They went to the well once too often.
The last time the Harvard men's hockey team skated into Hobey Baker Rink, the Crimson hung on the edge of death. The Crimson teased the Tigers to a 5-5 end-of-regulation deadlock. The go-ahead goal seemed like it would never come.
But as the clock raced to the two-second mark, a charging Ted Donato fed John Weisbrod in the Princeton zone. The Crimson wing fired a low, hard shot past Tigers netminder Ron High for the winning tally.
The well Harvard (2-1 overall, 2-1 ECAC) visited last year was dry last night. The go-ahead goal--or the tying goal, for that matter--never did come. Harvard couldn't duplicate last year's heroics, falling to Princeton, 4-3.
Trailing 4-2 with less than three minutes to play, Crimson defenseman Jim Coady seized the puck on the left side of his own net. The junior raced coast-to-coast untouched up the left flank and into the Princeton zone. Coady then cut inside and jammed the puck past High, quenching Harvard's 50-minute scoring drought.
Here we go again. Two minutes to play. Princeton up by one. The block figures of the clock racing toward a Tiger upset.
This time it was All-ECAC forward Mike Vukonich who had the honor of vanquishing the team from eating club country. Eight seconds to play. Vukonich entrenched himself in the Tiger crease. Seven ticks to go. The puck squibbled through the crease to Vukonich's stick. Vukonich swung.
And missed. There was no joy in Cambridge. The puck bounced out of the crease. The Princeton players mobbed High.
After Harvard notched two tallies (Weisbrod and Vukonich did the honors) in the first 10 minutes, High rose to the occasion. The Tiger netminder shut out Harvard for the next 50 minutes to capture his first win of the season. Princeton's first line of Andy Cesarski and Sean Gorman ran double shifts, shutting down a Harvard offense that generated 18 goals in its first two games.
The Crimson finally broke out of its offensive slump in the final period, but bad luck intervened. Ted Donato shot wide on a one-on-one breakaway early in the final stanza. Peter Ciavaglia faked out three defenders but missed wide on an empty net. It was a frustrating night.
The night didn't start out that way. The Crimson (2-1 overall, 2-1 ECAC) looked like it would add to its scoring prowess when Weisbrod blasted freshman wing Chris Baird's feed by a fazed High less than a minute into the contest.
Princeton (1-2, 1-2) knotted the score when Keith Merkler flicked a rebound off Harvard goaltender Mike Francis, who started his first game of the season.
Harvard bounced back five minutes later when Vukonich took a Donato feed and swung around the net to stuff the puck past High.
The Tigers clawed the game from the Crimson's reach. Three unanswered goals. Three shots to the heart. Sean Murphy, Mike Cole and Andre Faust.
Harvard will try to rebound tonight when it plays muscle-bound Army at Tate Rink in West Point, N.Y.
"Physically, our team is one of the toughest and strongest in the league," Cadets Coach Rob Riley said. "Most of our team is not finesse players. We're going to try to bag people pretty good out there."
Tigers, 4-3 in Princeton, N.J. HARVARD 2-0-1--3 Princeton 3-1-0--4
First Period: 1, H, John Weisbrod (Peter Ciavaglia, Chris Baird) 0:56; 2, P, Keith Merkler (Joel Gaustad) 3:30; 3, H, Mike Vukonich (Ted Donato, Ciavaglia) 9:19; 4, P, Sean Murphy (Andre Faust, Andy Cesarski) 13:01; 5, P, Mike Cole (Todd Shimabukuro) 19:04. Penalties--P, Cesarski (tripping) 9:11; H, Sean McCann (slashing) 12:00; H, Kevin Sneddon (roughing) 16:15; H, McCann (high-sticking) 16:15; P, Brian Bigelow (high-sticking) 16:15; P, Gaustad (roughing) 16:15; P, Rob LaFerriere (delay of game) 19:04.
Second Period: 6, P, Faust (LaFerriere) 18:07. Penalties--H, Weisbrod (roughing) 10:20; H, Sneddon (holding) 13:46; H, Vukonich (cross-checking) 17:20.
Third Period: 7, H, Jim Coady (Mike Francis, Lou Body) 17:27. Penalties--H, Derek Maguire (charging) 1:13; P, Jack Craig (charging) 4:20; P, Sverre Sears (tripping) 6:37; P, Sears (interference) 9:55.
Power Play: H, 1-5; P, 2-5.