With the win, the Crimson (11-12-4, 10-7-3 ECAC) moved into a three-way tie for second place in the ECAC with Clarkson and Dartmouth.
Harvard 4, Union 0
The lopsided score of Saturday night’s game was deceiving. This win didn’t come easy at all for Harvard, and a lot of the credit belonged to freshman goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris, who made 32 saves in recording his first collegiate shutout.
The loss dropped Union (12-12-6, 7-10-3) into ninth place in the ECAC and put the Skating Dutchmen in danger of missing the playoffs with only one weekend series remaining to play. The Crimson’s victory left it in control of its own playoff destiny with regard to home ice, pending the results of next weekend’s season ending road trip to Yale and Princeton.
The contest was an evenly-matched affair most of the way, with Harvard enjoying the fruits of Grumet-Morris’ excellent goaltending and converting its opportunities in the second and third periods.
The Crimson’s first goal came off the stick of sophomore winger Rob Fried. Fried, who was grinding in front of Union senior goalie Brandon Snee, was in place to collect the rebound from a Dominic Moore shot and deposit the puck in the back of the net to give Harvard a 1-0 lead.
The teams battled back and forth for the rest of the second period and early stages of the third, before Crimson freshman defenseman Noah Welch fired a shot through a screen that beat Snee five-hole. Sophomore Tim Petit and freshman Tom Cavanagh assisted on the goal.
Harvard picked up two late goals to end any hopes for a Union comeback. Junior centerman Brett Nowak notched his 11th goal of the year on an empty netter, and Fried scored his second goal of the game at 18:14 of the third period, assisted by sophomore defenseman Kenny Smith and senior forward Kevin McCafferty.
But the key to the game was the play of Grumet-Morris, whose shutout ended his recent struggles between the pipes and set the tone for the whole game.
“Dov played great in net for them,” Union coach Kevin Sneddon ’92 said.
Grumet-Morris said he was more concerned with getting the victory than recording the shutout.
“You don’t want to go into the playoffs either on the road or after losing a couple in a row,” Grumet-Morris said. “So this was pivotal for our season.”
“It was a ‘must win’ and we came through with it,” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni added. “Home ice is just so critical.”
If the Crimson can hang onto one of the top five playoff seeds, it will host a playoff series at Bright Hockey Center. And Harvard certainly hopes that one of its leading scorers—sophomore forward Tyler Kolarik—can recover from a broken thumb sustained in the first period of the RPI loss in time to aid the Crimson’s final surge to the ECAC tournament.
“We’re going to miss Tyler,” Fried said. “We’ll be fighting this battle for him. Hopefully he’ll be back for the playoff stretch.”
RPI 5, Harvard 1
Special teams and goaltending were the difference on Friday night, and the Engineers (15-11-4, 9-8-3) held a distinct advantage in both areas.
Harvard’s only goal of the night came at 8:54 of the third period, when Nowak followed up a Moore shot to record his 10th goal of the year.
Ealirer in the game, RPI jumped out to a 1-0 lead when junior center Nolan Graham potted a rebound just 7:36 into the game.
The Engineers made it 3-0 on two power-play goals during the second period from senior Jim Henkel and junior Marc Cavosie, Rensselaer’s leading scorer with 20 goals and 25 assists.
Henkel lit the lamp again on a wrister at 8:54 of the final stanza, which made it a 4-0 game and prompted Mazzoleni to make a change in net, substituting Grumet-Morris for sophomore Will Crothers.
Matt Murley—the leading point-scorer in ECAC play—added an empty-netter with 2:13 to go in the game for the final margin of victory.
RPI goaltender Nathan Marsters finished the game with 32 saves. Crothers made 12 stops for Harvard, while Grumet-Morris chipped in with three.