A Stonewall Crumbles
It looked as though the Crimson was in for some more frustration. After an embarrassing first period and over 10 minutes of fruitless attacks on the UNH net, it seemed like the Wildcat blueliners and goaltender Todd Pearson might just be too much for the Ha Harvard offense.
Wildcat defenseman Brian Byrnes sat in the penalty box after being called for tripping at 12:50 in the second period. But, despite the man advantage, the Crimson still wasn't scoring. The UNH shorthand defense, the best in the ECAC (opponents have only scored nine times out of 101 power-plays) seemed more than able to contain the icemen.
Then the whistle blew for the second time in less than a minute, and UNH forward Norm LaCombe joined his teammate in the penalty box. Finally, almost a minute after LaCombe left the ice, senior Jim Turner jumped on a Mark Fusco rebound and slammed it by Pearson to bring the icemen within one, and more importantly prove to themselves that they could score against Pearson.
Once that red light went on, it didn't stay on for very long. Just nine seconds after Turner's tally, defenseman Mitch Olson broke down the ice and blasted the pack by Pearson.
"We got the momentum with the five on three." Harvard coach Bill Cleary said after the game. "The key was the tying goal. It really took a lot out of them."
It certainly did. A minute and a half later, junior Phil Falcone put Harvard up for good with a shot from the top of the slot, and Olson ended the three-minute, four-goal spree with his second goal of the evening.
But, while the scoring binge is what gave Harvard the lead, the turnaround had actually come much earlier. From the opening seconds of the second stanza, it was obvious that there was a difference in the flow of the game.
That difference was Harvard's forechecking. In the first period, the Crimson had allowed the Wildcats to hold on to the puck and control much of the play. In the following 20 minutes, the Crimson began forechecking earlier and forced UNH to throw the puck away.
With the more aggressive forechecking came the shots. And lots of them Slap shots, breakaways, backhanders, and almost any other type of shot you can think of.
But while the Crimson was throwing whatever it could at the UNH net. Pearson was sending it right back. For the first 10 minutes, the Wildcat netminder made one sensational save after another, and by the end of the second stanza. Pearson had turned away 25 Crimson blasts.
Your couldn't help but think back to Harvard's last regular season game when the Princeton goaltender stopped 55 shots to give the Tigers a 4-2 victory. With each save, the memory became a little more vivid.
"For a while their goalie stonewalled us," said Ken Code, whose slapshots never managed to get by Pearson. "We had to get that first goal."
So when Byrnes and LaCombe took their two-minute leaves from the ice, it was the break Harvard had been waiting for. Olson and company finally got to vent their frustration, and, four minutes later, the Crimson had a two-goal lead, and home ice for the NCAAs.