"I wish they played poorly so I could get mad at them," hockey coach Billy Cleary said of his skaters, "but they didn't." By all accounts, the Harvard icemen dominated rival Princeton Saturday, peppering Tiger goaltender Ron Dennis with 45 shots on the afternoon.
"This is one we deserved, Cleary insisted. "It's hard to believe we lost." But lose Harvard did, for the seventh time in tis last eight contests, 5-3 before 2346 at Baker Rink. The defeat left the Crimson with a 4-6-1 record in ECAC Division I competition (4-9-1 overall), still struggling for status in the Ivy Division, and anxious to turn the tables when Princeton visits the Bright Center on February 13.
"We should totally blow them out next time," promised sophomore winger Dave Burke, who rammed two powerplay shots past Dennis to pull Harvard to within 4-3 midway through the third period of Saturday's contest before Princeton's Drew Forbes settled things with an emptynet goal.
Harvard maintained a territorial edge, especially in the opening and final periods, but could not convert opportunities into goals. Princeton (4-5 Division I), meanwhile, made the Crimson regret every mistake.
Though Wade Lau faced only 22 shots in the Harvard net all game, the Tigers jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the opening stanza and increased the margin to 4-1 after two.
Left wing Dave Connors had given Harvard some hope of restoring its mark to the .500 level 8:35 into the game when he tipped in a set-up from linemate Bob McDonald. Defenseman Mark Fusco also picked up an assist on the powerplay tally, Connors' fifth of the season.
Undaunted, and spurred on by Dennis' precision-play in the nets, Princeton retaliated for three goals in 1:29, by Dave Tweedy, Forbes and Ken Koenig.
The Tigers upped their lead to three on a goal by Sean Sherman 1:06 into a chippy second period--44 minutes in penalties were called in the game, 24 of them incurred by Princeton. "They just tried to run at us," an "exasperated" Cleary said afterward.
Burke struck twice--a slapshot and a third rebound during a goalmouth scramble--as Harvard came out flying in period three, but to no avail. Dennis blanked the icemen for the final 10:20. "He was definitely the best goalie we've faced all year," commented freshman Greg Britz, noting Dennis' adeptness at clearing rebounds effectively and cutting down the angles. "We just got frustrated."
Harvard does not play again until February 2, at Maine's Alfond Arena.