The Harvard men’s hockey team’s midseason slide hit another low point Saturday night, as the Crimson dropped a 6-2 decision at No. 5/9 Quinnipiac that leaves it winless in its last six games.
The Bobcats (16-3-2, 10-0-0 ECAC) scored two goals in the first ten minutes and never looked back, as Harvard (4-7-1, 3-5-0) junior goaltender Raphael Girard allowed five goals for the third time in four contests.
“It was a tough game,” senior forward Alex Fallstrom said. “[But] I don’t really think the result reflects the game itself. I think it was a lot closer.”
Playing without leading scorer Jimmy Vesey—who was in Ufa, Russia helping the United States win gold at the IIHF World Junior Championships—the Crimson struggled to get anything going offensively, especially on the power-play, as it managed just one goal on its eight man-up opportunities against the ECAC’s best penalty kill.
At the other end, Girard made just 12 saves in 17 attempts before being pulled midway through the second period in favor of freshman Peter Traber, who for the second time in three games was forced to fill in for the junior who last year was dominant down the stretch in sparking the Crimson’s run to the ECAC Championship Game.
It was in a February contest against the Bobcats last season that Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91 called on Girard to replace a struggling Steve Michalek in net.
Girard saved all 26 shots fired at him that night to energize a Harvard comeback win. From there the junior was on his way to the ECAC Goaltender of the Month award and owned the nation’s fourth-best save percentage by the end of the year.
Eleven months later, it was another game against Quinnipiac that could force a struggling Girard back into a platoon.
“I’d put the loss more on me than on my teammates,” the goalie said. “I need to step up my game.”
The Bobcats got on the board early and often Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd at the TD Bank Sports Center to extend their unbeaten streak to 14 games.
Bryce Van Brabant scored just 1:51 into the match with a shot over Girard’s shoulder from the left faceoff circle, and minutes later Travis St. Denis put home a one-timer off a two-on-one to extend Quinnipiac’s lead to 2-0.
Senior forward Luke Greiner cut the Bobcats’ lead in half later in the period. Classmate Marshall Everson emerged from a four-player scrum behind the net and pushed the puck to Greiner, who fired a one-timer past Eric Hartzell for the score.
But coming out of the first intermission, the Bobcats tallied three goals in the period’s first nine minutes to extend their lead to 5-1 and send Girard to the bench.
Matthew Peca scored first, putting a rebound away over the goalie’s shoulder on a power-play following a tripping-the-goalie penalty on freshman Brayden Jaw.
Just over two minutes later, Fallstrom scored a backhanded goal but was called for interference, negating the score and giving Quinnipiac another man-up chance. The Bobcats took full advantage when Loren Barron beat Girard to make it 4-1.