How could everything go so perfectly right, then so terribly wrong, so quickly? If you’re a Red Sox fan, the best way to describe this was Game 7 On Ice. Early in the third period, the Harvard men’s hockey team was cruising. It had a three-goal lead. It had already scored a season-high three power-play goals. Its goaltender was playing the game of his life.
Then it all fell apart in a slow, agonizing death. Maine cut it to two, then one, then tied it. Then came the guillotine. With 4:10 left, Greg Moore beat Dov Grumet-Morris from atop the left circle for a 5-4 Black Bears win that tied the largest comeback in an NCAA Regional game.
The combined shots on goal (46 for Maine, 40 for Harvard) set a record for an NCAA Regional game. This was a great, classic college ice hockey game by any measure.
It also ranks among the most heartbreaking defeats in Harvard hockey history.
"I don’t think anything you say puts the right words to the feelings we have right now," said captain Kenny Smith, one of six seniors in the lineup—nine in all—who watched their collegiate careers melt in a 20-minute nightmare.
The Crimson received goals from Dylan Reese, Brendan Bernakevitch, Dennis Packard and Ryan Maki but saw its seven-game win streak—its longest in 11 seasons—snapped to finish the year 18-15-3.
At least everyone can take solace in this: There is no one deserving of the damning finger-point. There is no goat. There is no Grady. "It just kind of happened," Grumet-Morris said.
This was a case of the nation’s No. 1-ranked team playing like the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, even if it was for only one period. And the Crimson was almost brilliant enough for 40 minutes to win.
Harvard had leads of 3-0 (early in the second) and 4-1 (as late as 3:54 of the third). At one point, the Crimson was 3-4 on the power play and, quite simply, dominating the game.
But the Black Bears surged in the third, like you figured a team that has made six straight NCAA tournaments would. They outshot Harvard, 14-7. They hustled. They generated rushes without giving up many in return. They got good goaltending.
And, of course, they got a little lucky, too.
"If you come back from a 4-1 deficit, you’ve got to get some lucky bounces," admitted Maine senior Colin Shields.
But all of this doesn’t make this loss any easier to take. The Crimson had, in the words of Black Bears coach Tim Whitehead, "thoroughly outplayed" the best team in the land. Maine goaltender Jimmy Howard—he of the nation-leading 1.05 goals-against average and .958 save percentage entering the game—was on the bench to start the third period, having tied a season-high four goals allowed.
"We executed our game plan to a 'T' for two periods," said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni.
That was before the Black Bears staged an offensive tour de force in the third.