It was a good game with so much potential, but it ended in disaster.
After dominating the eighth-best team in the nation for two periods last night, the Harvard men's hockey team (1-3-1, 1-2-1 ECAC) fell into a shell and squandered a two-goal lead to lose in overtime to Boston College, 4-3.
The dramatic comeback by the Eagles (7-2-0, 4-2-0 Hockey East) reached its apotheosis with 29 seconds left in the extra period when Marty Hughes slapped home the game-winner from 15 feet out.
Controversy was quick to follow. With three B.C. players blanketing the crease, the Harvard players and bench were waiting for the no-goal call.
But the referees had swallowed their whistle well before that moment and no regurgitation would occur. Did the Eagles escape with a gift? Harvard Coach Ronn Tomassoni could only muster, "No comment." This said while his eyes burned through the officials' locker room door across the way.
Nonetheless, throughout the first two periods, the Crimson displayed its best hockey yet in this young season. And after eight minutes of what can only be described as a feeling-out process, Harvard jumped out to an early 1-0 lead.
A scuffle in the right corner behind B.C. goaltender Andy McLaughlin ejected the puck right in front of the net. Freshman Chris Bala pounced on the puck, which was lying haplessly between the hash marks, and blasted one by McLaughlin.
Although the Eagles responded two minutes later with a power play goal by Jeff Farkus, Harvard took control of the contest just 30 seconds into the second period.
Freshman Steve Moore laced a beautiful pass across two lines, past an Eagle defender right onto the stick of a cherry-picking Henry Higdon.
In a classic, well-maneuvered breakaway, Higdon wristed a shot over McLaughlin's left shoulder for the 2-1 advantage.
"Higgy's been outstanding, he's played very, very well for us all year long," Tomassoni said. "He's really stepped up as a senior. He's been our acting captain now that Jeremiah [McCarthy, who suffered a shoulder injury against Colgate on Nov. 8] is out, and he's done a terrific job."
That would not be the end for the Crimson--or for Bala--as the freshman notched his second goal of the contest at the 14:32 mark of that period.
This time Bala and junior Craig Adams played a little two-man hockey. With his back towards the B.C. net, Adams laid a pass off to a streaking Bala down the left side. Bala, who had already generated a head of steam, broke across the zone from left to right and faked out McLaughlin with the backhander. All of a sudden, Harvard was up 3-1 on the No. 8 team in the nation.
"With time and with more games and more experience they are just going to get better and better," said Tomassoni of the Adams, Bala and Moore line combination. "They did play very well tonight."
The tide brutally changed for the Crimson, however, with only 20 seconds remaining in that second period.
A mini-brawl behind the Harvard net precipitated five penalties and unfortunately for Harvard, three of the players were wearing Crimson jerseys.
That set up a convenient five-on-four advantage for B.C. to begin the final stanza. And after a mere 23 seconds into the third period, Hobey Baker candidate Marty Reasoner proverbially broke Harvard's back with a critical power-play tally.
"I think that big thing was that when they scored in the third it gives them life and it puts us back on our heels," Tomassoni said. "We score one and we get a lot of energy."
But despite being overplayed throughout the third period and managing only four shots on McLaughlin, Harvard still found itself with a one-goal lead with less than five minutes remaining in the contest. Hope was still there--but soon to be dashed.
A five-on-three advantage was handed to the Eagles with two minutes remaining. So with junior Ben Storey and freshman Graham Morrell watching from the penalty box, B.C., behind a blast from the right point by Ken Hemenway, sent the contest into overtime and brought the 3,746 fans to their feet.
"Anytime you're on a five-on-three, certainly the momentum can shift very quickly," Tomassoni said. "As far as a team, it was as solid as we've been all season long."
The questionable Hughes' overtime goal ended what had been a solid game by the Crimson. Thus after dominating a Top Ten team, Harvard left the Conte Forum with only two sentiments: anger and frustration.
It was a terrible end to what could have been a beautiful night. First Period Har--Bala 1 (Adams, S. Moore) 12:16. B.C.--Farkas 3 (Hemenway, Allen) 16:08. (PPG) Second Period Har--Higdon 2 (Moore, Rodgers) 0:30. Har--Bala 2 (Adams, Storey) 14:32. (PPG) Third Period B.C.--Reasoner 8 (Gionta, Bellefeuille) 0:23. (PPG) B.C.--Hemenway 1 (O'Leary, Gionta) 17:25 (PPG) Overtime B.C.--Hughes 4 (Pierandri, Masters) 4:31. Saves: Har--Prestifilippo 6-11-6-3 26; B.C.--McLaughlin 7-4-3-0 14. Power Play: Har--1/3; B.C.--3/8. Attendance: 3,746
Har--Bala 1 (Adams, S. Moore) 12:16.
B.C.--Farkas 3 (Hemenway, Allen) 16:08. (PPG)
Har--Higdon 2 (Moore, Rodgers) 0:30.
Har--Bala 2 (Adams, Storey) 14:32. (PPG)
B.C.--Reasoner 8 (Gionta, Bellefeuille) 0:23. (PPG)
B.C.--Hemenway 1 (O'Leary, Gionta) 17:25 (PPG)
B.C.--Hughes 4 (Pierandri, Masters) 4:31.
Saves: Har--Prestifilippo 6-11-6-3 26; B.C.--McLaughlin 7-4-3-0 14.
Power Play: Har--1/3; B.C.--3/8.