Crimson goalie John Daigneau, shown in earlier action, earned his second shutout of the year with a 32-save performance.
DURHAM, N.H.—Harvard netminder John Daigneau didn’t play in the NCAA tournament nine months ago, when the University of New Hampshire (UNH) sent the Crimson men’s hockey team and goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris ’05 packing with a 3-2 overtime stinger.
But Daigneau, now a senior, was in the crease last night in the Wildcats’ Whittemore Center, and his 32 saves led Harvard (9-4-1, 7-4-0 ECAC) to a 1-0 victory over No. 9 UNH (8-6-3, 6-3-2 Hockey East).
“I thought Johnny was obviously very, very good tonight,” said Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91, adding that his goaltender “made a couple of incredible saves early.”
Daigneau began with a pad save of a Wildcat shot from just inside the blue line, sending the puck trickling harmlessly into the corner, and he stonewalled 15 more shots in the first frame alone.
At 12:30 in, Jacob Micflikier found Brett Hemingway just feet from the crease. Hemingway’s shot came so fast that the rebound—which echoed loudly throughout the arena—skipped safely beyond the goal before the packed Wildcat student section could let out its collective shout.
The netminder notched another point-blank save on Jerry Pollastrone two minutes later, and defenseman Dylan Reese cleared the puck from a crowded crease—and a screened Daigneau—just 50 seconds after that.
“I just tried to get out, get square, and take up as much of the net as I could,” Daigneau said. “Luckily they didn’t pick any corners on their shots.”
And when Crimson blueliner Tom Walsh went to the box with 1:16 left in the first frame, Daigneau calmly gloved Brian Yandle’s screamer from the blue line as a UNH skater threatened the crease.
That grab and the early Hemingway point-blank attempt “probably stand out in my mind as the best saves of the night,” Daigneau said.
He added seven more in the second frame and nine in the third, his rebounds darting safely away and his reactions alert and timely.
“It’s a big boost,” Daigneau said of the win, during which his teammates blocked 11 of the 53 total shots attempted. Of the 32 pucks that found the net, Daigneau stopped each and every one. “It’s obviously a huge game for us. To come in and play solidly like I did, it’s a pretty big confidence boost.”
Daigneau established himself as starter early in the season, minding the crease for nine of Harvard’s first 10 contests, but a shaky showing at Clarkson—four goals in two periods—led Donato to play backup Justin Tobe.
“Johnny was tired,” Donato explained at the time. “[Clarkson] was his seventh game in 15 nights. I don’t think, physically, he was feeling well.”
Tobe earned the win over St. Lawrence the following night, but, after the Crimson lost to Yale a week later, Daigneau returned for Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Quinnipiac and earned the nod against UNH.
The Wildcat win was Daigneau’s second shutout of the season—he blanked Brown, 2-0, on Nov. 20—and it was, without a doubt, Harvard’s biggest win of the season.
On the road, on UNH’s large sheet of ice, in a hostile environment, against a top line that boasts 66 points alone, Daigneau and the Crimson edged out a 1-0 win.
Donato wanted his team to generate more offense, to keep attacking all night. A one-goal lead can be panic-inducing as the clock winds down.
“But I think when you see a goalie in a zone like that,” he said, “it’s almost human nature sometimes to protect the lead because he looks so solid.”
—Staff writer Rebecca A. Seesel can be reached at email@example.com.