ALBANY, N.Y.—The Harvard and Colgate men’s hockey teams boasted the second- and third-best defenses in the nation entering last night’s ECAC tournament semifinal, and when the scoreboard showed a 1-1 tie halfway through the final period, it seemed the contest would end a genuine goaltenders’ affair.
Then the last four minutes of the third frame happened.
“Unusual,” was all Crimson goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris could say about the barn-burning end of regulation play, which saw a quartet of goals in as many minutes.
The contest—which had, for 55 minutes, remained a battle of the netminders—was suddenly transformed by a high-speed, edge-of-your-seat offensive display that saw Harvard take the lead, the Raiders answer, Harvard take another lead, and then the Raiders answer again—all as the clock ticked down on the last 3:59 of regulation.
“It was certainly an exciting finish,” said Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91—not that he necessarily wanted the excitement.
When junior Charlie Johnson put Harvard up 2-1 with a shot from the left side of crease with 3:59 remaining , there looked to be a good chance—at least based on the first two and a half periods—that the lead would hold up.
The Crimson defensive corps did not boast its usual mental sharpness, but with Grumet-Morris to backstop it, the blueline group had allowed just one Colgate score. Moreover, Harvard could now look to the scoreboard and see its own advantage, right next to the clock that crept towards zero.
But only 45 seconds later, Raiders senior Joey Mormina stabbed at a rebound and pushed the puck past an off-balance Grumet-Morris, tying the game and momentarily stunning the Crimson.
“I give them credit for battling back and giving us everything that we could handle,” Donato said, admitting, “my hat’s off to them.”
It took Harvard just 77 seconds to formulate a response of its own—this one a blueline-to-blueline effort by assistant captain Tom Cavanagh, who would launch a close-range shot at Raiders’ goaltender Steve Silverthorn and finish the rebound himself.
For the second time in two minutes, the Crimson earned a late, one-goal lead, this one 3-2.
But then the 6’5 Mormina, standing wide-open in the left circle, struck again, slapping home a pretty, cross-ice feed from teammate Darryl McKinnon and beating Grumet-Morris high and stick-side at 18:39.
“They were able to skate their big man down low,” Grumet-Morris explained. “He was able to take a one-time from about 12-and-a-half feet, so there’s not much you can do on that.”
It was exactly what Harvard did not want to do. To give up one late lead is disheartening, but to give up two? And in just 45 and 36 seconds, respectively?
“I think you’d have to go back and look at a lot of tape to find that happen [to us] over the course of the last year,” said Grumet-Morris, who explained that “in that situation, you’re just trying to make it to the end of the period and regroup in the locker room and take it in overtime.”
And ultimately, Harvard would do just that, when sophomore Kevin Du pushed the puck past Silverthorn on a breakaway to end the game well into a second overtime period, four hours and four minutes after the contest began.
For his part, Raiders coach Don Vaughn could only say, “The way we came back—I’ve had some teams that have had some pretty good comebacks in their days, but I’ll tell you, this one was really special.”
Donato agreed, though he did admit that his generally airtight squad “did some things we don’t normally do.”
“It wasn’t pretty from a coach’s perspective,” Donato said, “but I’m happy with the result.”
—Staff writer Rebecca A. Seesel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.