It may come as a surprise to some, but after Harvard men’s hockey’s 4-1 win against Dartmouth on Friday (Oct. 31) and 3-1 win against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on Tuesday (Nov. 4), the Crimson are 2-0 for just the second time in 15 seasons. With 17 underclassmen and 10 upperclassmen on the roster, so far the young Crimson already have two strong wins under their belt.
In Friday’s season opener against Dartmouth — who went 12-16-4 last season — the Crimson took until the third period to put the Big Green away. Harvard fought hard but could not push the puck past the Dartmouth goaltender to secure the lead until 7:39 into the third period, when they broke a longstanding 1-1 tie. In a game overwhelmingly slowed down by penalties (Dartmouth had nine, Harvard, 13), the bright spot for both teams was the goaltending play. The Big Green and the Crimson both started freshmen at goal. Dartmouth’s netminder Jody O’Neil tallied 28 saves while Crimson goaltender Matt Hoyle had 30 stops.
Harvard faltered on precious scoring opportunities until midway through the first period when sophomore forward Pier-Olivier Michaud gave the Crimson their first goal of the season on assists by freshman defenseman Alex Killorn and sophomore forward Michael Biega. But the Crimson celebration did not last for long, as the Big Green came right back with an equalizing goal less than three minutes later, to tie the game 1-1.
After a quiet and frustrating second stanza, the Crimson burst onto the ice in the third period, overcoming the whistle-blowing to dominate the Big Green with three goals. The three scores came on goals by Biega, Nick Coskren ’09, and Jimmy Fraser ’09. Both Biega and Coskren’s goals — separated by a minute — came on power plays, while Fraser scored with four seconds remaining in the game to add the exclamation point for Harvard.
For his dominant play on Friday, Hoyle was named the ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Week on Monday (Nov. 3) and currently ranks first in the country in save percentage and second in goal against average.
In Tuesday’s 3-1 win against RPI (1-5-1, 0-1-0 ECAC), the Crimson experienced déjà vu. After posting a first period goal, Harvard once again went through a second period scoring drought — breaking the dry spell in the first 10 minutes of the third period for the Crimson’s second goal. And once again the Crimson ended the game with an exclamation point on a last-minute empty-net goal, this time by Michaud.
Hoyle’s second career start — with a total of 27 saves — was a lot like his first, giving up just one goal in a game heavily dominated by penalties.
RPI’s best scoring opportunity came with seven minutes to go with Harvard shorthanded two men. But an impressive stick-save by Hoyle with RPI parked deep in the Crimson’s defensive zone was enough for the Crimson to keep their lead.
The Crimson, who came into the season opener without naming a starter in goal, may have just found their stopper. “I thought Hoyle was excellent. He really looked comfortable,” said Ted Donato, the Robert D. Ziff ’88 Head Coach for Harvard Men’s Ice Hockey. “He made some big saves. … We’re very happy with the way he’s played. The team’s happy he’s got off to such a great start.”
In Tuesday’s win, Michaud was also stellar, following a team- (and career-) high 3 points (one goal, two assists) on Friday, with a two-point night (one goal, one assist) against RPI. Despite coming into the season with only 19 games under his belt, the sophomore forward has quickly emerged as a strong contributor for Harvard as he leads the team in points with five.
The Crimson (2-0-0, 2-0-0 ECAC) look to remain unbeaten as they return to the ice with two road matches, against RPI on Friday (Nov. 7) and Union (3-1-1, 0-0-0 ECAC) on Saturday.