ITHACA, N.Y.—It was penalties that turned out to be the Crimson’s downfall, as a power-play filled second allowed No. 14 Cornell to break through the tie.
“We just came up short again on the road,” co-captain Jimmy Fraser said. “Again, penalties killed us tonight.”
In what’s becoming a familiar story, the Crimson notched a series of untimely penalties that ultimately allowed its opponent to score. Over the course of the night, Harvard recorded six penalties, with Cornell capitalizing on one halfway through the game.
The opposing squads recorded a couple of overlapping penalties in the second frame, and both sides were held scoreless until Harvard’s special teams finally yielded with three minutes to go in the period.
After Fraser dove to block a fast shot, Cornell pummeled the net with shots at the left side of the crease. The Big Red’s Riley Nash managed to break through the traffic and slip the puck over the goal-line and behind freshman goaltender Matt Hoyle to give Cornell the victory.
“When you give a team four power plays in a row, when you jumpstart their offense, it keeps a lot of guys sitting on the bench, and a lot of our better players spend a lot of effort killing penalties,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91. “It hurts our overall team game.”
This is the second straight game that an opponent’s power-play goal stood in the way of a Crimson victory—the last time out, Harvard allowed Brown to convert on the power play late in the third period and spent the remainder of the game fighting off two more penalties.
“It’s evident that we’ve got to stay out of the penalty box,” junior blueliner Alex Biega said. “I still think that our team has the ability to play with anybody in the country 5-on-5....if we just calm down on the penalties a little, we’ll find success that way.”
DENY, DENY, DENY
On the flip side, the Crimson struggled to generate offense against Cornell and was outshot 37-14 overall. And to top it off, Big Red goaltender Ben Scrivens holds the nation’s leading save percentage (.977) and has a 0.72 goals-against average.
“To be honest with you, Cornell’s the toughest team in the league to generate offense against,” Fraser said. “They always have three guys back, and so the only way to get offense going is to get the puck deep and get a cycle going.”
Although Harvard had four power-play opportunities, it was up against a solid Cornell special teams unit, which has killed 21 of 22 penalties against for a .955 penalty kill percentage and failed to convert on any of its chances. The Big Red is the first team to deny Harvard a power-play goal in the Crimson’s last 14 games.
“They make you work for [offense],” Donato said. “They’re not going to take chances at the lines, they do a good job protecting the puck, so you’ve got to earn your offense. In the past we’ve done a better job of doing that, but tonight we didn’t pay the price to get that done.”
Despite the loss, Hoyle came up big for the Crimson, notching 35 saves over the course of the night. Hoyle has already received league honors for his performance in the net twice in his three-week career.
“Matt’s been phenomenal for us, and we can’t ask for any more,” Fraser said. “He’s seeing 30-plus shots a night, and he’s making big saves at key times in the game…we’re just coming up short offensively for him.”
Hoyle made a few crucial saves in the third frame to keep it a one-goal game. With eight minutes on the clock, Cornell’s Colin Greening nabbed the puck after a defensive-zone faceoff and charged toward the Crimson goal in a breakaway rush. Hoyle got his pad on the initial shot, and when Greening fired off a rebound attempt, the Harvard rookie got in front of the puck again. With about a minute left in the game, Greening took off along the left boards in a 2-on-1 breakaway to try for one last goal, but Hoyle blocked it yet again, limiting Cornell to just two goals. Unfortunately, Hoyle’s effort alone was not enough to give Harvard the win.
“He gave us a chance, but we can’t expect to, night in, night out, have success scoring one or two goals, so we’ve got to find a way to be more aggressive offensively,” Donato said.
BITS AND PIECES
The Crimson has yet to win a game on the road this season…Friday night’s loss broke Harvard’s four-game winning streak in the series with Cornell...Donato was inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame last Wednesday...freshman Peter Starrett earned his first career point by assisting on sophomore Michael Biega’s goal, the Crimson’s only score of the night.
—Staff writer Courtney D. Skinner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.