Harvard hockey, in the midst of resurrecting a lost tradition, relived its best forgotten recent past when RPI goalie Kevin Constantine led a squad of upstart foes past the Crimson, 6-2, at the Bright Hockey Center Saturday night.
Constantine, the sandy-haired junior from International Falls, Minn., was the most sought-after high school goaltender in the nation four years ago. Cornell had an alumnus, Ken Dryden, call the 18-year-old and try to persuade him to do his collegiate thing with the Bid Red. RPI offered him a full scholarship and the chance to pursue an engineering career between saves at its less than aesthetic Troy, N.Y., campus.
And Harvard, desperate for a replacement for the graduating Brian Petrovek and perhaps the most covetous of all, just accepted him, figuring nobody hangs out in New York State for four years unless absolutely necessary.
"Yeah, I came very close to going here," Constantine said after his solid 26-save performance. "But my Dad was retiring and RPI offered me enough to make money a consideration. I thought I'd go with the money."
As an investment, Constantine did not start to mature until Saturday night. Harvard wound up paying the tab. His aggressive style simultaneously sparked his teammates and unglued the Crimson, whose goalie, Wade Lau, succumbed to scores in the final minute of each period.
"They deserved to win," Harvard coach Billy Cleary said. "Right from the beginning they beat us to the puck and didn't stop all night long."
Despite being outscored, 3-1, and outmuscled (there were four matching roughing penalties) after the first two periods, the Crimson found itself surprisingly in the ballgame when junior Rick Benson scored on a rebound at 4:46 of the third.
The scoreboard turned out to be only teasing Harvard, though. A bogus tripping call on freshman Mark Fusco (probably the only legal hip-check in the chippy contest) at 7:18 gave RPI a man advantage which reaped appropriately bizarre results.
Halfway through the power play, RPI defenseman Pierre Thibault flipped a slow, bouncing shot in through a screen that Lau tried to cover with his glove. The attempt ended up as a swat at bare ice, and the puck crawled into the far corner. 4-2.
After that, it was anything but euphoric for the club that had soundly drubbed Northeastern, 8-2, Tuesday night. Constantine personally saw to it that the Crimson would come up empty-handed on two third-period power plays (a Fusco drive hitting the far post with 8:48 left didn't hurt, either), while his mates enjoyed some serious scorebook garbage time, tallying twice in the final two minutes.
The Engineers (yes, that's RPI's nickname) opened the scoring at 8:21 of the first when co-captain Steve Stoyanovich finished off a 2-on-1 with a low short-side snap that Lau could not deal with.
Harvard mobilized its "And the Children shall lead them" offense at 13:09. Freshman Greg Olsen made Constantine look foolish for the first and last time when he took a Mike Watson pass alone at the blue line and waited for the goalie to go down before flicking a pretty shot in between his pads.
RPI's Jacques de St. Phalle countered with a breakaway goal of his own with exactly a minute left in the first. In the second, after forcing Harvard to abandon its hard skating for some hard checking, Stoyanovich scored his second with a blast off a face-off drop to make it 3-1.
Beginning anew in collegiate hockey is no movie scenario, and despite some impressive staging (the new rink, the new uniforms, the "new enthusiasm"), things aren't going to be pretty right away. The rules for success in the ECAC are still the same--talent, experience and playing Princeton twice a year. The freshmen again looked strong, and that kind of good omen hasn't been around for four years--or since Harvard let Kevin Constantine get away.
THE NOTEBOOK: Sophomore defenseman Mitch Olson received a reprieve from the Ad Board and returned to action Saturday night.
The Crimson travels to Providence College Wednesday to face the Commencement-ravaged Friars. Harvard has won three of its last four games at P.C.'s Schneider Arena, one of three Division I rinks that features pom-pom girls. Typically, Northeastern and RPI are the other two.
Bill Scheft '79 was Associate Sports Editor of The Crimson last year. He's taken his act out west and is a sportswriter for the Albany Times-Union. Unfortunately, people in Albany would rather bowl than read the Times-Union. Hence the return.