M. Hockey Falls to Clarkson, 2-1, in Battle of Two Goalies
Right now, the Harvard men's hockey team (10-15-1, 9-9-1 ECAC) is like the little engine that could. Not many believed in it (last night's attendance was 2,701) except itself. With each passing week, a new hill, a different obstacle seems to loom larger and larger.
After another heart-wrenching loss, the team faces yet another hill. Harvard's 2-1 setback to Clarkson (20-7-2, 14-4-1) was its sixth in a row.
"I can't fault our team, I really can't," Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni said. "We played well."
Just five minutes into the third period, Harvard's engine faltered. Well-covered by a Harvard defenseman, Clarkson forward Guillaume Besse broke down the right side of the ice and somehow whipped a 30-foot wrist shot towards the net. Before Harvard senior goaltender Tripp Tracy knew it, the Clarkson players were celebrating a 1-0 lead.
"I thought [the puck] hit my leg," Tracy said. "I was actually shocked when I saw them put their sticks up in the air."
Less than 10 minutes later, Clarkson put the icing on the cake. With Harvard sophomore Henry Higdon in the box for a five-minute major penalty (his crime: a thunderous check from behind on a Clarkson player into the boards), the shorthanded unit was in the process of clearing out a loose puck in the middle of its defensive zone. Out of the blue, Clarkson sniper Todd White lunged through the crowd of players, swung around to his right and blindly swept the puck past a screened Tracy.
"One of the things we worked on was to just keep battling and competing," Tomassoni said. "It's gonna break. It's gotta break. They're working too hard for it not to."
After a disappointing offensive show last weekend against Colgate, Harvard wasn't without its shining moments last night as it amassed 34 shots on net. Unfortunately for the players, bad luck has followed them as they continually run into hot goaltenders and/or bad breaks. This time, it was Golden Knight goalie Dan Murphy who put on an electrifying 33-save show.
"[Murphy] definitely played a great game tonight," Higdon said. "He robbed us of a couple of goals, but there were some other chances where we could have beared down a little more."
Finally, with less than two minutes left in the game, the invisible screen which had been blanketing Harvard's opponent's net lifted. On a power play, senior captain Brad Konik slid a pass down to senior Kirk Nielsen deep in the Clarkson left face-off circle.
Like a hot potato, Nielsen slid a pass to a streaking freshman Craig MacDonald, who tipped in Harvard's first tally in over 100 minutes of play.
"We're not that far away from really making a run for the [ECAC Tournament] title," Tracy said. "We can definitely find some things to be positive about."
Disappointing as the loss was for the Crimson, the first two periods of play were ironically a clinic in offensive prowess as the two teams were scoreless for 45 nailbiting minutes. There is no better example of this battle of the titans than at the end of the first period.
With only 90 seconds remaining, Clarkson winger Jean-Francois Houle broke through all alone into the Harvard zone. Just as Houle prepared for a shot, Harvard junior Ashlin Halfnight came out of nowhere, dove through the air and tipped the puck out of harm's way.
Before Halfnight could get up, Nielsen mimicked Houle as he sped through the Clarkson zone only to be brought down by an insulted Nicholas Windsor.
"Not only did we have a decent amount of shots, but we had some quality opportunities," Tracy said. "We forced[Murphy] to make some big saves, and if we can put that kind of quality on the net night in and night out, I think we might have some better results."
"The thing we have to do is stay positive," he concluded.
With one home game left for the team, Harvard is not discouraged; frustrated, maybe, but not discouraged. So no matter what the score ends up being tonight against St. Lawrence, there is one thing for sure--the Harvard team will not give up.
Its recent play has shown that it is a contender. Come hell or high water, the players will always believe, "I think I can, I think I can...." First Period No Scoring. Second Period No Scoring. Third Period Cla--Besse 7 (Maidment, Ollila) 5:14. Cla--White 23 (Seitz) 13:24. (PPG) Har--MacDonald 5 (Nielsen, Konik) 18:26. Saves: Cla--Murphy 6-12-15 33; Har--Tracy 9-15-5 29. Power Play: Cla--1/6; Har--1/9. Attendance: 2,701
Cla--Besse 7 (Maidment, Ollila) 5:14.
Cla--White 23 (Seitz) 13:24. (PPG)
Har--MacDonald 5 (Nielsen, Konik) 18:26.
Saves: Cla--Murphy 6-12-15 33; Har--Tracy 9-15-5 29.
Power Play: Cla--1/6; Har--1/9.