Yale has won just one game in its history at Bright Hockey Center. It lost again there on Friday night. If the Bulldogs are going to advance to Lake Placid, they will have to win two.
The Harvard men's hockey team secured third place in the ECAC with three points over the weekend, defeating Yale 4-2 on Friday night and tying Princeton, 2-2, on Saturday night at Bright Hockey Center.
The Crimson's victory against the Bulldogs (14-14-1, 10-11-1 ECAC) secured home ice for the first round of the ECAC tournament, but Harvard (13-4-2, 12-8-2) wanted to finish in the top three to avoid the Thursday play-in game at the ECAC semifinals in Lake Placid.
The Crimson entered the weekend tied with Cornell for third place, but the Big Red dropped to Rensselaer on Friday. The tie against the Tigers (10-14-5, 9-9-4) was good enough to leave Harvard in third when Clarkson beat Dartmouth, 4-2 on Saturday.
Harvard will now host Yale next weekend in the best-of-three first round series of the ECAC Playoffs. The Elis are 1-18-3 alltime at Bright. Harvard and Yale have never squared off in the first round.
"We have a chance to control our destiny in the playoffs," Harvard Coach Mark Mazzoleni said. "It's huge for us to open the playoffs at home because we are not a very good road team. Now we have to take care of business with no excuses."
Beyond the playoff drama, Harvard athletic history was made when the school retired the No. 4 jersey of outgoing Athletic Director Bill Cleary '56. It is the first number ever to be retired by Harvard for any sport in its 150 years of intercollegiate competition.
Harvard 2, Princeton 2
One day after participating in a shootout against Yale, the Crimson was forced to switch gears and compete with the Tigers at their own game, that is, in the trenches.
After 65 minutes of physically punishing hockey, Harvard walked off the ice with a critical 2-2 tie against the surging Tigers on Saturday night.
"It's been a trademark of our team," Princeton Coach Len Quesnelle said. "If we're physical, we give ourselves a very good chance to win."
In a game that featured superb goaltending and bruising defense, Harvard scored the first two goals of the contest, but Princeton rallied in the third to force the tie.
It was fitting that on the night when the Crimson was honoring its seniors who were playing their final regular season home game, its best senior--and best player--all year came through with a banner performance.
Goalie Oli Jonas made 38 saves, many during the crucial moments of the game, to shut down Princeton's attempt to derail the Crimson from finishing third. His Tiger counterpart, Dave Stathos was equally busy, stopping 37.
After a scoreless first period, Harvard finally broke through at 5:28 of the second.
Freshman winger Tim Pettit held the puck along the right-side boards and passed to assistant captain Chris Bala in front of the net. Bala positioned himself and quickly fired beating Stathos, left side to give the Crimson the 1-0 lead.
With two minutes left in the period, Harvard once again dented the scoreboard, this time coming from the hand of freshman winger Rob Fried.
Fried set up in front of the Princeton net and guided a rebound beneath Stathos's pads to increase the Harvard advantage to 2-0.
Throughout the second period, however, the physical play escalated and the Tigers were able to gain momentum. Princeton sliced the Crimson's lead in half only two minutes into the final stanza.
Tiger winger Brad Parsons stole the puck and flew down the ice on a two-on-one rush for Princeton. Parsons stepped around a diving Crimson defender and rifled the puck over Jonas's left shoulder at 2:21 to make the score 2-1.
Princeton completed its comeback with both teams skating four aside.
Tiger senior center Ethan Doyle passed to winger Shane Campbell, who was waiting in front of the crease. Campbell took the pass and one-timed it past a screened Jonas to tie the game at two.
The ferocious hitting continued until the end of the game, often resulting in multiple gloves, sticks, and bodies sprawled out across the ice.
"I think the referees allowed the game to get away from them," Mazzoleni said. "But that's fine, because the calls were going both ways."
Nevertheless, Harvard had a chance to take the game at the beginning of the overtime period.
Sophomore center Dominic Moore cut across the crease from left to right and fooled Stathos into diving ahead of time. Moore had a shot at the wide open net, but the shot went too high and over the goal, and neither team had a serious threat for the rest of the game.
Tigers captain and leading scorer Kirk Lamb missed the game with a knee injury.
Harvard 6, Yale 4
The Crimson picked a right time to have its best offensive output of the year in conference play.
Harvard jumped out to a 3-0 lead and ultimately tallied six times, en route to defeating the Bulldogs 6-4 in front of a sold-out crowd at Bright on Friday night.
Needing two points to secure home ice, the Crimson offense took advantage of the absence of Yale junior goaltender Dan Lombard, who missed the game due to a punctured lung.
Sophomore winger Brett Nowak scored the game-winning goal for Harvard with four minutes left in the second period.
Nowak took the pass at the right side of the net from freshman winger Kenny Turano and moved to the backhand past a defender. Nowak returned to the forehand and fired a wrister below rookie goaltender Peter Dobrowski's pads to give the Crimson a 5-3 lead.
"I think we dug ourselves into an early hole," Yale Coach Tim Taylor '63 said. "The first three goals were problematic, the fourth and fifth were back-breakers."
The Elis didn't quit, however, and made for an exciting finish when winger Evan Wax retrieved a rebound in front of the net and rifled it under Jonas, who never saw the shot because of the traffic in front of him at 10:58.
The Bulldogs could draw no closer, however, as Jonas made 33 saves and Pettit notched his second empty net goal of the season to ice the contest. On his seventh save of the game, Jonas set the school record for most stops in a single season, set by his predecessor, J.R. Prestifilippo '00.
" There is no doubt in my mind thatJonas is MVP of the league at this moment," Mazzoleni said.
Harvard stormed out of the gates, and it seemed for the first half of the first period that Yale would be obliterated by the Crimson offensive onslaught.
Five minutes into the game, Nowak made a beautiful play that eventually led to Harvard's first goal.
Nowak stole the puck between the circles, jumped over a sliding defender, and fired a bullet on Dobrowski, who had to slide to his right to make the save. The rebound bounced to Turano, who retrieved the puck and shot it into the top of the net to give the Crimson the early 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later, Bala backhanded a shot five-hole to go up 2-0. Harvard wasn't done yet, and tallied again on the power play at 12:12.
Sophomore center Dominic Moore approached Dobrowski down the middle and deflected a pass from Turano under Dobrowski's right pad to increase the lead to 3-0.
Harvard reshuffled its power play for Friday and it paid off.
"We're running two different power play schemes," Mazzoleni said. "I don't think we've run a better power play all season than that first one today."
The Bulldogs however, were fighting for home ice in the first round as well, and had plenty of firepower to get back in the game. Yale had scored 19 goals in its previous three games and so it was confident it could come back.
It did, drawing the game even at three on a goal by Luke Earl at 14:40 of the first and a pair of strikes by Adam Sauve, the final one coming at 6:39 of the second.
The equalizier was somewhat controversial as it went off Sauve's skate. Jonas left a rebound in the creae, but Sauve, tied up by a defender while crashing the net, inadvertently redirected the puck home with his skate.
It did not take long for the Crimson to respond to Yale's three consecutive goals, and senior center Harry Schwefel gave Harvard the 4-3 lead with 12:05 left in the second period.
"We kept everything simple and moved the puck well," Nowak said. "It was a good test for our team to come back after they scored three straight goals to tie the game."
Yale certainly missed Lombard, who had played the most minuted of any ECAC goaltender this year. There was no word after the game whether he will be available for the playoffs.