ITHACA, N.Y.--The Harvard men's hockey team's hopes of salvaging its disappointing season came to a crashing halt here Saturday night. And so did the illustrious career of Harvard's winningest coach ever.
Bill Cleary watched with dismay as Cornell (16-9-3) completed its quarterfinal sweep of the Crimson (13-14-1) with a 4-2 blitzkrieg to knock Harvard out of the ECAC playoffs.
"All good things must come to an end," said Cleary, who finished his 19 years as head coach with a 323-200-22 record. "I was as proud of the kids as I was last year. They played hard right to the end."
The defeat also ended the collegiate careers ofHarvard's five seniors--defenders Scott McCormack,Brian Popiel and Tod Hartje, and forwards JohnMurphy and Captain C.J. Young. The quintet helpedthe Crimson to its first-ever nationalchampionship last year, then suffered through theoverwhelming ECAC favorite's first losing seasonsince 1983-84.
"I just wish we could have done better," Youngsaid. "We really wanted to take it back toBoston."
Instead, the Big Red--which defeated theCrimson for the second straight night after 11straight defeats--will join Colgate, RPI andClarkson at the postseason party for ECACsemifinalists at the Garden next weekend.
The Red Raiders, in a broken Zamboni-delayedseries, eliminated Yale last night. The Engineersand Golden Knights completed two-game sweepsSaturday over Brown and St. Lawrence,respectively.
After the Big Red pounced on the Crimson Fridaynight, 6-2, Cleary told his troops they needed astrong start Saturday to force a mini-game. Butonce again, early breakdowns plagued the Crimson.
Fifty-one seconds into the contest, a feed fromCornell forward Joe Dragon found linemate DougDerraugh wide open in front of the Harvard cage.Derraugh sent the 3826 Lynah fanatics into anearly frenzy by snapping a quick wristshot pastgoaltender Allain Roy.
One minute later, the Big Red tallied on aninstant replay of Derraugh's goal, with Ross Lemondoing the honors from point-blank range.
"We just came out and had one of our typicallapses," Harvard forward Pete Ciavaglia said."We've come out flat too many times. We've gottenburned by it all year."
But the Crimson was not quite ready to concede.Five minutes later, forward John Weisbrod notchedhis 11th goal of the season on a slapshot from thecorner that trickled off Big Red netminder JimCrozier's skate and dribbled over the line.
In the second session, the Crimson'spenalty-box nemesis struck again. With threeseconds left in a Matt Mallgrave penalty, Hartjegot his hands up high while checking Dragon.
Hartje looked at the referee. The refereelooked at Hartje. The Lynah fans exploded. Thereferee whistled Hartje for elbowing. A minutelater, Big Red forward Trent Andison jammed arebound past Roy to give Cornell a 3-1 lead.
Before the period was over, the Big Red hadsealed the series with another power-play goal.With McCormack in the sin-bin for holding, a KevinSneddon clearing attempt hit Weisbrod in front ofHarvard's net. Cornell forward Ryan Hughes slammedthe loose puck past a screened Roy.
"The thing that's hurt us the most is thatwe've self-destructed with penalties," Clearysaid. "They've killed us all year long."
In the third stanza, the Big Red retreated intoa defensive shell. By the end of the game, the icearound Roy was still freshly Zambonied--no one hadskated on it. But the Crimson's pressure onlyproduced one goal--Mike Vukonich's team-leading22nd tally of the season with six minutes to play.
Cleary exited college hockey the way he enteredit--with class. Unflustered by chants of "Goodbye,bald guy" from Cornell students pouring onto theice, Cleary hopped off the bench after the contestto give victorious Big Red Coach Brian McCutcheona farewell hug.
"Billy's a real credit to the game of hockey,"McCutcheon said.
"It's been kind of a Jekyll and Hyde year,"said Cleary, who will assume his new duties asHarvard's athletic director on April 1. "We've hadsome good moments, and sometimes we've struggled."
The coach has retired. The season has expired.But a teary Cleary said he had no regrets.
"It's not the winning--it's the friends, thememories, the people in this room," he said."These kids are all winners.