With a powerful performance by special teams, the No. 18 Crimson men’s hockey team knocked out a 3-1 victory over Rensselaer (1-5-1, 0-1 Ivy) last night at Bright Hockey Center, killing nine penalties to beat the Engineers. Harvard (2-0, 2-0 Ivy)has now recorded its second conference win before most of the ECAC teams have even had a chance to compete in a league match.
The Crimson came out fighting and got itself on the board within the first five minutes of the game. Notching his first career goal, junior blueliner Ian Tallett slammed an unassisted slapshot past RPI’s netminder Matthias Lange, which bounced off an Engineer’s stick into the back left corner of the net to give Harvard an early 1-0 lead.
The Crimson was plagued by penalties in the scoreless second frame, battling nine short-handed situations and facing a 79-second five-on-three disadvantage. Senior co-captain Jimmy Fraser, junior Chad Morin and Tallett assisted freshman goaltender Matt Hoyle in blocking shots on that five-on-three power play opportunity.
And Harvard’s defense limited RPI to four shots during their second-period power play chances and to only six power play shots overall.
“[Special teams] has been the difference for us in the last two games,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato ‘91. “There’s a lot of stick violations that are costing us, and certainly when we take half a dozen penalties in the offensive zone that far away from our net, those aren’t good penalties. I think we were overconfident today with a very good penalty kill and very good goaltending, but we can’t continue to play with fire like that—that’s two games in a row.”
In fact, Hoyle, who was named the ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Week for his performance against Dartmouth, recorded 27 saves overall in his second collegiate win in as many games.
“He made some big saves, especially on the five-on-three, a huge breakaway save, so we’re very happy with the way he’s played,” Donato said. “He really has looked comfortable and confident, and I think the team is happy that he’s got off to such a great start. Matt is in a position that has some question marks for us, [but] he’s really given us a boost right away.”
But the tables were turned in the third period, as the Engineers were forced to fend off their five penalties against the Crimson attack. Harvard’s offense fired 19 shots on Rensselaer in the final frame, 11 of which were on the power play.
Junior defenseman Alex Biega converted on one of those chances. After picking up a pass from sophomore Pier-Olivier Michaud, Biega found the back of the net 6:48 into the third period, extending the Crimson’s lead, 2-0.
“We had a lot of attempts but not a lot of shots were going through, so I just saw a seam, and there was a great play by P.O.—he gave it to me, I was right over, and I got a shot, and when you get a shot, you just take it, and it went in,” Biega said. “Our execution has been really good so far, but I think once we get going here, we’re going to start finding more success on the scoreboard if we just try to get more shots through.”
In the last five minutes of the game, Rensselaer rallied for a comeback, as RPI’s Josh Rabbani finished off a rebound on the power play to narrow the gap, 2-1.
When the Crimson tallied another penalty in the final two minutes of the game, the Engineers sought to tie things up and pulled their goalie to gain an even bigger man-advantage. But Harvard’s defense held strong, and RPI’s plan backfired in the end, as Michaud carried the puck up to the blue line before launching a shot into the empty net, sealing the Crimson’s victory, 3-1.
“It was a hard fought game,” Donato said. “I give RPI a lot of credit. We really worked hard. We’re very happy to come away with the win.”
—Staff writer Courtney D. Skinner can be reached at email@example.com.