The Game wasn’t the only big win for a Harvard sports team in a major rivalry game this weekend.
The No. 17 men’s hockey team knocked off No. 10 Cornell, 4-1, in its first road contest of the season on Friday night in Ithaca, N.Y.
Just as he did in the ECAC semifinals in Atlantic City eight months ago, junior goaltender Raphael Girard shut down the Big Red attack, making 34 saves.
At the other end of the ice, all four of Harvard’s lines scored against Cornell’s Andy Iles, who had entered the contest with a .927 save percentage.
In a one-minute span in the opening period, the teams combined for three goals, and Harvard (4-3-0, 3-3-0 ECAC) entered the first intermission with a 2-1 lead. Freshman Kyle Criscuolo tallied his third score of the season with 2:17 left in the second period to put the Crimson up two, and sophomore Peter Placek later added an empty netter to help hand the Big Red (3-3-2, 1-3-2) its first home loss of the year.
“I think we definitely found a way to win through our defense, even though we scored four goals,” sophomore forward Mike Seward said. “We just kept everyone away from our net, and that helped a lot in preventing grade-A scoring opportunities for Cornell.”
At the other end of the ice, Harvard was able to maintain an early offensive attack amidst a loud sellout crowd at Lynah Rink. Senior forward Alex Fallstrom got the Crimson on the board at the 14:32 mark of the opening period when he put a back-door shot past Iles for the game’s first score to put Harvard up, 1-0. McNally earned the assist after intercepting a Cornell attempt to clear before feeding Fallstrom.
Cornell responded 26 seconds later, as John Knisley fired a shot past Girard to tie things up.
But just 32 seconds after Knisley’s goal, the Crimson answered right back, as Seward scored for the second time in his career to give Harvard back the lead. The sophomore took a behind-the-net pass from classmate Tommy O’Regan and fired a shot past Iles.
“The puck wrapped around the boards, and I got into the zone,” Seward said. “[O’Regan] gave me a great pass into the slot right above the net, and I just shot it through a screen and went low-blocker side. I give a lot of credit to my linemates for getting the puck to me.”
Cornell had a number of chances to tie things up in the second period, totaling 12 shots on goal to Harvard’s five, but Girard denied every attempt.
“We didn’t [allow] that many scoring chances from in tight,” Girard said. “I didn’t feel [too] threatened. The fact that the crowd is always chirping at the goalie over there kind of gives you a little boost.”
Meanwhile, 17:43 into the middle period, Criscuolo capitalized on a Big Red turnover in its own end. A clearing attempt from Cornell was intercepted by freshman Jimmy Vesey, who attacked the net and found Criscuolo. The freshman then knocked a one-timer past Iles to put Harvard up, 3-1.
The Big Red had two power-play opportunities to get back in the game within the first 10 minutes of the third, but Girard denied each one and again made 12 saves during the period to keep Cornell off the board.
“It was obviously a tough place to focus for a goalie with everything going on there,” Seward said. “There’s fish guts everywhere on the ice, Swedish Fish on the ice, they dump newspapers everywhere—it’s just a wild atmosphere. They’re constantly yelling things at Raph [Girard], chanting, trying to get him off his game, but he did a good job blocking shots and keeping us in the game when we needed him.”
With 14 seconds to go, Placek added the exclamation point with an empty-netter, giving Harvard a 4-1 victory on a night it was outshot 35-17 by the Big Red.
“That was definitely a big win,” Girard said. “We played as a team.... We all played with the same identity and pulled in the same direction. That’s why we won the game.”
—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.