Through 40 minutes, senior goalkeeper Raphael Girard looked unbeatable against the defending national champions. In the last 25, he was caught looking twice, but the night still belonged to the Quebecois.
Girard posted a career-high 52 saves as the Crimson dropped a two-goal lead in the third period to tie No. 8 Yale, 2-2, in New Haven on Saturday night.
In the 240th meeting between the two rivals, second period goals from freshmen forwards Alex Kerfoot and Luke Esposito gave the Crimson (4-7-2, 2-6-2 ECAC) an early lead. But the Bulldogs (6-3-3, 3-2-3) responded in the final frame of regulation with strikes from junior defenseman Matt Killian and senior forward Kenny Agostino.
After two periods, Girard had already seen a game’s worth of shots, turning away Yale’s first 31 attempts on goal. The senior can now boast a conference-best .948 save percentage.
“[Girard] stood on his head, and he’s been doing that since day one,” Kerfoot said. “Every time he’s back there, you feel like you have a chance to win. He’s incredibly athletic, and that gives you a lot of confidence playing in front of him.”
This week Girard started in back-to-back games for the first time this year. The senior from Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., had 33 stops in the Crimson’s 2-1 loss against Dartmouth on Friday.
On Saturday, three of Girard’s saves came in overtime. In the extra frame, Harvard enjoyed the better of the opportunities but ultimately left a point in the standings on the table.
“As much as we’re not satisfied with the tie, it was a good effort, and I thought we competed,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said.
In the first period, Girard showed that he would be tough to beat. The senior was peppered with shots in the final minutes of the opening frame as the home team closed out the period on a power play.
The Crimson got on the board first on the power play. A screening Kerfoot put away his third goal of the season after corralling a deflected shot from sophomore line-mate Jimmy Vesey.
The visitors punctuated the middle frame with key plays on both sides of the ice. Girard provided a kick-save on a shot high in the slot from Gus Young with 30 seconds left in the frame. Off the next faceoff, a slap shot from junior defenseman Patrick McNally bounced off the right pad of Lyon and onto the stick of Esposito, who buried his third goal of the year 13 seconds before the intermission.
Girard finally made a mistake early in the third period. After a stuff-attempt from freshman Yale forward Matt Killian, the senior failed to locate the puck under his pads before Killian poked it between the pipes to draw the home team within one.
The score gave Yale new life as the Bulldogs registered a period-high 20 shots in the final frame. Yet Harvard continued to force most of the Bulldogs’ opportunities to the outside. Junior defender Max Everson broke up a Yale 2-on-1 with ten minutes left in regulation.
With six minutes to play in regulation, Yale’s persistence paid off with a strike from its leading scorer. Agostino faked a cross-ice pass before beating Girard five-hole with a wrist shot from the right-wing faceoff circle to knot the score at two.
With less than four minutes left in regulation, a cross-checking minor to Yale defenseman Rob O’Gara gave the Crimson a power play. The visitors had broken their dry spell on their first man-up chance of the game, but the Crimson could only muster a shot on goal with the score knotted at two.
In overtime, the Crimson’s best chance came with 40 seconds left in the game, after a rebound off a shot from the point man Everson bounced onto the skate of center Sean Malone, who had open net on the right wing. But the freshman could not transfer the puck to his stick before Lyon could regroup.
For Donato, the final score was disappointing but a step in the right direction.
“We’re a little disappointed with the lead going into the third and not being able to secure a victory, but once they scored to tie the game, I thought we really responded well and had some good chances,” Donato said. “I thought we carried the play in overtime.”
Harvard now sits tenth in the ECAC as it heads into a three-week break on a three-game winless streak. The Crimson will next face Yale on Jan. 11 in the Rivalry On Ice game, a nationally-televised non-conference match-up at Madison Square Garden.
—Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.