AOTW: Cavanagh Goal Lifts Crimson
Bertrand wasn’t talking about Crimson junior center Tom Cavanagh—he was 33 years too early for that, breaking down Harvard’s 1971 roster—but he might as well have been. He even had the name and number (9) on the back of the Crimson sweater correct.
Three decades ago, Joe Cavanagh ’71, father of the current Harvard star, dazzled fans and thwarted opponents with his explosive offensive performances. Wreaking havoc on both the first line and power play, the Crimson captain tallied 72 points, assisting on 50 of his teammates’ tallies.
With Harvard squaring off against Brown, though, armed with Hobey Baker Award candidate and Crimson stopper Yann Danis, the only helping hand the elder Cavanagh could lend was support from the stands.
But for Cavanagh the son, playing just 13 miles from his hometown—Warwick, R.I.—paternal support mixed with inherited talent proved more than enough to overcome a hostile crowd and live up to his father’s billing.
Suffering from a season-high eight-game goal-scoring drought, Cavanagh seemed poised to slide the puck past Danis in Game 1, wristing two solid chances on net while initiating several opportunities in the Brown end.
For the Crimson’s leading scorer, though, none would end with another tick in the goals column. Just another pair of assists.
Cavanagh, Harvard’s top faceoff man on the weekend, started the Crimson off right in the second period, winning the opening draw and—with linemates Charlie Johnson and Tim Pettit—carrying the puck into the Bears’ zone before they were able to set up the neutral zone trap which had thwarted any hope of offense in the first.
Johnson sent the puck back to the blue line and Cavanagh, who spied junior Noah Welch unmarked cross-ice.
The pass headed straight for Welch’s tape, then over Danis’ shoulder in just moments.
Serving as the focal point of his line’s potent offensive attack, Cavanagh continued to dictate the flow of play while on the ice, skirting the Brown trap while applying defensive pressure of his own.
While Cavanagh was on the ice for all but one of the Crimson’s goals, his line did not surrender a single tally the other way, hemming the Bears in between the blue lines before dressing them down and peppering Danis.
In the opening minutes of the third period of Game 1, the momentum firmly in Harvard’s control, Cavanagh forced a turnover at the red line before controlling the resulting loose, airborne puck.
Streaking behind the Brown defense, Cavanagh shook his own defender leaving him 2-1 with Pettit and his hanger-on. But rather than take his own open shot, the Crimson playmaker beamed a pass through the narrowest of seams, between Danis and his lone defender. And onto Pettit’s tape. 3-1 Harvard.
“You kind of read off one another,” Cavanagh said. “Especially when you get odd-man rushes.”
But still no goal.
Five shots and 60 minutes into Game 2, still nothing. Not even an assist on this night. Though his passes had been crisp in the game’s first three periods, Cavanagh seemed to be just a step ahead of his teammates.
The same preternatural passes weren’t being reeled in at the other end. Then Pettit’s apparent overtime winner appeared to send his slump into double-digits.
Then a paradoxical reprieve. No win, but another shot.
“I bet myself that Tommy was going to score,” assistant captain Tyler Kolarik. “And I was right.”
Blasting home the game-winner off Dylan Reese’s rebound, Cavanagh ended the "down" stretch, Brown’s season and the argument for anyone doubting the Crimson’s postseason viability.
“What,” Bertrand said way back when, “would Harvard be without [three-time All-American] Joe Cavanagh?”
Probably right about where its 2004 incarnation would be without Tom.