Sophomore Tyler Kolarik’s goal at 16:11 of double overtime gave the Harvard men’s hockey an epic 4-3 double-overtime victory over heavily-favored Cornell in the ECAC championship game, sending the Crimson to its first NCAA tournament since 1994.
“It was a great college hockey game,” Harvard Coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “We had to be at our best to beat Cornell, and this was our best game.”
Written off just two weeks earlier after backing into the postseason, Harvard improbably secured an automatic tourney berth with its first four-game winning streak of the season.
Three of those four wins came in overtime, including Harvard’s 3-2 victory over Clarkson inthe ECAC semifinals on Friday.
Against Cornell, Harvard improved to 4-0-4 in overtime games on the year, with each win more exciting than the one before.
“I never envisioned this would happen tonight,” Mazzoleni said.
The win was a gigantic step for the Harvard hockey program, which had fallen under hard times in the late 1990s after being one of the dominant teams in college hockey a decade before.
Harvard 4, Cornell 3 (2OT)
Kolarik’s goal ended a stalemate that surpassed Harvard’s 2-1 victory over Brown last Saturday as the longest game in school history.
The game-winning sequence started when sophomore forward Tim Pettit fired a pass up the right side to a streaking Kolarik, who took the puck inside the blueline. Kolarik, playing with a broken thumb, then wristed a knuckling shot which eluded Cornell goalie Matt Underhill to the stick side and set off a mad celebration behind the Cornell goal.
“I thought I caught Underhill by surprise,” Kolarik said. “He was expecting me to go wide, but I shot it toward the net with all I have.”
For his efforts, Kolarik was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Junior forward Dominic Moore, who led all goal scorers in the playoffs with four, made the All-Championship team.
In addition to being the longest game in Harvard history, Saturday’s contest was the longest-ever ECAC championship game and the ninth-longest game in the history of NCAA hockey.
Both teams battled fatigue in the second overtime. Harvard had to be especially wary of tiring, as the Crimson played just three lines for virtually the entire game, while the Big Red countered with four.