Despite the lopsided score, Harvard Coach Mark Mazzoleni said his team showed marked improvement from its play in last weekend’s two lopsided defeats at Cornell and Colgate.
“I didn’t think it was a 5-2 game,” Mazzoleni said. “I liked the way our kids played. They kept their focus and played as a unit of five.”
The Crimson has now lost three straight games, its longest losing streak since a five-game skid at this point last season. Harvard has also lost its past four Beanpot openers and has not won the fabled tournament since 1993.
Husky forward Mike Ryan’s hat trick—the second consecutive trifecta allowed by Harvard—paced Northeastern (15-10-3) to only its third opening-round Beanpot win in the past fourteen years. The Huskies will face Boston University in the championship game Monday night, while Harvard (9-9-3, 8-5-2 ECAC) will take on BC in the consolation game.
Freshman forward Brendan Bernakevitch’s top-shelf goal from just in front of the net tied the game at one three minutes into the second period. Bernakevitch took advantage of a lunging pass from fellow freshman Tom Cavanagh to score his first goal since the season-opener against Brown.
Harvard controlled the action for the next several minutes, playing by far its best hockey since the exam break. The Crimson easily cleared the puck from its own zone and began to create scoring chances near the Husky net.
Despite dictating play, however, Harvard could not take the lead. The Crimson was thwarted by some near misses on passes and solid Husky goaltending by Keni Gibson, who made 22 saves in the game.
“The team played great defense,” Gibson said. “Our team played exceptionally well and made my night really easy.”
It was Northeastern that broke the tie. At 9:19 of the second period, Husky forward Ryan Dudgeon fired an innocent-looking, wide-angle shot that bounced off freshman Crimson goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris and skirted into the net. The flukey goal gave Northeastern a 2-1 lead and changed the momentum of the game.
“[The goal] put us in a hole,” Mazzoleni said. “But our kids didn’t quit and that’s a real positive sign.”
Husky forward Eric Ortlip banged home his own rebound for a power-play goal six minutes later, increasing the margin to 3-1, and Harvard never seriously threatened for the remainder of the game.
“They were opportunistic and buried their chances and we didn’t,” Mazzoleni said.
Ryan broke the game open midway through with his second and third goals of the evening, giving the Huskies a 5-1 cushion.
“I was hoping to come in here and pop one or two goals,” Ryan said. “But to get a hat trick [at the Beanpot] is something that I thought about as a kid. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Sophomore forward Kenny Turano scored Harvard’s second goal with a mid-range slapshot late at 13:06 third period. Turano led all Harvard freshman in goals last year with eight, yet his goal tonight was his first of the season.
Northeastern controlled play in the opening minutes of the game. The Huskies outshot the Crimson 8-1 in the first eight minutes and took advantage of multiple Crimson turnovers in its own end to generate quality scoring chances. However, Grumet-Morris kept Northeastern off the board early with several good saves.
Ryan finally broke through by faking out Harvard captain Pete Capouch and rifling a hard slapshot past Grumet-Morris for his first goal.
Unlike last weekend, however, Harvard refused to back down after falling behind. The Crimson played much better hockey after surrendering the goal, holding Northeastern without a shot for the rest of the period and matching the Huskies in intensity for the next twenty minutes.
“I can’t question our kids' effort,” Mazzoleni said. “I questioned their effort a ton Friday and Saturday, but I thought we came back tonight and worked extremely hard.”
Despite its recent slump, Harvard remains in a tie for second place in the ECAC. The Crimson has an opportunity to break back into the win column with when it hosts last-place Vermont Friday.
“We need to send a message with a strong win against Vermont,” junior forward Dominic Moore said. “We’re by no means out of any race.”