Almost three months ago to the day, the Brown men’s hockey team skated into Cambridge and stole Harvard’s season opener 2-0. Yesterday, in a game that featured both physical play and incredible goaltending, the Bears (12-5-4, 10-3-1 ECAC) managed to steal another win from the Crimson (8-10-2, 6-8-1)—this one 2-1 in overtime.
The initial momentum appeared to swing in Harvard’s favor, as the team jumped on its traveling partner early and often. The Crimson outshot Brown by six in the first period and won 23 of 28 faceoffs.
Neither squad could get the best of the other in setting a very physical tone in the first frame. Besides the opening five minutes, there was never a two-minute stretch during which both teams skated full strength.
The squads racked up seven penalties between them for five different offenses. There was no shortage of hits—some inspired gasps from the crowd, while others drew vehement boos, and much of the contact came after the whistle.
“[W]e were a little too emotional,” said Bears coach Roger Grillo. “I thought we came out, we were trying to hit everybody and knock [everyone] down, and guys did a bunch of undisciplined things.”
One such penalty proved costly when Harvard freshman Kevin Du notched his third goal of the season at 6:04. The center’s power-play tally, a deflection from just outside the crease, broke the Crimson’s two-game scoring drought with the man advantage.
Harvard’s power play, which bears a 14.1 percent conversion average, has managed only two scores in its last 18 chances spanning five games. Yesterday, though, the unit went 1-for-3.
In addition, the Crimson’s penalty kill went 6-for-7.
“I thought [the penalty kill unit] did an excellent job,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. “[W]e were more in a pressure situation and mindset—instead of what we were trying before--and I thought it was very effective against [Brown].”
However, despite special teams successes, the Crimson was not able to stifle the Bears entirely.
“In the first period, we did a very good job of controlling their attack so they weren’t able to set up in the zone,” said Harvard netminder Dov Grumet-Morris, “[but] as they got into the flow of the game in the second and the third, they made their adjustments.”
Indeed, Brown regained some control of the puck and knotted the score at 13:01 in the second period with a straight, point-blank shot from blueliner Vince Macri. With the goal came some of the momentum the Crimson had owned in the first frame.
“The first period, we weren’t very good—we weren’t executing, we weren’t skating,” said Grillo. “[But] I saw us start to play our game in the second…The guys stayed true and battled hard and settled down a little bit.”
Five more penalties were called in the second, but only one was whistled in the third. What had begun as a physical battle came down to the wire as a goalies’ duel.
Grumet-Morris held his own against the Bears’ Yann Danis, who leads the nation in with a .951 save percentage to go alongside a 1.54 goals against average.At the start of the third frame, the Harvard goalie stymied a breakaway from the faceoff. Later on in the period, he thwarted a 2-on-1 Brown rush by flopping on his stomach and smothering the puck.
Grumet-Morris ended the night with 25 saves to Danis’s 37.
“Dov is a good goaltender,” Grillo said. “He’s been there, and [he and Danis] have been neck and neck for a couple years now.”
In the Bears’ game program, Danis cited Grumet-Morris as the best opposing ECAC goaltender.
However, only :31 into overtime, Grumet-Morris gave up a dribbling rebound which sat invitingly outside the crease. Brown senior Nick Ringstad punched it in easily, and the 2,785 people crowded into Meehan Auditorium erupted.
With the victory, the Bears sit in first place in the ECAC standings with 21 points in conference, while the Crimson sits in eighth place with 13.
The loss is especially disheartening to Harvard because it comes after a three-week layoff due to exams.
“Obviously, at this point in the season, you don’t like to see any loss, especially against a team that’s winning, a team that’s in your conference, a team that’s above you in the conference,” Grumet-Morris said. “In addition to that, [for the] first game back, it’s always nice to get a win. Unfortunately we came up just a little but short this time.”
For his part, Mazzoleni was not entirely upset with the effort.
“I thought we controlled the tempo of the game, [and] I thought we had a higher number of quality scoring chances,” Mazzoleni said. “Unfortunately, they scored on a face-off goal in overtime, but I was proud of the way we played and executed—especially being off that long of a time, I thought our team played exceptionally well.”
Whatever rust is left on the Crimson blades must be quickly overcome. On Monday night, the squad will play Boston College in the first round of the Beanpot.