After getting destroyed by the Bison in last year’s matchup by a final score of 15-4, this year’s Crimson (1-0) played an impressive game in its season opener Saturday afternoon at Jordan Field.
“It’s huge for us,” junior attackman Steve Cohen said. “We take a lot of pride in the fact that we’ve worked really hard, and it’s nice to see the results.”
Harvard started out the game with a big statement from freshman attackman Brooks Scholl, who scored the first goal at 13:48 in the first period.
Scholl dodged around back of goal, stopped quickly, rolled back, and went 1-on-1 against the Bison goalie to score unassisted.
But the Crimson was not able to keep the lead for long, as Bucknell came back with two quick goals at 10:49 and 9:32 in the first half, bringing the score to 2-1 in the visiting team’s favor.
At 3:33, Cohen registered Harvard’s second goal of the day as he caught a pass from sophomore Carle Stenmark and cut toward the goal, dove, and shot towards the low far-side to tie the score at two.
“[On man-up], we just try to keep working the ball around, and eventually the defense will miss an assignment,” Cohen said. “The defense just wasn’t there.”
The Bison followed with two easy goals, one on a man-up opportunity, to bring the score to 4-2. But even with the easy goals, the Crimson was not worried.
“I thought [the defense] played great,” freshman goalie Evan O’Donnell said. “The shots that they gave up were all very savable.”
But that was all just a prologue to Harvard’s eventual domination, which was established in the beginning of the second period and continued into the third as the Crimson put together nine-goal scoring streak.
Junior midfielder Jake Samuelson fed freshman attackman Zach Widbin the ball, who then fired an underhanded shot to the far-side for Harvard’s third goal of the game, closing the gap to 4-3.
Junior attackman Sean Kane then tied the game when he took a running jump-shot for the goal.
The onslaught continued as Nick La Fiura checked the stick of a Bison player, creating a loose-ball situation and a golden opportunity for Harvard.
Sophomore midfielder Evan Calvert picked up the ball and, with a fast break, was able to pass to Widbin, who put the Crimson up 5-4 with an underhanded shot. It would be the last lead change of the game.
But Widbin was not yet done, as he scored his third goal of the night a minute later, at 8:18 in the second period. With Kane harassing the clearing defender, Widbin intercepted a bad pass and took the fast-break all the way, faking out the Bucknell goalie and scoring unassisted.
Scholl scored again on Calvert’s rebound when he came across the crease to slide the ball into the net.
Sophomore midfielder Brian Mahler passed to tri-captain attackman Mike McBride, who ripped a high shot to the far side for the score with 0:51 left in the second period to give Harvard an 8-4 lead heading into the break.
The Crimson then capitalized on another man-up opportunity, as Stenmark opened up the third period with a goal at 12:59 in the period.
Stenmark caught the pass from Calvert and ripped a side-arm shot high and into the goal.
Mahler would go on to make two big plays to finish out the scoring run for Harvard.
At 10:24, he set a pick for Samuelson, who ran off it and fired shot that increased the Crimson’s lead to six.
Mahler would then go on to score a goal of his own, as he made a 1-on-1 dodge against his defender and beat the goalie at 6:01 in the third, bringing the score to 11-4.
But even though the Bison would go on a run of their own, scoring four unanswered goals, they could only ever get within three goals of Harvard.
Bucknell scored three goals in the final three minutes of the third period, including an impressive second tally, when the Bison’s Patrick Christensen got checked but still managed to score while falling down.
Bucknell would then end its run with a goal at the 11:38 mark of the fourth quarter.
Calvert registered one last goal for the Crimson on its final man-up opportunity when he faked a pass that fooled his defender, allowing him to step in and fire a goal.
The Bison scored one last goal with 1:06 remaining, bringing the score to 12-9.
O’Donnell started and played the entire game in goal, amassing 10 saves.
The season-opening win should give Harvard a confidence boost, one it will need when it faces perennial powerhouse Massachusetts this Wednesday at Jordan Field.
Last season, the Crimson defeated the Minutemen in Amherst by a score of 11-7.
“We know they’re coming to get us after we beat them on their own field last year,” Cohen said. “We’re really excited.”
—Staff writer Abigail M. Baird can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.