MINNEAPOLIS—In his first pair of starts for the Harvard men’s hockey team, sophomore goaltender Justin Tobe let only three pucks slip past his pads. Factor in one more game, yesterday’s contest against Merrimack in the consolation round of the Dodge Holiday Classic, and Tobe’s goals-against average is now doubled.
The Northville, Mich., native and Crimson transfer let in six Warrior goals en route to a 6-4 loss, marking a not-so-happy return to the Midwest for the goaltender who played one year for Michigan State and another for the USHL’s Danville Wings before joining the Harvard program.
“Usually, when you score four goals, you should win the game,” Tobe admitted, “so a lot of that falls on the goalie.”
Merrimack converted on four of its five power-play opportunities, employing strong screens and eluding, for the most part, the Crimson's defensive efforts.
After the third Warrior goal found the back of the net at 18:41 in the second period, giving Merrimack a two-goal lead, Harvard blueliner Dylan Reese angrily batted the puck back towards center ice. The Warriors had taken just three shots in that middle frame and scored twice.
“I didn’t think they were getting a ton of opportunities,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91, “but it did seem that when they did, they cashed in on them.”
Donato left Tobe in for the third period, choosing not to substitute in his usual starter, Dov Grumet-Morris, and the Warriors would strike three times more, the first goal just 1:29 into the final frame, a shot top-shelf that drew a late reaction from Tobe.
Just over eight minutes later, Merrimack’s Brian Schmidt would notch the eventual game-winner, all the more back-breaking because Schmidt was just seven seconds out of the penalty box—an all-but-shorthanded goal for the Warriors.
“I could stay here and second-guess myself all night,” Tobe said after the game. “It’s not going to do much good.”
Though the Crimson skaters were generally treated as visitors would be by the Mariucci Arena crowd, the homecomings of the team's native Minnesotans were certainly appreciated.
Both nights he was introduced as a starter, Crimson freshman Mike Taylor drew marked applause at the announcement of his hometown, Maple Grove.
“It was really nice to come back home and be able to play in front of all my family,” said Taylor, whose parents have actually traveled to some of his East Coast contests. He added that he viewed the home-town showdowns just as he viewed high school games.
“The same people were in the stands watching me when I was playing in high school, so I just looked at it as the same. You can’t get too nervous, or else you won’t perform up to your full capabilities.”
Taylor was one of the lone bright spots in yesterday’s loss to Merrimack, frequently showing an aggressive instinct that his entire team could never consistently produce. He assisted the last goal of the game, scored by Andrew Lederman with 11.4 seconds left.
Also enjoying a chance in front of the local crowds was fellow freshman Dave Watters, from Eden Prairie, who skated in senior Rob Flynn’s stead on the fourth line and scored his team’s second goal 6:02 into the third frame.
“Anytime you lose, it’s definitely not fun,” Watters said after notching his first collegiate goal. “No matter how well you do individually, it’s still a team game.”
ALONG THE BOARDS
Harvard scored once in four man-advantage situations against Merrimack. This showing, combined with a 0-for-2 performance the previous afternoon against Northern Michigan, drops the Crimson’s conversion rate to 23.1 percent, still good enough for sixth in the country...Harvard is last in the country in penalty minutes per game with just 13.3 averaged per game…Yesterday marked the first meeting between Harvard and the Warriors, both Boston-area schools. Crimson assistant coach Bobby Jay graduated from Merrimack in 1988.
—Staff writer Rebecca A. Seesel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.