PROVIDENCE, R.I.--It is becoming a pre-Christmas tradition, the Harvard hockey team's Secret Santa gift to the ECAC. The ritual goes like this: win a big one, or a couple, right before facing off against lightly-regarded Brown. Beat New Hampshire, yes, and maybe Maine, and then outskate, outshoot, and outplay the Bruins for most of the game but just don't score the big one, perhaps lose a lead in the final minutes.
Two years ago there was the 4-4 tie here. Last year, Harvard pounded Brown goalie Paul McCarthy with 53 shots but lost, 3-2, at Bright Center. Last night here at Meehan Auditorium, Brown did it again--erasing a 4-2 deficit and riding McCarthy's 42 saves to an undeserved win.
You hate to rag on anybody, but, face it, folks, Brown is not a good hockey team. It is a chippy, not especially talented squad, that loves to mix it up and turn a fast-skating hockey game into Tae Known Do. Yes, McCarthy had a hot night. (Please note that he entered last night's game with a 6.19 goals against average) but, as one Harvard player said earlier in the year, "if you'll notice, we make a lot of goalies look good. Take a look at how many goalies were named Player of the Week against as last year."
For 52 minutes, Harvard thought it might make a goalie look good and win a hockey game in the same night. But when Don Williamson put Brown ahead, 5-4, at 12:08 of the third period, everybody inside or near Meehan Auditorium or even listening on the radio knew it was not to be. The icemen were just too kind to let Brown go hungry in this season of need.
They had their chances. They picked up a man advantage with 2:14 left in the game when DarryII (Antonio Inoki) Petit was forced to serve his 23rd and 24th minutes this short season in the Brown penalty box for an illegal cross check.
But McCarthy held on, just like last year. He made a stunning glove save on Mike Watson ("Instincts, I guess," the sophomore from Hingham said later) with 23 seconds left, then stopped Mark Fusco from the point 12 seconds later ("Concentration," he said about that one). The crowd was chanting "Mc-Car-thy, Mc-Car-thy" at that point, but it might as well have been "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen."
So instead of clinching that vital .500 record at Christmas break, the Harvard hockey team drops to 3-4, with Providence at Providence coming up Sunday and Princeton at Princeton coming up next Saturday. Last year, the loss to Brown set off a seven-game ECAC losing streak.
After the game, Brown coach Paul Schilling said, "We don't go into their building fearing therri and they don't go into our building fearing us." There's a very good reason for that: Harvard doesn't fear Brown because Brown is not a very good hockey team. Brown doesn't fear Harvard because that fact doesn't really seem to matter around Christmas time.