Last season ended for Harvard men’s hockey with a 3-1 loss in the ECAC Championship Game in Atlantic City to Union. Friday night, the Crimson got another shot at its conference rivals, as No. 13/14 Harvard took on the No. 7/8 Dutchmen.
The much anticipated rematch did not turn out to be much of a contest, as Union defeated the Crimson, 6-2.
“I give Union a lot of credit,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “They looked like they had an identity and attacked us.... We’re doing a lot of things to ourselves that are not giving us the opportunity to win games. Union doesn’t need any help; they’re a really good team.”
Harvard (3-2, 2-2 ECAC) went down early, with the Dutchmen (6-2-1, 3-1) netting two goals in the first three minutes of play.
The Crimson looked sluggish in the opening minutes of the first period. Union defender Charlie Vasaturo’s slapshot 41 seconds in slid between junior goaltender Raphael Girard’s legs to put the defending ECAC champion—and preseason favorite—up, 1-0. It was Vasaturo’s first career goal and the first shot of the contest.
Before Harvard could regroup, senior attacker Luke Greiner received a penalty for hooking, and the Dutchmen were on the power play. A Crimson penalty kill that had allowed just one goal on 12 chances so far this season held on for 1:52 of the two minute penalty kill. But with eight seconds left before Harvard brought a sixth man back on the ice, Union senior defenseman Greg Coburn received a pass across goal from sophomore Daniel Ciampini and tapped the puck into the back of the net.
The goalpost came off its line on the play, but after a review, the referees ruled it good, putting the home team behind, 2-0, with 57 minutes left to play.
The Crimson got one back less than two minutes into the second stanza. Coming out of the break invigorated, freshman Jimmy Vesey streaked down the ice, taking a pass from Greiner on the right side of the net. The highly touted rookie deked one defender, burst past another, and fired a wrist shot past Hobey Baker finalist and All-American Troy Grosenick to score the third goal of his young career.
Shortly after, Grosenick—who missed time last season with an ankle injury—went down on a broken play. Harvard sophomore Tommy O’Regan was pushed into Grosenick, upending the keeper and prompting a stoppage in play. Grosenick remained down on the ice for some time before skating off with support and being replaced by sophomore netminder Colin Stevens. Grosenick did not return to the ice.
“He’s one of the star players in our league,” Donato said of Grosenick. “I hope that he is able to bounce right back and that it’s not something that costs him any kind of time. It was kind of a freak scenario, but I don’t think anybody likes to see the best players in our league get hurt.”
With momentum looking on the Crimson’s side, the Dutchmen were quick to quell any thoughts of a comeback.
With 14 minutes left to play in the second period, junior attacker Matt Hatch fired a thunderous slapshot from the right. Girard was in position, but the puck bounced off his knee and into the net to put Union up, 3-1.
After maintaining pressure for the remainder of the period, the Dutchmen put themselves further in front. Ciampini found himself in front of goal again, but instead of passing the puck off, he took it upon himself to beat Girard to give Union a commanding 4-1 lead.
“At this point we just need to establish what we want to do,” Donato said. “That’s what is disappointing about [the result]. I don’t think we ever got into a team game. When you get behind right away, sometimes that happens. But that’s two games in a row now where we lacked an identity as a unit.”
The third period saw the Dutchmen continue to pour it on. With 9:28 remaining in the game, Girard gave up his 10th goal in the last two games—Harvard lost 5-1 to Yale last Saturday—leading to his being replaced by freshman Peter Traber. Traber did not fare much better, giving up a goal just over a minute later to make it 6-1.
“Even though it may look like [Girard] has given up a lot of goals, I would still say that he’s been one of the best players on the team these past few games,” Vesey said. “It’s been more about how we’ve played in front of him, the plays we’ve made and haven’t made.”
The remainder of the game was marked by sloppy play and flaring tempers, as the teams traded multiple shots on each other but fewer on goal to the tune of 11 penalties in the final frame alone.
The Crimson finished the scoring when sophomore defender Patrick McNally put the puck in the back of the net on the power play with 1:28 left.
—Staff writer Alexander Koenig can be reached at email@example.com.