With things going well in its own backyard, the Crimson (6-5-3, 5-2-2 ECAC) headed west for a Dec. 15 game at then-No. 9 Michigan and a date in the Wells Fargo Denver Cup on Dec. 28 and 29.
It returned to Cambridge after making some noise on a national level with two strong performances against ranked teams—a 3-3 tie with the Wolverines (11-6-3, 8-3-2 CCHA) and 2-0 setback against No. 5 UMass-Lowell—and a stunning 5-3 comeback victory over Bowling Green.
“Our team played well,” said sophomore goaltender Will Crothers. “We definitely hoped to win them all, but we played some very good games.”
The Crimson will resume its ECAC schedule this weekend with crucial road games at Union (5-5-3, 1-3-1 ECAC) and Rensselaer (7-5-1, 2-2-1 ECAC), two teams that have fared well in their non-conference games and also played four fewer conference games than Harvard.
Harvard 3, Michigan 3
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Harvard was coming off some of its best hockey of the season as it prepared to face the Wolverines, who were 8-1-1 in their last ten games.
With each team hitting its respective mid-season stride, it seemed that something had to give.
Neither team budged, though, and the game ended in a deadlock before a sellout crowd of 6,719 at Yost Ice Arena.
“I’m really proud of the way our kids played,” said Harvard Coach Mark Mazzoleni. “This is a tough building, and they jumped on us early. But we showed a lot of resiliency, stayed up, and started to play our game.”
Playing in front of the always-raucous Yost crowd, the Wolverines came out firing on all cylinders and took a 1-0 lead on David Wyzgowski’s one-timer just 2:58 into the game.
Michigan carried the play early and even prevented the Crimson from mustering a shot on goal until 12:40 had elapsed in the period.
Shortly after that, the Crimson turned the tide and forced Michigan into a penalty. The Crimson cycled the puck well during the ensuing power play, and Harvard junior center Dominic Moore seemed to tie the game at 13:32 of the period after crashing the Wolverine goal. However, referee Kevin Hall determined that Moore’s skate had kicked the puck past Michigan goaltender Josh Blackburn—a ruling with which Moore agreed—and the goal was disallowed.
But while the goal itself did not count, the Crimson rallied around it, picking up its physical play and outshooting Michigan for the remainder of the period.
As the first horn sounded, the Wolverines were whistled for another penalty, giving the Crimson a man advantage and a fresh sheet of ice as the second frame began.
This time, Harvard made Michigan pay.
After collecting a rebound in the Harvard zone, Moore took matters into his own hands, zipping by everyone along the left wing and into the Michigan end. Moore brought the puck behind the Michigan goal before wrapping it around and slamming it between Blackburn’s pads to tie the game just 54 seconds into the period.
“[After scoring first] we needed to get the next one but didn’t,” said Michigan Coach Red Berenson. “They came back and held up.”
The Harvard power play struck again later in the period, and it was again Moore who sparked the attack, skating the puck up from behind the goal line before looping into the high slot. Once there, he fired a picture-perfect pass to the doorstep and sophomore winger Tyler Kolarik, who one-timed it past Blackburn to silence the Yost crowd and give Harvard its first lead of the game with 11:35 to play in the period.
Michigan winger Eric Nystrom—who took the place of Harvard defenseman Noah Welch on the U.S. team at the IIHF World Junior Championships due to Welch’s leg injury—got the Yost faithful back into the game just over three minutes later. The Syosset, N.Y. native worked a perfect two-on-one with junior center John Shouneyia and beat Harvard freshman goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris top-shelf to make it 2-2 at the 12:30 mark.
Harvard seemed to seize control of the game as the third period opened, playing intelligent defense and nearly scoring twice in the frame’s fourth minute – on a breakaway try by sophomore winger Dennis Packard and a David McCulloch shot from the point that hit the post.
However, it was Michigan’s hard-working fourth line that broke the deadlock, as freshman center Charlie Henderson beat Grumet-Morris from the top of the left faceoff circle to give the Wolverines a 3-2 lead with 13:10 to play in the third.
The Wolverines’ downfall—an inability to stay out of the penalty box with the red-hot Crimson power play—allowed the Crimson to knot the score once again. With Nystrom down for slashing, McCulloch sent a pass to the front of the crease, where Packard put the puck past Blackburn’s glove side to tie the score at 9:49 of the period.
“Our poor job of penalty killing cost us a chance to win the game. We had to throw some people who might not normally be out there on the penalty kill,” said Berenson, who was without two key defensemen in addition to leading scorer Mike Cammalleri. “We made some mistakes in our rotation and denying the shot. [Harvard’s] power play didn’t overwhelm but it was effective. That was the difference in the game.”
Harvard finished 3-for-6 on the power play, while Michigan was 0-for-3.
“We have some skill on our power play,” Mazzoleni said. “They play a pressure game, so we had to rotate it away from that and get it on the net.”
Grumet-Morris was often spectacular between the pipes, stopping 35 shots, eclipsing his previous career high of 31 against St. Lawrence earlier this season.
“I was just looking to make the easy save,” said Grumet-Morris, whose parents each hold degrees from Michigan. “Our coaches did a good job preparing me. I had a good feel for their power play.”
Blackburn made 20 saves for Michigan.
UML 2, Harvard 0
For nearly 55 minutes in their Denver Cup semifinal match-up, Crothers and UMass-Lowell netminder Cam McCormick were equally spectacular.
Crothers finished with 36 saves on the night and rose to the occasion of playing against McCormick, a senior and Hockey East’s leader in goals against average, save percentage, and shutouts.
However, two late goals by the streaking River Hawks (13-3-0, 6-2-0 Hockey East) sealed Harvard’s fate in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
The win was the ninth straight for UML, a record during the school’s Division I history. The shutout—McCormick’s school-record sixth this season—pushed his individual record to 9-0-0 on the year.
After the game, McCormick’s overall goals against average sat at a downright ridiculous 0.46 goals per game. As has been the case all season long, his play between the pipes was the story of the game.
“I think that the difference in tonight’s game was the play of McCormick,” Mazzoleni said. “I thought he really played outstanding.”
According to senior captain Peter Capouch, McCormick was one piece of the puzzle.
“Lowell’s goaltender was outstanding, but they were also very good defensively,” he wrote in an e-mail. “They did not allow us many second chance scoring opportunities. They do a good job protecting the front of their net.”
The first goal of the night came courtesy of the River Hawk power play. With Harvard defenseman Dave McCulloch in the box for obstruction interference, UML forward Laurent Meunier put a rebound past Crothers with 5:24 to play for a 1-0 lead.
UML winger Mark Concannon gave his team a two-goal lead just 87 seconds later, as he gathered a pass from Ed McGrane before beating Crothers five-hole.
The Crimson nearly got on the board a minute later, but McCormick was able to stop a two-on-one bid by Kolarik.
Mazzoleni pulled Crothers for the final 1:44, and Harvard responded by generating chances in the Lowell zone. However, McCormick—who finished with 27 saves—was once again equal to the task.
The loss snapped Harvard’s four-game unbeaten streak and marked the second time this season that the Crimson had been shut out.
“I thought we played well tonight and gave ourselves a chance to win the game,” Mazzoleni said.
Neither team had many power play opportunities. UML capitalized on one of its three chances while Harvard went 0-for-2 on the man advantage.
Harvard 5, Bowling Green 3
The Crimson entered the Denver Cup with hopes of extending its four-game unbeaten streak and building on its 3-3 tie with Michigan.
Midway through its second game of the tournament, though, the Crimson was in real danger of leaving with a complete disappointment.
Playing in the consolation game against Bowling Green State (Ohio), Harvard found itself trailing 3-0 against the underdog Falcons (5-13-4, 4-10-2 CCHA) with less than five minutes to play in the second period.
As it turned out, the “Cardiac Crimson” was just making for good theater once again. Harvard rattled off five unanswered goals and Crothers held the Falcons at bay in a strong relief effort to turn away BGSU in the Crimson’s fourth comeback win of the season.
The comeback began as the Falcons skated with a man advantage and a three-goal lead late in the second period.
Just as they had done against Colgate earlier in the season, Packard and linemate Brett Nowak jump-started a 2-on-1 shorthanded opportunity that culminated in a Packard score. This time, the Kingston, Pa. native beat Falcon goaltender Jordan Sigalet glove-side to make it a two-goal game with 4:57 to play in the period.
The score remained that way through the rest of the period and the first 5:43 of the final frame before another shorthanded tally by the Crimson cut the BGSU lead to 3-2. Capouch worked a perfect give-and-go with Kolarik, getting the puck back in front for his first goal of the season.
“It was nice to break the ice with my first goal. It took me quite awhile to get into game shape after the injuries early on, but I’m feeling much better now, and it’s allowing me to play a bit more offensively,” Capouch said. “The goal allowed us to grab the third period momentum that we started to pick up after [Packard’s] goal in the 2nd period. We really buzzed them after that.”
Less than five minutes later, Harvard forward Andrew Lederman tied the game with his first collegiate goal on a blast from the slot that beat Sigalet.
With momentum safely on its side, the Crimson was able to complete the turnaround with 6:57 to play in the contest, as freshman forward Tom Cavanagh potted his second goal of the season—and the eventual game-winner—with assists from Kolarik and Capouch.
Cavanagh’s score was the only power play tally on the night. Harvard finished 1-for-5 on the man advantage, while Bowling Green came up empty-handed in the same number of tries.
Nowak completed the scoring with an empty-netter at the 19:15 mark.
Though Harvard dominated the first period—outshooting BGSU by a 15-6 margin—it was the Falcons who struck first on a one-timer by junior forward Tyler Knight with just 58 seconds to go in the frame.
Then, Bowling Green captain and leading scorer Greg Day put his team up 3-0 with two second-period tallies. First, Day beat Grumet-Morris at the 3:17 mark after redirecting a pass from sophomore forward D’Arcy McConvey. His next tally came less than five minutes later and caused Mazzoleni to lift Grumet-Morris in favor of Crothers, who held BGSU scoreless the rest of the way.
“You always have to be ready [to go in], but in the back of your mind you don’t want to go in,” Crothers said. “You want the other goalie to do well. But I prepare for every game the same way and was ready for it. It turned out well for us in the end.”
Crothers finished the contest with 21 saves, while Grumet-Morris ended his evening with nine. Sigalet stopped 42 shots for the Falcons, one night after his teammate Tyler Masters made 51 saves in a 3-1 loss to then-No. 3 Denver.
“Overall we had a good weekend in Denver. We played hard for six periods, but for the first five we just couldn’t get any goals,” Capouch said. “Obviously, we weren’t happy about being in the 3rd place game, but we continued to battle throughout the tournament.”
The host Pioneers (16-2-0, 11-1-0 WCHA) defeated UML, 2-1, for their second straight Denver Cup championship on the strength of two goals by senior winger Chris Paradise. The win was the fifth in a row for Denver. The River Hawks, on the other hand, saw their winning streak snapped, and the loss was McCormick’s first of the season. … Two Harvard players—Capouch and Crothers—were named to the all-tournament team. The other honorees included forwards Greg Barber (Denver), Day, McGrane, and defenseman Aaron Mackenzie (Denver). Barber earned tournament MVP honors.… Harvard junior forward Aaron Kim skated in both games of the tournament, his first action since the Crimson’s Nov. 10 tie at Dartmouth. He was out for a month and a half with a hand injury.… Welch played both games of the Cup, the first ice time he had dressed in the month of December after injuring his leg in a 2-1 home victory against St. Lawrence on Nov. 30.