The Harvard men’s ice hockey team entered Ingalls Rink on Saturday night with one mission in mind – extending its season to a tiebreaking game on Sunday. With less than ten minutes to go in the third period, it looked as if Harvard might be able to hold on to a one-goal lead.
But less than a minute later, the Crimson found itself behind and quickly in desperation mode in a hostile environment.
Yale mustered two third period goals – both of which came on the man advantage - en route to downing Harvard for the fourth and final time of the season.
“I think we could have done some things better,” Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “But the effort was outstanding.”
As senior goaltender Raphael Girard was pulled with less than a minute remaining for the extra attacker in an effort to capture an equalizer, it would prove to be the last time he would ever don the Harvard sweater on college ice.
“It’s been great playing for Harvard,” Girard said. “It’s been a great honor.”
A FAILED FINAL PENALTY KILL
Boasting one of the conference’s better penalty kills over the course of the season, the Crimson was ultimately done in by one final power play.
A boarding call on sophomore forward Brian Hart in the middle of the third period allowed for the Bulldogs to pull their goalie, as the team retained possession and tested the ECAC’s third-best penalty kill.
Harvard managed to kill off the first two Yale power plays on the night. But the third proved to be the breakthrough, as freshman forward Stu Wilson drove home a rebound to knot the game at one goal apiece.
“There were a lot of sticks out front,” Girard said. “One guy made a good shot top left.”
The Bulldogs then officially went on a power play as Hart went to the penalty box. After Yale won a faceoff in its zone, sophomore forward Kenny Agostino sent a puck off Girard’s shin guard and into the back of the net as the Crimson watched its lead evaporate.
“When you put traffic out front, that’s what happens,” Girard said.” [It was a] good bounce for them, but it was unlucky for us. It’s a part of the game…. It’s tough to beat the defending national champions.”
RAPH’S FINAL STAND
By all appearances, Girard seemed determined not to let Saturday night be his final collegiate appearance. The senior had turned away 35 shots entering the middle of the third period in order to preserve Harvard’s tenuous lead before two snuck by on Yale’s man advantage.
“Girard was outstanding,” Donato said. “He gave us a chance to have a lead with ten minutes to go.”
Girard was not the only one who wanted to play on Sunday.
The entire squad gave all that it could so that the puck never saw the back of the Crimson net. Defensemen and forwards alike were dropping to the ice, interfering with the puck’s path to the crease. That determination helped Harvard keep its lead for much of the game.
But it wasn’t long enough.
“With all of the guys being juggled around, we probably didn’t have the ability to sustain enough offensive zone time,” Donato said. “Because of that, you certainly get a little more tired playing defense.”
“They put a lot of shots on net,” he added. “But I thought in general our guys really battled and did a lot of good things. I though the effort and energy were excellent. But it was a frustrating result.”
Girard finished the year third in the conference in save percentage, turning away 92.4 percent of the shots he saw on net. Despite maintaining that high performance during Saturday’s game, turning away nearly 95 percent of the Yale shots on net, the Crimson was unable to capitalize.
“For them to get two goals with extra guys on the ice, it’s a tough pill to swallow,” Donato said.
Such quality performance has been the norm over Girard’s career. After taking on a bigger role sophomore year, he stood atop of the ECAC in save percentage with a rate of .947, putting him at fifth in the nation.
Although Girard’s collegiate career came to a close on Saturday, his hockey career has not.
“[That was] definitely not [my last game],” Girard said. “Right now, I don’t know where it’s going to be. I’m opening to play anywhere else to keep my career going.”
—Staff writer Kurt T. Bullard can be reached at email@example.com.