It was the end, most obviously, to a number of ignominous streaks. With the victory, the Crimson snapped a four-game losing streak to BU, ended an astonishing 21-year home losing streak to BU, and put an end to its on-going out-of-conference futility.
Those struggles against non-conference opponents—Harvard lost to BU three times last year, lost to Maine, managed a tie with BC and lost to Northern Michigan—have been a thorn in the team’s side for years. Last season, when Harvard made the NCAA Tournament without the ECAC auto-bid, it was despite the team’s abysmal showing against anyone outside the ECAC.
That streak ended last night, and it was a long time coming, according to Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni.
“We needed to do some things out of conference, let’s face it,” he said. “We probably play the most competitive non-conference schedule [in the ECAC]. We don’t run from anyone, and we’ve lined it up against people, and we haven’t gotten it done.”
Until last night.
The win wasn’t pretty; there really can be no poetic descriptions of any of last night’s tallies. What can be said is that Harvard did NOT shoot itself in the foot (see the Princeton game).
The team executed, both on the penalty kill—four-of-five attempts successfully killed off—and on the power play, where junior Tom Cavanagh and senior Dennis Packard each contributed goals. It received steady goaltending from junior Dov Grumet-Morris, who had some trouble controlling his rebounds early, but settled down to stop 25 shots over the last two periods. And it was aggressive and physical in pursuing the puck and crashing the net.
“I thought we made crucial mistakes,” BU coach Jack Parker said after the game. “We gave them two goals in the crease. We gave them two power play goals.”
“When there’s rebounds we should be able to clear people out,” Parker continued. “There were an awful lot of people standing at our net going for that second shot.... [Tyler Kolarik, who scored Harvard’s second goal] was four feet from the goal—the guy should have been on his ass.”
But Parker’s criticism cannot fully realize where BU’s failures leave off and Harvard’s hard-work and effort begin. Certainly the pell-mell scene Parker described on the assistant captain Kolarik’s game-tying goal was nowhere to be found in the Crimson’s losses to Brown and Princeton, when the offense looked listless and was content to fire shots from the perimeter at Brown goalie Yann Danis and Princeton netminder Eric LeRoux.
“BU’s success...is getting to your net,” Mazzoleni said. “And we knew we had to get to their net.”
The Crimson did get to BU’s net, with four of the team’s five goals coming off of close-range shots, and that is why the team was on the sunny side of a 5-2 box score.
“It takes a total team effort to win a game like that.... Everyone really brought their A-game,” Kolarik said.
The key question for the Crimson in the wake of last night’s win, is what will happen after Thanksgiving. On Friday and Saturday, Harvard faces off against St. Lawrence and Clarkson.
While neither the Saints nor the Knights are spectacular teams, they both are capable of beating Harvard if it doesn’t put in the same kind of effort it did against BU. In the wake of the weekend split with Princeton and Yale, Mazzoleni said his team needs a “lunch-pail type effort” and failing to have that made the Crimson not only “an average team” but also “very beatable.”
Having turned in a workman-like win over a Top 15 team, a non-conference opponent and a cross-town rival all at once, late November could be the beginning of a very interesting stretch of Harvard hockey.
“It’s a start tonight,” said Mazzoleni, about his team’s biggest regular season win in his tenure. “It’s a start.”
That it is. A start. A step in the right direction. And, hopefully, a beginning.
—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.