Freshman Matt Hoyle kept his team in the game as long as he could despite four consecutive power-play opportunities for the Big Red in the second period. The rookie posted 35 saves in the 2-1 loss, a day before adding another 28 in a 2-2 tie at Colgate. A
ITHACA, N.Y.—The No. 18 Harvard men’s hockey team (4-3-1, 4-3-1 ECAC) lost its version of “The Game” on Friday night against No. 14 Cornell in the Big Red’s own house—otherwise known as the raucous Lynah Rink.
The Big Red took the 2-1 victory, snapping Harvard’s three-game winning streak and securing victory over the rival Crimson at home for the first time in four years. Cornell showed Harvard that putting too much pressure on one’s penalty kill and failing to create scoring chances leaves little margin for error.
Though back-and-forth hockey was the norm for the majority of game, Cornell (3-0-2, 3-0-2 ECAC) capitalized on four Crimson penalties in the second period to notch a power-play goal and keep Harvard’s offense from coming to life.
With the score tied 1-1 at the end of the first period, Cornell’s Riley Nash broke the deadlock at 16:51 in the second period. After Hoyle stopped two quick shots from inside the faceoff circles, Nash stuffed the loose puck into the net past the scuffle going on in front of Hoyle.
From there, Harvard was never out of the game but was able to generate few quality scoring options in the final period.
The lack of offense in the second and third periods meant that the Big Red was able to out-shoot the Crimson by more than a two-to-one margin, as Harvard managed only 15 shots on goal during the entire game.
The Crimson only challenged Cornell netminder Ben Scrivens with two shots in the second period and three in the third.
The frustration at the end was especially bad given the Harvard’s quick start to open the high-energy rivalry.
Those second period penalties represented the turning point, as they both killed the Crimson’s offensive momentum and allowed Cornell to come away with the eventual game-winner.
“That second goal was huge, because that was right in the middle of our penalty spree that we took in the second period,” co-captain Jimmy Fraser said. “And then after that, I give them credit, they’re a great team defensively, and we weren’t able to generate any offense after the middle of the second period.”
Most of Harvard’s penalties came at a time when the team was struggling to establish its offense and had nothing to gain by committee, as most of them did not even occur with the Big Red threatening in the offensive zone.
“We took penalties in not dangerous situations, such as offensive zone penalties, a lot of bad decisions,” Donato said. “Against good teams, the margin doesn’t need to be that big to make it stick up, and that’s what Cornell did.”
Harvard struck first just 5:41 after the opening faceoff thanks to the stick of sophomore Michael Biega, who fought for a loose puck behind the Cornell net and then stuffed in a wrap-around on the right post.
The play developed thanks to the physicality of sophomore Matt McCollem, who knocked the puck free from a Cornell player with a big hit in the neutral zone. Freshman Peter Starrett dumped the loose puck into the Big Red zone for the assist, letting Biega chase it down behind the net.
That would prove to be the lone goal for Harvard, as Cornell scored less than four minutes later to even the score. The Big Red added another unanswered goal before shutting the Crimson down in the third period and preventing the team from establishing any rhythm.
“I think they’re a physical team, a big team, and they don’t give you a lot off the rush, you’re not going to get a lot of outnumbered situations,” Donato said. “You’re not going to get a lot of great looks, and you’ve really got to establish it off of a forecheck.”
—Staff writer Robert T. Hamlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.