Still reeling from a discouraging 5-3 defeat to Vermont last Saturday, the Harvard men's hockey team continued to falter, suffering a 4-1 loss at the University of Hampshire last night.
In 10 games this season the Crimson has allowed 35 goals, 22 of which were tallied in the final stanza.
Last night was no different, as Harvard allowed UNH, a team that is struggling to score goals, to dominate the entire game and notch three points, including the game-winner, in the third.
After being stoned on a breakaway only minutes before, Wildcats' winger Darren Haydar capitalized on his second attempt. Defenseman Mich Mounsey sent a pass across the slot, and Haydar slid the puck across the goalmouth.
Senior goaltender Oliver Jonas leapt to his side to make a diving save but wasn't in time, putting UNH ahead 2-0 in the final frame.
"UNH really took it to us the entire game from start to finish," Jonas said. "We were prepared to play their game, but we just didn't come out tonight."
Although the two teams remained scoreless after the first stanza, the Wildcats clearly held the edge.
Jonas saw a lot of action on his side of the ice, but continued to rise to the occasion. At 3:40 in to the first, Jonas stopped a one-on-one charge by UNH defensman Garrett Stafford after he stripped the Crimson of the puck in the neutral zone.
"Jonas has seen over 30 shots a game," Harvard Coach Mark Mazzoleni said. "His performance tonight is pretty much what he's given us all year."
UNH's defense, the centerpiece of the Wildcats' game plan, contained much of Harvard's sporadic offense.
UNH ran a trap at its blueline that held the sporadic Crimson offense at bay and left UNH goalie Conklin largely unattended.
Captain Steve Moore and rookie linemate Dennis Packard were responsible for Harvard's few bright spots.
At 5:25 in the third, Moore weaved his way through the neutral zone, dished the puck to Packard from the left circle. Packard was perched at the crease but a Wildcats' defenseman interfered to send the puck out of play.
With four minutes to go, Moore and Packard combine for another attempt to stuff the puck across the goal line, but Conklin was prepared to make the save.
The Wildcats' put the puck on net 14 times in the opening stanza, while Harvard could must only a meager three shots on goal.
Although the Crimson staved off pressure from the Wildcats' power play, Harvard couldn't keep UNH off the board.
The first goal of the game came after a quick restart. The Wildcats' won the draw in the left faceoff circle, giving winger John Prudden ample opportunity to net his first tally of the season. Prudden snagged the puck and sent an unassisted one-timer past Jonas to the far corner of the goal only 1:39 in to the second period.
If not for Jonas' stunning acrobatics, UNH easily could have put some more distance between itself and Harvard before the final period.
"Tonight the score could have been a lot higher if it wasn't for him," Mazzoleni said. "He's done that for us on a nightly basis."
At 6:10 in the second, Prudden, Stafford, and winger Steve Saviano created some traffic in the Crimson crease. Jonas frantically tried to catch sight of the puck, and dived across the melee to draw the whistle.
As UNH continued to dominate the middle stanza, Harvard's frustration mounted and tempers inevitably flared, leading to a skirmish behind the play between freshman defenseman Dave McCulloch and Wildcats' center Sean Austin.
Both players received five-minute majors for fighting and game disqualifications, reducing the Crimson's already shallow defense to five blueliners.
UNH tried to capitalize on Harvard's defensive situation, but Jonas was still up to the task, making 15 saves in the frame.
Struggling ineffectively against the Wildcats' impenetrable blueline, a beleaguered Crimson offense could only add a pair of shots on net in the period, bringing the grand total to five after 40 minutes of hockey.
The Wildcats' wasted no time trying to find the cracks in Jonas's shield.
Barely 30 seconds into the final period, Darren Haydar launched a shot at Jonas on a breakaway, but the puck was deflected high into the stands.
After 50 minutes of uninspiring play, the Crimson started to show a glimmer of offense. Moore and Packard combined for a two-on-one rush, but Conklin made a textbook glove save to control the shot.
Harvard's power play unit, showing gradual improvement over the course of the season, improved upon its 19 percent success rate and finally lit the
lamp for the Crimson at 11:30.
Moore and youmger brother Dominic battled Conklin at the crease, posting a pair of shots on his pads.
Conklin could not control the rebounds and Bala, waiting in the corner of the crease, one-timed a bounce from the younger Moore's shot to put the Crimson on the board, 2-1.
Unfortunately, a pair of goals from Lanny Gare and Johnny Rogers stifled
any offensive surge that the Crimson had hoped to capitalize upon, sealing a
4-1 victory for the Wildcats.
"We're still struggling to score goals, and we just couldn't get the knockout punch there for a while" UNH Coach Richard Umile said. "After all that work, you don't want it to be a one-goal hockey game. But we came back in the end to score a couple of pretty goals to put the game away."
Harvard has a few weeks to rest before it boards a plane to Colorado Springs after Christmas. Perhaps a much-needed break will be what the Crimson needs to regroup and get back on track.