M. Hockey Misses Chance Vs. Clarkson

Jessica E. Schumer

Senior center BRETT NOWAK (L) battles with St. Lawrence assistant captain RYAN GLENN (R) during Harvard’s 5-0 victory on Saturday night. Nowak is fourth in ECAC scoring with 32 points in 22 league games.

With the game hanging in the balance, Harvard men’s hockey coach Mark Mazzoleni did not hesitate before selecting his top player and team captain Dominic Moore to take the crucial penalty shot in overtime on Friday night against Clarkson in Bright Hockey Center.

“He’s a senior,” Mazzoleni said. “He’s been there before.”

But he hasn’t been there before in overtime. Few people have.

“Been a long time since I saw that,” said Clarkson coach Fred Parker.

The same probably went for most of the 1,989 at Bright Hockey Center. Nearly all of the fans rose to their feet in anticipation soon after referee Dan Murphy whistled Golden Knight winger Matt Syroczynski for delay of game at 1:31 of overtime for pushing the net off its moorings.

“It was the right call,” Parker said.

Moore sprinted to address the puck and took off to his right. As he neared the hash marks, Moore quickly shifted left, drawing senior goaltender Mike Walsh to his right post.

“He made the right move,” Mazzoleni said. “He had him.”

But Moore’s feet moved a little too quickly for his hands, and with his stick on the puck in the crease and Walsh in no position to stop a shot on target, Moore pushed the puck wide right.

“That was a fraction of an inch from being a great goal,” Moore said.

A tenth of an inch from making the highlight-reels.

About three minutes later, the teams headed in after a 3-3 tie that felt much better on one side of the ice than the other.

The tie helped Clarkson (12-18-3, 9-10-3 ECAC) clinch home ice in the first round of the ECAC playoffs. Meanwhile, Harvard failed to beat the seventh seed at a point in the season when it can hardly afford to if it hopes to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

“I thought we were sloppy at times tonight, both mentally and positionally, especially in the defensive zone,” Moore said. “It was just one of those games. It was tough to find our rhythm.”

The missed opportunity was particularly difficult to take for the Crimson because the Golden Knights are common opponents of Providence, one of the teams just ahead of Harvard in the USCHO PairWise Rankings. Had the Crimson won against Clarkson, who beat the Friars 4-0 in November, Harvard could have left Bright with an improved national standing.

Instead, it walked out of the rink with frustration in tow.

“You’ve got to get these wins, or you might not end up where you want to at the end of the year,” Mazzoleni said, referring to the NCAAs. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. You want to get wins. You want to be playing well going into the playoffs. And I didn’t think this was one of our better efforts.”

Even then, the Crimson seemed comfortable for much of the first period and took a 2-0 lead on a pair of power play goals. Junior forward Tim Pettit one-timed a feed from senior forward Brett Nowak past Walsh at 4:38, and junior defenseman Kenny Smith walked in from the point to hammer in a rebound about six minutes later.

But the Golden Knights proved that it doesn’t take much time to turn a hockey game around, scoring twice in the final two minutes of the first period, a stretch Parker called “the most crucial part of the game,” to make it 2-2.

“I thought that was reflective of the way our defense played all night,” Mazzoleni said. “We had no defensive edge. I can’t remember giving up 45 shots in our building since I’ve been here.”  

Clarkson took its first lead of the game at 10:03 of the second frame on a five-on-three power play goal by Kevin O’Flaherty. The period ended with the Golden Knights up 3-2, bad news for a Harvard team that was 0-6 this season when trailing entering the third.

But the Crimson was able to prevent this game from becoming another statistic, thanks to Pettit’s second goal of the game and ECAC-leading 37th point of the season.

The scoring play was short but productive. Sophomore forward Tom Cavanagh drew an offensive zone faceoff back to Pettit, who immediately put the puck on net. Walsh never saw it.

“Timmy Pettit is the most unheralded player in the ECAC,” Mazzoleni said. “If Pettit doesn’t make first team All-ECAC and get serious consideration for ECAC Player of the Year, something is wrong.”

But despite Pettit’s fourth two-goal game this season, Harvard couldn’t come back to win when trailing after two periods. The last time it did was Game 1 of last season’s playoff series against Brown.

The first goal of that game was scored on a penalty shot.

—Staff writer Jon Paul Morosi can be reached at morosi@fas.harvard.edu.