Once again the Harvard stickmen spent a Saturday afternoon combining their steady offense with the tightfisted defense required to grind out a victory. The 15-12 win over the Adelphi Panthers, last season's Division II national champs, allowed the Crimson to complete the regular season with an 11-2 record and a solid claim to one of the eight berths for the NCAA playoffs.
The Crimson established its superiority in the first moments of the game. Freshman middie Brendan Meagher captured the opening face-off, drove down the left side, switched the stick to his right hand and let loose a blast.
An unsuspecting Kevin Jules got caught off guard while minding the Panther goal and Meagher bagged tally number one for Harvard.
Aided by poor officiating, the Panthers managed to stay close through the first 15 minutes. But when the Crimson roared out for the second quarter, it immediately regained complete control and churned out a three-goal burst to gain an 8-4 edge.
Midfielder Mike Davis led this segment of the onslaught with an assist and a goal just two minutes apart. At 7:53, the talented sophomore returned a pass to co-captain Dave Wigglesworth, who completed the give-and-go play for a score.
Following that, Davis refused to stand still and bagged one of his own when he dodged left to right, pulling Jules out of position before reaching around him to push one through.
Apparently determined to keep the game within reach of the home team, the officials let Adelphi roughness go unaccounted for while shaking the Crimson down for its shadow-like but still clean defense.
Taking advantage of the short reprieve, the Panthers closed out the quarter with two quick goals and then sustained the momentum through halftime and beyond to knock off three more, taking the lead for the first time early in the third quarter.
The go-ahead goal came from attackman Ed Hughes. Until Saturday Hughes was the spark in the Adelphi offense, but Harvard's Haywood Miller employed his usual defensive stick wizardry, forcing the often dominating Hughes to cut his act short against the Crimson.
During the Panther's sudden burst, Harvard goalie John Lechner made another solid save-he notched a season high 27 in this contest-only to be called for a penalty when raking the ball up with a not-out-of-the ordinary move.
Refusing to falter for more than a second, the Crimson recovered to launch a five-goal rally of its own. Co-captain Peter Predun led the drive with a hat trick, while Meagher and attackman Norm Forbush each added one.
Scoring on sweeps for his first and second goals of the game, Predun tied and then moved ahead of former Crimson attackman Steve Martin, a 1978 graduate, into the number-two spot on Harvard's all-time scoring list. Over a spectacular four-year career, Predun has combined goals and assists for a total of 167 points.
That drive gave the Crimson all the room it needed to pick up the win. Some last-minute gunning by the Panthers came too late to reverse the damage.
"Overall I was pleased with the game, and getting that last win felt great. All of the guys earned it and assuming nothing unusual happens with the playoff picks, they'll get their reward with an invitation to the NCAAs," Coach Bob Scalise said yesterday.