An undisciplined final frame caught up with the Crimson as the Harvard men’s hockey team fell to No. 16/15 Clarkson, 2-1, Saturday night at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
With just over two minutes left in regulation, Golden Knights center Allan McPherson stuffed the game-winning goal past a scrum in front of the net during Clarkson’s third power play of the third period.
“I think we competed really hard, but we just took way too many penalties,” sophomore forward Brian Hart said. “They were just in our zone the whole period.”
Clarkson (9-2-1, 3-1-0 ECAC) held on to sweep its weekend double on the road, while the Crimson (2-3-1, 1-3-1) completed its four-game home stand on a three-game losing streak.
Harvard’s penalty kill had turned away Clarkson’s first seven power plays, including two 5-on-3 advantages. But a boarding penalty to junior defender Mark Luzar with three minutes left in regulation proved to be the difference.
“We did a good job killing penalties,” Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “Ultimately, with all the great chances [Clarkson] had, they end up getting a bounce, but when you take four penalties in the third period, you’re asking for trouble.”
The home team came out stronger than it did in its 3-1 loss to St. Lawrence a night earlier, but Clarkson received an early opportunity to assert itself in the Crimson zone with a pair of penalties to defensemen Luzar and Dan Ford spaced 38 seconds apart midway through the first.
The Golden Knights power play unit failed to convert, but James De Haas gave the visitors’ the lead less than a minute after the expiration of Ford’s minor. The Clarkson defender found the back of the net from the point off a failed Crimson clear attempt.
Sophomore forward Jimmy Vesey provided his second power play goal in as many nights to tie things at one just over a minute into the second frame. The play was reviewed for a crease violation after Vesey redirected a fluttering puck in the air past Clarkson goaltender Greg Lewis, but the goal stood.
The middle frame was Harvard’s best of the night, but Clarkson managed to limit most of the Crimson’s opportunities to the outside.
Clarkson earned its second 5-on-3 of the night more than halfway through the final frame after Harvard was whistled for a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty and sophomore defender Desmond Bergin was sent to the box for slashing less than two minutes later.
But the Crimson survived the challenge with multiple blocked shots by Ford and key stops from junior goalkeeper Steve Michalek.
Following McPherson’s game-winner on the power play, Harvard spent the last 40 seconds of the night 6-on-4 with a power play and an extra attacker. The Crimson controlled the Clarkson zone for the final minute but could not come up with the tying goal.
Despite the loss, Donato said he was pleased with the adjustments Harvard made after Friday night’s loss.
“We spent way less time in our zone,” Donato said. “I thought defensively we cleaned up a lot of things.... Overall, it’s a tough pill to swallow because I think our guys really battled and competed, but it’s something we’ll learn from.”
Crimson skaters contributed 25 blocked shots, and Michalek finished with 31 saves. Despite strong showings in each of his first three starts, the junior goaltender is 0-2-1 on the year.
Saturday was Harvard’s first full game without first-line center Alexander Kerfoot, who dislocated his shoulder in Friday’s 3-1 loss to St. Lawrence. The freshman appeared to be in good spirits watching from the stands in a sling, but Donato could not provide a timetable for his return.
With Kerfoot out, the Crimson was unable to dress five of the nine NHL draft picks on its roster for Saturday night. Forwards Colin Blackwell and Petr Placek are also on the injured list, and junior defensemen Marshall Everson and Patrick McNally may return next weekend from the suspensions that resulted from their withdrawals from the team last year.
“Hopefully we’ll continue to get some guys out,” Donato said. “We got a third of the team sitting on the sidelines not capable of playing, and that’s not an excuse—everybody’s got different things they’re fighting—but hopefully we can get closer to having a full lineup.”
—Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mdledecky.