Everyone take a deep breath, and exhale slowly with a long sigh of relief. Amid all sorts of doubts and pessimism, the Harvard hockey team bumped off an optimistic and upstart Northeastern squad at 0:53 of overtime last night on Gene Purdy's heartstopper.
The win answered a bunch of questions. Namely, the victory made it clear that Harvard's embarrassing loss to the Huskies January 12, by the score of 14-5, was a direct result of the depletion of the Crimson squad due to injuries.
Harvard also proved itself to be at least Northeastern's equal, by avenging its earlier thumping at the hands of N.U., and by winning when it counted most--in the Beanpot.
Before yesterday's game against the Huskies even started, though, the most important and pressing question concerning Harvard hockey was answered. The question centered on the status of All-Universe defenseman Jack Hughes, who had missed two and two-thirds games due to a fractured heel.
Well, Jackie not only suited up for the game in a surprise move, but he made his usual outstanding contributions on offense and defense.
Jack was still favoring his bad leg, and he did not possess his usual speed and ability to shift, but his strength and intelligence on the ice were awesomely apparent.
"To tell you the truth," Harvard coach Bill Cleary said after the barnburner, "I didn't think he would make it through the second period. He's just a great hockey player."
The Crimson played last night's game with a full deck, for in addition to Hughes's presence, the Harvard corps was solidly fortified with the presence of captain Bryan Cook, Murray Dea and Bob McDonald, all of whom had suffered injuries earlier in the season.
Cook, who set up Jon Garrity's game-winning goal versus Princeton February 4, played a fantastic game against N.U. Wearing a face mask to protect his still-tender jaw, Cook scored Harvard's first goal with a sharp tip-in of a Garrity backhander, tying the game at one-all in the first period.
In the second stanza, Captain Cook put Harvard in the lead for the first time in the contest with a power-play goal. "Barney" gathered in a pass from George Hughes--who had gotten the puck from John Cochrane on the point--skated out of the corner, looked to return a pass to Hughes, but then slipped in front of the cage to poke a backhand shot between the legs of Ed Arrington.
Bob McDonald--he of the once-sore elbow--saw ample action on the Harvard power play, and on a regular line shift, centering Randy Millen and Phil Evans. McDonald appears healthy, strong and has not lost his ability to stickhandle with utter finesse and skill.
Dea strengthened the Crimson at left wing. Murray killed penalties, brutally forechecked and backhanded and--combined with Cochrane--set up Rick Benson's second-period goal.
Enter Mr. Purdy, who had missed several games with a torn shoulder. "Geno," who never stopped hustling, and who is so valuable to Harvard, casually stuffed the puck past Arrington after circling behind the cage, following a three-quarter length of the ice rush, for the winning goal in O.T.
See you at the finals.