Leading 8-6 with just four minutes to play against No. 16 Cornell, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team surrendered two late goals—including the equalizer with just 54 seconds remaining—then watched as the Big Red ended the game on the first shot of sudden death overtime, dealing the Crimson (4-4, 0-2 Ivy) a 9-8 loss and delighting the numerous Cornell fans (5-2, 2-1) in attendance.
“We know that Cornell is a team that’s not going to quit,” said senior defenseman Rob Fried, who saw his first action for Harvard after missing the team’s previous games due to his prominent role on the men’s hockey team.
“The guys have been amazing about helping me get acclimated,” said Fried of his return to lacrosse. “Running is a lot different from skating, but I’ve had a week to get my running legs back.”
The winning strike came with just 2:18 remaning in the extra session. Though the Crimson won the faceoff, the team was unable to register a shot and the Big Red took possession of the ball.
After calling a timeout, freshman midfielder Brian Clayton fired a shot past tri-captain Jake McKenna from 20 yards out, beginning the Cornell celebration.
The goal was just the second of the year for Clayton.
Harvard had taken an 8-6 lead with just 4:41 remaining on a goal by junior attackman Mike McBride, who made his return to the starting lineup after missing action due to a shoulder injury. The tally was one of two for McBride on the day.
“[Having Mike back] was huge for us,” said freshman attackman Greg Cohen. “Not only is he a great player, but he’s also a great leader. He keeps us calm out there.”
The Big Red narrowed the margin to one just 58 seconds later, but the Crimson appeared like it might hold on to the lead, as tri-captain Alex Vap won the ensuing faceoff and Harvard played keep-away as the clock ticked down.
However, Greg Cohen was unable to stay in the box in the face of intense pressure by the Cornell defense, and the Big Red took possession of the ball.
Cornell immediately moved downfield and tied the game on a high shot past McKenna, setting the stage for Clayton’s heroics.
“It’s very tough to hold the ball for two minutes,” said Greg Cohen. “They got lucky, and they managed to score quickly.”
Trailing 4-3 at halftime, the Crimson took control of the game on the strength of a 3-0 third quarter.
Sophomore attackman Sean Kane registered two of the tallies—he recorded a hat trick in the game—and sophomore midfielder Tom Boylan scored the third, chasing starting Big Red goalie Brandon Ross from the game. At the other end, McKenna stopped all five shots on net as Harvard built a 6-4 lead.
“Jake was unbelievable in net,” said Fried. “He gave us a chance to win, if not more.”