The up-and-down Harvard hockey team, leaving the offense to its top line, earned its first two-game winning streak of the season last night by edging the University of New Hampshire, 4-3, before 1400 at Bright Center.
After the Wildcats had battled back from a 3-0 first period deficit to tie the contest mid-way through the final period, Crimson right winger Tom Murray supplied the decisive marker with 5:17 remaining.
Karma on Ice
A pass from linemate Greg Olson--who contributed two goals and an assist on the night--sent Murray in alone against veteran UNH netminder Craig Moffett. Moffett appeared to have the initial shot stopped, but the puck dribbled through his pads as the "Instant Karma" combination of Murray, Olson, and center Mike Watson capped a four-goal, five-assist performance.
"We didn't play that well and we won, so that's a good sign," said center Rick Benson after the Crimson, aided by several key stops by Wade Lau and an Olson-drawn penalty, held UNH scoreless the rest of the way.
While UNH fell to 3-7 overall (1-3 ECAC Division One), Harvard now stands at 3-2 (all ECAC). In its last two outings, both on the road, the Crimson had dropped a 9-1 decision to RPI and recovered for a dramatic 7-6 comeback victory over Colgate.
Billy Cleary commented in the noisy winners locker room "We gave up 15 goals over the weekend and just 3 tonight. The defense played well."
After the first 20 minutes, it didn't seem like Harvard would need any defensive heroics. Aggressive forechecking put the Crimson in front 8:29 after the opening face-off as Watson--who had a hand in every goal and now leads the team in scoring (6-8-14)--fed Olson from behind the net. The sophomore rammed his first shot into Moffet, then stuffed home the rebound.
He struck again just 1:43 later, with UNH's Frank Barth in the penalty box for "hitting from behind". The Wildcats, in an ill-advised pursuit of a short-handed goal, were caught up-ice as Olson capped a 4-on-1 break by converting passes from Watson and Murray.
When Watson tipped a deflected Mark Fusco slapshot for another power play goal less than two minutes later, Harvard seemed to be on its way to its first laugher of the season.
No such luck. Moffett kept UNH within range early in period two when he denied Olson's point-blank hat trick attempt, and the Wildcats suddenly turned ferocious. Left wing George White stunned Lau from a difficult angle at 5:16, and senior right wing Dana Barbin tightened things considerably as he tapped in Tom Onge's beautiful behind-the-back set-up.
Visions of overtime danced through both team's heads after White lasered a clapshot past Lau's stickside to know the game at 3-3 8:07 into the third period and the squads alternated intense, but futile, scoring thrusts. But Murray's goal and a UNH penalty forced by Olson enabled Harvard to escape without undergoing to trauma of sudden-death.
"We played well for a period and a half," Watson said. It was enough, barely.