ITHACA--Steve Armstrong returned home last night and got booed. He got booed in the first period. Booed in the second. Booed in the third.
Steve Armstrong returned home last night with a bunch of friends and was vilified. Insults were hurled his way. Fish were thrown at him.
Ordinarily, this would not be much of a homecoming, except Steve Armstrong and his friends, also known as the Harvard hockey team, scored twice early in the third period to pull out a 3-1 victory over Cornell in front of 4100 vitriolic Ithacans.
Armstrong had two assists, including one on Andy Janfaza's goal 49 seconds into the third period that broke a 1-1 tie and sent Harvard on its way to victory number six--against no losses--in this young season.
With the victory, its fifth in a row over Cornell in three seasons, Harvard remains in sole possession of first place in the ECAC. Thanks to the hometown kid.
"It's tough to come back to a place where you grew up," Armstrong said. "When you come back some people hate you, but then there's your family."
Armstrong was greeted after the game by a horde of relatives, but his extended family on the ice made Armstrong's last trip to Lynah Rink as sweet as home.
Freshman John Weisbrod led off the scoring with 22 seconds gone in the game, but it was an Armstrong shot that set up the goal. Armstrong moved over the blue line and fired a shot at freshman goalie Corrie D'Alessio who blocked the shot but left the puck lying in front of the net.
Weisbrod moved in and sent it home.
Cornell (now 3-2) responded at the end of the first period. Forward Casy Jones drove down the left side of the ice and flipped a pass to Stewart Smith. Smith cranked a shot from 30 feet which eluded Harvard goalie John Devin, making his first start since sufferring a knee injury in an exhibition game a month ago.
The second period was a scoreless deadlock with D'Allesio (who finished with 30 saves) fighting off several Crimson flurries. Meanwhile, Devin's main distraction came when a Cornell fan threw an object better suited to the bedroom onto the ice. Devin made the mistake of tossing the item back into the stands, only to have it thrown right back at him.
The third period belonged solely to Harvard and fourth-line wing Janfaza, who after serving a two-minute high-sticking penalty, leapt onto the ice, took an Armstrong pass at the midline, skated 20 feet, and then buried a shot into the Big Red net.
"He threw that one in from the popcorn stand," Harvard Coach Bill Cleary said. "It took everyone by surprise. I think even Andy was surprised."
Cornell was even more surprised a minute and-a-half later when Scott McCormack popped a shot from the blue line that Tod Hartje tapped in for his second goal of the season.
"Harvard's pretty quick," Cornell Coach Brian McCutcheon said. "They move the puck so well, you end up having to chase them around. With those two quick goals, they did exactly what they wanted to do."
With its biggest test so far put away, Harvard takes today off before battling Colgate tomorrow.
"I'm looking forward to the rest," said defenseman Don Sweeney, who made up one of Harvard's two defensive pairs last night. "The game definitely took a toll on us, but I thought it was our best team effort so far."
THE NOTEBOOK:Freshman goalie Michael Francis had to sit on the bench for the first time all year even though he is the ECAC's leading goalie...It was Devin's 10th victory in his last 11 games...Bill Cleary is now 7-11-1 in Ithaca.