ’08 notched an unassisted tally to cut the deficit to 5-4. Zipping toward the Eagles’ net, the senior dug in his skates, halted in the B.C. zone, and fired a shot over the glove of John Muse. Failing to capitalize on a man-up situation following a roughing call against the Eagles, Harvard knotted the score some four minutes later when Taylor’s long line drive from the faceoff circle sailed into the back of the net to give the co-captain his second tally of the night. The period came to a close with both teams dispensing 26 shots on target.
In the early going of the extra period, the game appeared over when Richter of the Crimson bobbled an airborne puck before gloving the shot at the base of the pipe to kill the play. The reprieve proved brief, however. At the 7:07 mark, B.C.’s Nick Petrecki shoveled a rebound into the back of the Harvard net to put an end to the Crimson’s campaign for the crown.
“Certain plays and at certain times of the game we could have executed better, but I couldn’t be prouder of the effort that we gave,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato, before reflecting on the rest of the season. “We played desperate. We got to keep that going forward down the stretch.”
With six games remaining, Harvard sits in the middle of the pack of the ECAC. The first round of conference playoffs begins at different campus sites beginning March 7. Harvard commences the homestretch this weekend with a pair of contests versus visiting ECAC top dogs Princeton (Feb. 15) and Quinnipiac (Feb. 16). Visit http://www.gocrimson.com for scores and updates.