Entering the final weekend of the regular season, junior David Valek had scored two goals. After Saturday night, he had tripled this output, tallying two more against Clarkson at the Bright Hockey Center for a total of six on the season.
Valek scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals, as the Crimson came back from a third-period deficit to defeat the Golden Knights, 3-2, ending the season with two straight road wins.
With playoff implications on the line, the Harvard men’s hockey team (10-8-11, 8-5-9 ECAC) earned a total of four points on the weekend, propelling itself into a third-place finish in the ECAC after beginning the weekend in fifth, thereby earning a first-round bye.
“The game really had a playoff feel to it right from the start,” Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “All game, I felt our effort was there…. It’s really a tremendous achievement for the players in the locker room, and I’m really proud of them.”
Harvard played a strong third period in its comeback, outshooting the Golden Knights, 16-10, as well withstanding a late charge by Clarkson (15-15-6, 9-9-4) with an empty net.
“They put a great scare in us in the end,” Donato said. “They just kept coming. [Sophomore goalie Raphael] Girard stood pretty tall there at the end for us.”
The Golden Knights were able to jump ahead with a two-goal lead thanks to a goal late in the first and another on a two-man advantage power-play early in the second, as a string of penalties killed any momentum for the home team.
But after junior Alex Fallstrom opened the scoring later in the second, the Crimson looked to be the stronger team.
Valek scored his first goal of the night early in the third after streaking up the left side of the ice across the blue line and firing a hard shot from the top of the circle that sailed right past Clarkson goalie Paul Karpowich. Assisting on the play was freshman Tommy O’Regan as well as Girard, who notched his first career assist while saving 27 of 29 shots on the night.
About five minutes later, Valek put Harvard up for good, scoring on a pass from O’Regan, who had skated through two defenders, sharply cutting back across the final defender before finding Valek open on the right across the net.
Playing in pain from a tough blocked shot the previous night, when he scored two goals as well, Valek was able to take advantage of his offensive tools once again.
“David’s got a great shot,” Donato said. “We’ve been preaching to him to try to use it more, and he couldn’t have picked a better time over this last weekend.”
Connecting twice in the third period, O’Regan and Valek provided an offensive spark that was not evident for most of the year.
“At this time of the year, it is really important to have other people step up,” Donato said. “That line was huge for us tonight”
For the most part, the first period was a fairly even affair. Both teams exchanged penalties early in the opening frame, but no goals were scored.