“Duuuuuuuuuu,” the Bright Hockey Center crowd chanted in unison: “Du! Du! Du!”
Only when Donato sent pivot Kevin Du onto the ice for the shot did the fans quiet—although the collective groan they let out seconds later, when Du propelled the puck high, echoed throughout the building.
“Did the goalie touch it at all?” Du said after the fact. “I thought I just hit the crossbar.” Post-game opinions differed, and so he concluded with a smile, “a little mis-aim there.”
No matter, anyway. Teammate Jon Pelle sealed the game-winning one-timer 1:46 into the extra frame, and Du still had a hat trick to savor, a goal in every regulation period of the Crimson’s 5-4 win.
“I’ve been a little snakebit recently,” he admitted. Entering the game, the junior had three goals and 17 assists on the season, but he’d managed just three dishes since the new year began. “I matched my season [goal] total in one game, so it feels pretty good.”
Du put Harvard (13-9-2, 10-7-1 ECAC) up 1-0 midway through the first period with a deflection in the crease, but Princeton’s Brett Westgarth knotted the score with a shot from the left circle with 22 seconds remaining.
And though Dave Watters put the Crimson up again with a high strike off the faceoff, giving the Crimson a 2-1 advantage with four seconds left in the first frame, the Tigers (9-14-1, 6-10-1) evened the score in the second when Brett Wilson knocked a rebound past Harvard goaltender John Daigneau.
Nineteen minutes into the second period, Du gave the Crimson another lead, cashing in on the power play from the close left circle and celebrating the 3-2 score with a fist pump.
Princeton clawed its way back into the game yet again, this time five minutes into the third—“Kind of frustrating,” Pelle said later, that “every time we score, they score”—but Du’s third-period rebound tally, which prompted plenty of hat-waving in the stands, gave the Crimson a 4-3 edge and a second power-play goal of the night.
Unfortunately for Harvard, that lead didn’t last any longer than the others had: Princeton forward Grant Goeckner-Zoeller skated through the crease and pushed the equalizer past Daigneau less than two minutes later, at 11:20.
Harvard pressured Tiger goalie Eric Leroux as the final minute waned, and with precious few ticks left on the clock, the puck kicked off Jimmy Fraser and out towards Du.
Leroux threw his stick—punishable by a penalty shot—but the officials made no signal as regulation time expired. Daigneau skated to his own blue line, arms outstretched in disbelief, and Donato rushed to the edge of the bench to question the officials.
“I was about to have a heart attack,” the coach said later.
But he did praise the referee for calling a penalty shot in overtime when Princeton forward Sebastian Borza took out the net. Though Du couldn’t pull off a fourth goal, Pelle sealed the win 50 seconds later. It took 57 shots on goal—“first time in a while that we played a full 60 minutes,” Du said—but the Crimson finally silenced the Tigers for good. Du got an ovation, even if he did muff the penalty shot.
“I think it was kind of representative of the whole night,” Donato said of the center’s miss. “We didn’t score [then], but we hung in there and were able to find a way.”
—Staff writer Rebecca A. Seesel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.