Harvard (15-15-4) provided close competition to a talented Maine squad that was ranked No. 6 in the nation and seeded third in the Eastern region. The Black Bears (24-10-7) were expected by many to overwhelm the Crimson, who was ranked No. 15 in the nation and seeded last in the region. But Harvard entered the game riding tremendous momentum from its ECAC title run.
“Harvard is playing as well as anyone in the country right now,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said after the game. “I really admired how they played. I think they competed with a lot of heart and a lot of passion.”
Harvard stood toe-to-toe with a deeper, faster Maine squad for three periods. But Maine’s speed and depth was what ultimately did in the Crimson.
The game-winning goal came two minutes and two ticks into the overtime, when the Black Bears’ excellent passing, spacing and team speed turned a Harvard offensive rush into a Maine two-on-one. Fourth-line Maine forward John Ronan won the game by placing a shot bare centimeters under the crossbar over Harvard freshman goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris.
Though he came out on the losing end, Grumet-Morris was the man who kept the Crimson in the game. He stopped 33 shots, including numerous close chances on Harvard’s five penalty kills.
“He really competed hard,” Whitehead said in praise of Grumet-Morris. “That was a key turning point when he made a couple of saves to keep it at 3-2.”
Maine’s excellent passing and team speed turned several Harvard turnovers into odd-man rushes, but Grumet-Morris stopped the majority of them, especially in the first period when he turned back 14 shots. That effort kept the Crimson in the game long enough to give Maine a scare.
"We have found a major-league collegiate hockey goaltender," Harvard Coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “If you’re going to be successful in major college hockey, that’s a big difference-maker.”
Two other big difference makers for Harvard on Saturday were freshman Tom Cavanagh and sophomore Tim Pettit, who gave Harvard the game’s all-important first goal at 7:55 of the first period. Cavanagh won a draw in the Maine zone back to Pettit, who fired a slap shot past Maine goalie Mike Morrison.
That lead didn’t last long as Maine tied the game 1-1 on a power play goal by Niko Dimitrakos just under three minutes later.
Harvard took its second lead of the game early in the second—again the result of a faceoff win deep in the Maine zone. This time, sophomore defenseman Dave McCulloch did the honors, firing a blue-line slapper past Morrison to take a 2-1 lead, which Maine’s Chris Heisten erased at the 12:08 mark of the second period. The Black Bears then took their first lead at 14:22 on a goal by Michael Schutte.
But Pettit and Cavanagh teamed up again to tie the game 3-3 on the power play—due to the game’s third too many man on the ice penalty—at 6:15 of the third period. Pettit created the opportunity, skating in from the blue line and crossing the Maine zone left to right. He dropped a pass to Cavanagh close behind, who picked up the puck and shot it quickly past Morrison to deadlock the contest.
The rest of the third period was a back and forth affair, with Harvard and Maine alternating momentum and excellent scoring chances throughout. Towards the end of regulation, Maine had the momentum and carried it into the overtime.
Despite the season-ending loss, Harvard had a postseason to be proud of, having run the table in the ECAC tournament and given Maine all it could handle.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of them than any team I’ve ever been associated with,” Mazzoleni said. “Over these last three weeks we’ve really figured it out.”