Grumet-Morris Fails to Propel Crimson to Win

MAINE MAN
Timothy M. Mcdonald

Junior defenseman (5) wraps his arm around junior goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris in a sign of support during the Crimson's 5-4 loss to Maine in the first round of the NCAA tournament last Friday. The Black Bears scored four goals in the third period.

ALBANY, N.Y.—It was a challenging year for the Harvard men’s hockey team, a year that until recently was one of regular-season struggles and unmet expectations. And a sizable chunk of the blame leveled by fans and critics for the Crimson’s disappointments fell on the shoulders of junior goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris.

“It’s been a challenging year for us…and a lot of people probably pointed their fingers at him,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. “But he’s a leader on our team and our team has tremendous confidence in him.”

Come the end of the season, that confidence was well justified. Though Grumet-Morris and the rest of the Crimson struggled during the regular season, both elevated their play for the postseason. During Harvard’s 7-0 run to the NCAA playoffs, Grumet-Morris allowed only 10 goals and recorded a pair of shutouts to start the winning streak.

But that run of success came to an end on Friday, March 26 in Albany, N.Y. The site of Harvard’s come-from-behind win against Clarkson to capture the ECAC Championship and clinch an NCAA auto-bid was also the site of a third period unraveling paralleled closely in recent Harvard memory.

For the first hour and a half of this game, though, Grumet-Morris was playing spectacularly. He was making all the tough saves and working hard to control his rebounds, and because of that he was outperforming Maine’s Jimmy Howard—thought to be the nation’s No. 1 netminder—who was melting down on the other side of the ice, surrendering four Harvard goals through two periods.

Grumet-Morris ended the game against Maine with a season-high 41 saves and succeeded in holding the Black Bears to one goal on 32 shots through 40 minutes of play. In the third, though, the wheels came off the wagon. Staked to a 4-1 lead, Grumet-Morris and the Harvard’s defense could not stop Maine’s momentum; the Black Bears mounted a furious comeback, scoring four unanswered goals and sending Harvard down to a 5-4 defeat.

Harvard hockey observers probably found the scene familiar; this loss marked the third straight year Harvard has bowed out in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, and Grumet-Morris has been between the pipes for all of them. And for as splendidly dependable as he has been in the ECAC playoffs over the last three seasons—Grumet-Morris has compiled a 13-1 record and a goals against average below 2.00—he has struggled mightily in the NCAAs.

His best outing was against Maine during his freshman season: in that overtime loss he stopped 33 shots, and faced strong pressure from the Black Bears, a team that only lost in the NCAA final. But last season’s NCAA Tournament featured a similarly frustrating finish; deadlocked through the first two periods, Harvard and BU entered the third tied at 3. Just 3:34 into the third period though, BU had a three-goal cushion. For the game, Grumet-Morris allowed six goals on only 31 shots.

That is not to say that this year’s loss to Maine, or last year’s to BU for that matter, are solely on Grumet-Morris’ shoulders.

In the loss to the Terriers, 39 minutes of penalties and sloppy defensive play helped doom Harvard. And against Maine, a series of penalties to assistant captains Tyler Kolarik and Rob Fried put Harvard down 5-on-3 in the third. A goal soon followed and the Black Bears gained momentum that the Crimson could not counter.

“Unfortunately for him it didn’t finish the way he wanted. It wasn’t Dov’s fault we lost, he did a good job for us,” Mazzoleni said. “He made some big saves…he kept us right [in the game].”

In the eyes of his coach, Grumet-Morris did enough for Harvard to enable the team to win. And that may be true. But hidden in that statement, intentionally or not, was an indictment against the Crimson’s confident, experienced and largely consistent goaltender: He may keep Harvard in the game, he may do enough to enable his team to win, but Grumet-Morris did not do enough to win a game outright for his team in the NCAAs.

—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at tmcdonal@fas.harvard.edu.

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