Opening the season as a ranked team for the first time since 2006, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team handled its business like it had been there all along.
Playing on a snowy Cumnock Turf, the Crimson rode the scoring efforts of nine different players to defeat Canisius, 16-6.
No. 12 Harvard (1-0) scored the first three goals of the contest before the Griffs (0-1) scored a man-up goal. Canisius’s Alex Caldiero bounced it past sophomore goalie Christian Coates for the Griffs’ second goal within 52 seconds, leaving them down only 3-2 heading into the second quarter.
Any hopes of an upset were squashed early in the second quarter, though, when the Crimson followed junior Dean Gibbons’s second goal of the match with three consecutive goals within 21 seconds to put Harvard ahead, 7-2.
Canisius never recovered from this meltdown, allowing two more goals in the second quarter en route to a 9-3 halftime deficit. The Crimson outscored the Griffs, 6-1, in both the second and the third quarters, and the game was all but over.
“Harvard beat us in transition today,” said Canisius head coach Randy Mearns. “Our mistakes led to the ball being in the back of the net. Our heart and effort was there today, but our full field execution was spotty.”
Gibbons notched a career-high five goals to lead the Crimson in scoring, while sophomore Jeff Cohen added three goals and an assist. Freshman Jack Doyle recorded a goal, and fellow first-year Alex White scored a goal and dished out two assists, as 14 Harvard players recorded points on the day.
“I think anytime you can get a win early in the season, you’ll take it,” Crimson coach John Tillman said. “There’s some guarded optimism. There are some things that we need to do much better. As much as you may be disappointed in certain things, we’re excited, because if we continue to work and focus on some areas, we can get a lot better.”
Part of the reason why Harvard was able to score so quickly was because it dominated faceoffs. Overall, the Crimson won 80 percent of its faceoffs, including 15 of 16 in the second and third quarters. Junior Christian Oberbeck was 9-of-12 on faceoffs and Junior Andrew Parchman won seven of his eight draws. Freshman Jeff Molinari led Harvard with five ground balls to go along with two assists, as the Crimson held a 31-20 advantage in securing loose balls.
Despite the win, Harvard certainly showed some opening-game rust. The Crimson had six more turnovers than the Griffs and also allowed Canisius to convert on three of its four extra-man opportunities.
“There were a lot of young guys out there today and you have to keep emphasizing certain things,” Tillman said. “You have to stay patient, though, because they’re only going to get older and better.”
In between the pipes, Coates earned his first career victory, with 11 saves and four goals allowed through the first three quarters, but had a costly turnover in the third. After a save, Coates carried the ball himself to nearly midfield. After trying to lob it over the first line of defenders, his pass was intercepted and launched into the goal before Coates could get back. Freshman Harry Krieger played the fourth quarter and saved two shots.
“I think there are some things we have to keep working on [in goal], but, all in all, it wasn’t a bad start,” Tillman said. “Both those guys are pretty close, and it’s been a pretty close battle along. I think they’re going to continue to battle each other all year long, and I think it’s going to make them better and our team better.”
Harvard will travel to Washington, D.C. this Wednesday to take on the No. 13 Georgetown Hoyas. The game will be televised on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and is Harvard’s only televised game of the season.
—Staff writer Colin Whelehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.