For the third game in a row, the Harvard men’s hockey team found itself in a hole early on. And in its biggest contest of the season so far, the Crimson was in its biggest hole yet, down by three goals at the end of the first period.
But like in its first two contests, Harvard (0-2-1, 0-2-1 ECAC) battled back, whittling the Big Red (2-2-0, 2-1-0) lead to one. That’s as close as Harvard would get, as a late Cornell goal gave the visiting Big Red a 4-2 victory Friday night in front of a packed Bright Hockey Center.
“Our guys worked really hard and stayed with a tough situation early and really battled back and made it a game,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91. “It’s disappointing to lose, but I’m proud of the way we responded.”
“For the first five minutes and the last 40 minutes, we played our hearts out,” Donato added.
The scoring began just five minutes into the contest. Sophomore goaltender Raphael Girard blocked a long-range shot from Cornell’s Jacob MacDonald, but Girard couldn’t hang on to the puck, and Big Red forward Cole Bardreau knocked the rebound past the sophomore to give Cornell the early advantage.
Tensions ran high the whole contest, and just a minute later, junior forward David Valek laid a vicious check on a Big Red forward. A scrum ensued, during which junior forward Alex Killorn grabbed an opposing player’s facemask. Charged with a game misconduct and a facemask infraction, Killorn gave Cornell a five-minute power play and was ejected from the contest.
The penalty proved to be a critical blunder, and the visitors capitalized. Scoring twice in the next five minutes, the Big Red opened up a commanding 3-0 lead by the end of the period. Overall, Cornell dominated the frame outshooting Harvard, 18-3.
Thanks to Killorn’s penalty, Harvard also lost one of its most dangerous forwards. The junior currently leads the Crimson in goals, and last year his 15 goals paced the team.
“[Killorn] is a key guy in our power play, and probably up front is our leading ice time guy,” Donato said. “[Losing him] hurt.”
In the second period, Harvard rebounded sharply. Freshman Stephen Michalek replaced Girard in goal, and the defense settled down, limiting the Big Red to just four shots on goal.
And finally, despite the loss of its stalwart, the Harvard offense found its groove.
On a power play 6:16 into the second frame, junior defenseman Danny Biega fired a shot from the point towards the left side of the goal. Junior forward Marshall Everson redirected Biega’s attempt past Cornell goaltender Andy Iles and into the back of the net, putting the Crimson on the board.
“It kind of feels like a broken play,” Everson said of the goal. “[Because] of all the confusion, I was a little open in front, and Danny threw one on and I was able to get a pretty good piece of it. I think with the screen involved, I don’t think the goalie ever saw it.”
Thirteen minutes later, Harvard took advantage of the power play once again. With just 11 seconds left on the clock in the period, junior forward Alex Fallstrom knocked another rebounded shot past the Big Red netminder.
But after clawing back to within one goal of the Big Red, Harvard would get no closer. Despite controlling possession and outshooting its opponents, 7-4, in the final frame, the Crimson couldn’t get the puck past Iles, who made a number of impressive stops on the night.
“[Iles] played well tonight,” Everson said. “There’s countless times when he…made some really big saves.”
One of Iles’ biggest saves came late in the third period on a shot by freshman forward Colin Blackwell. With less than four minutes left on the clock, Blackwell attacked from Iles’ right, lobbing the puck to himself to avoid a Cornell defender and then skillfully hitting the puck towards the Big Red goaltender.
But Iles blocked the shot, and the Big Red attack responded quickly. Just a few moments later, Cornell’s Brian Ferlin found John Esposito in front of goal, and Esposito knocked it past Michalek to give the visitors the commanding 4-2 lead with just 3:30 left to go.
Some final Crimson attempts at goal proved fruitless, giving Cornell its sixth victory over Harvard in its past seven tries.
“Going into the third period, we were [feeling] positive,” Everson said. “It’s tough not to get all the way back into the game and tie it up and win it later.”