Against the Bulldogs—generally considered an above average hockey team—the Crimson (2-2-1, 2-2-1 ECAC) has been dominant. Only once in the last quarter century has Yale managed to secure a win on Harvard’s home ice. In contrast, the Crimson hasn’t beaten the perennial cellar-dwelling Tigers at Bright Hockey Center for the last four years.
And so, perhaps, it was not surprising that Harvard crumbled against Princeton, extending its home winless streak to five years, but managed to save face on Saturday by defeating Yale.
Princeton 4, Harvard 2
History wins again. Before more than 2,000 fans at Bright on Friday night, the Crimson collapsed and Princeton (1-5-0, 1-3-0) skated out of Cambridge with a stunning, come-from-behind 4-2 win.
“There’s no excuse,” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “We have a veteran team; no excuse for that. Absolutely none. These guys have gone through it. They should have the poise to put it away.”
With 15 minutes remaining in the third period, Harvard appeared primed for victory. Having scored two goals in the first period, it carried the shutout into the last frame, and it seemed as if the Crimson might finally break its home losing streak to Princeton.
Entering the night, the Tigers had a 3-0-1 record at the Bright Center in their last four tries.
“[Harvard is] an easy team to get yourself motivated to play against,” Princeton coach Len Quesnelle said. “It’s an easy program to come out here and play hard against.”
From the first drop of the puck, however, play was lackluster. Junior defenseman Noah Welch and sophomore forward Charlie Johnson tallied early goals against Princeton goalie Eric Leroux, but both Harvard and Princeton struggled on the attack afterwards.
In the first two periods, the two teams managed only 26 shots on goal and spent a large portion of their time skating back and forth in the neutral zone.
“I thought our puck movement was very, very poor,” Mazzoleni said. “When we got the puck, it was our man and no one moving to him to help support him. We turned the puck over because of that. [Princeton] play[s] a forechecking system where they keep the third man back, and we didn’t advance the puck.”
Both offenses played with a bit more vigor in the third period, taking almost as many shots on goal (24) as they had in the previous 40 minutes.
A crucial situation arose 4:04 into the final period, when freshman defenseman Dylan Reese was called for cross-checking. As Welch was already in the box for charging, the Tigers found themselves with a five-on-three advantage.
As has been the case more often than not for Princeton, nothing came from the power play. In fact, Harvard senior forward Dennis Packard narrowly missed scoring on a breakaway.
The Tigers squandered their power play, but the Crimson wasted an equally good scoring chance from the stick of Packard.