BOSTON—Things did not start auspiciously for the Harvard men’s hockey team in its 4-1 loss to No. 2 Boston College in the opening round of the Beanpot, and the team hit rock-bottom midway through the second period before coming out in the third to salvage its self-respect.
“We played extremely tentatively,” said Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni. “We allowed [BC] to do what they wanted to do…and [being down 2-0], it’s an uphill battle from that point.”
Harvard, in losing for the fourth time in five games, slipped to 3-8-1 in its last 12 games and 8-11-2 overall. Its streak without a Beanpot title has now reached a school-record 11 years. Meanwhile, BC (20-3-3) will face Boston University—a 5-2 winner over Northeastern—for the title next Monday.
The Crimson’s struggles began immediately after the drop off the puck. All-American defenseman Noah Welch took exception to a hard hit by the Eagles’ Stephen Gionta and Welch was sent to the box for roughing. Twelve seconds in and already down a man, Harvard was looking at two minutes of penalty kill against BC’s explosive offense. But on the ensuing power play, the Eagles’ top unit was limited to no shots. It seemed that the Crimson’s luck had turned.
That was, until two of the flukiest goals ever seen put Harvard down 2-0 before the end of one. At 4:25 of the first, junior forward Tom Cavanagh took a pass from BC’s Patrick Eaves and, in a startling brain lapse, knocked it right past unsuspecting junior netminder Dov Grumet-Morris and into his own net.
Grumet-Morris was again a victim of circumstance at 11:25 of the first, this time off the stick of Ned Havern. Havern fired a hard shot in from near the top of the right face-off circle that went over the net, hit the glass, and ricocheted straight back into the body of Grumet-Morris, dropping neatly into the net.
Just like that the Eagles had a 2-0 lead. The Crimson looked tentative and snake-bitten.
“It was a very difficult way for Harvard to start,” said Boston College coach Jerry York. “We got two really lucky, fortunate goals…When you get two breaks like that it’s the deciding factor in the game.”
Whether the lucky bounces or the Crimson’s tentative play was the game’s deciding factor, the Eagles controlled play for two periods before Harvard came out and competed hard in the third, getting sustained pressure on BC goaltender Matti Kaltiainen and matching the Eagles shot-for-shot.
BC took a 3-0 lead three minutes into the second frame, when Justin Dziama took a feed from Peter Harrold and put a shot on net from above the left circle. Grumet-Morris made the initial save, but the rebound dropped down right in front of the crease and trickled over the goal line.
At that point, Mazzoleni lifted Grumet-Morris (eight saves, three goals allowed) in favor of sophomore netminder John Daigneau. Things began to improve for the Crimson midway through the second, and at 18:11 sophomore forward Charlie Johnson scored a power play goal to put Harvard on the board.
With the Crimson on the man advantage, Cavanagh skated the puck into the zone and found Johnson skating left side. After receiving the pass, Johnson skated quickly in, held the puck as Kaltiainen dropped down, and then smartly roofed the puck over the goaltender’s right shoulder, making it 3-1 at the end of two periods.
Harvard had numerous chances to pull closer in the final frame, including a 5-on-3 power play. But the Crimson was unable to capitalize, and the Eagles’ Tony Voce added a late power play goal to put the game out reach.
Daigneau finished with 18 saves on 19 shots. Mazzoleni has yet to name a starter for Friday’s game at Yale and acknowledged the team’s goaltending is “something we have to look at.”
Harvard’s game against Northeastern next Monday marks the Crimson’s sixth straight appearance in the consolation game. Harvard won last year’s meeting between the two teams, 4-1.
—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at email@example.com.