BOSTON—One goal. In order to keep its dream of bringing the Beanpot back to Cambridge for the first time since 1993 alive, the Harvard men’s hockey team needed one goal to push Boston College to overtime last Monday.
But while the Crimson needed a goal, all it could produce was a shot. Eagles goalie Thatcher Demko was asked to make just one save in the final 11 minutes, as now-No. 3/3 Boston College comfortably knocked Harvard into its eighth straight consolation game.
In the ensuing Monday matinee against Northeastern, more than just the Crimson offense went missing. Per Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91, the No. 9/9 Crimson (13-7-3, 9-4-3 ECAC) spent the evening seeking shortcuts, and Donato’s side ultimately paid the price as Northeastern (10-13-5, 4-8-4 Hockey East) pummeled Harvard, 5-1, at TD Garden.
The Huskies, now unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 games, struck three times in the opening period, the first of which came less than four minutes in after co-captain Kyle Criscuolo fell down in the middle of the slot. Taking advantage of the open shooting late in front of the fallen forward, associate captain Mike McMurtry zipped a shot past freshman goaltender Michael Lackey at 3:56 to push Northeastern in front early.
Eight minutes later, McMurtry put his name on the scoring sheet a second time, centering a pass for freshman center Adam Gaudette, who beat Lackey glove-side to double the lead.
Then in the frame’s final minute, the Huskies tacked on one more as sophomore forward Dylan Sikura, alone on Lackey’s right post, hammered home a feed from associate captain John Stevens to send Northeastern into the break up three.
“I thought our kids played really well in the first period,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “We played with pace, we were transitioning pucks quickly, and I think we took a little bit of advantage of Harvard, who had two games this weekend.”
After falling short against Yale at the Whale two days prior, Harvard could not muster the energy to keep up with the Huskies. The Crimson’s most well-rested player was in fact Lackey, who had been listed second on the depth chart to sophomore Merrick Madsen for the past six games. But after making consecutive starts this past weekend and looking less than sharp, Madsen gave way to the freshman for the first time since Jan. 16.
The experiment was not a success, however, as Lackey surrendered three goals in a single period for the third time in his last four starts. Yet with Harvard’s defense struggling to hold Northeastern—particularly its second line—in check, Lackey was hardly to fault on Monday.
“I really felt our goaltender was left hanging out there,” Donato said. “[Those] certainly weren’t easy save opportunities for him. I thought we turned the puck over, got beat up the ice...and we just weren’t willing to play the type of game that will give us a chance to be competitive.”
The Huskies’ second line of McMurtry, Gaudette, and Sikura accounted for four goals on the night, the latter of which was scored by Gaudette on the power play with 9:53 remaining. Meanwhile, for the first time as members of the same unit, Criscuolo, Jimmy Vesey, and Alexander Kerfoot all finished minus-three for the night.
“You have to play a little bit heavy on those three players because they’re skilled,” Madigan said. “I thought we kept the puck in the offensive zone when they were on the ice for a period of time, so that negates them.”
“I said to Coach Keefe, who was changing lines, that we pinned them in their zone a few times, and then those three still had a lot of energy left,” he added. “We had to get our second line ready to go against them because they still had about another 20 seconds of energy going. But they’re great players, and I thought we did a good job tonight in containing them.”
Freshman forward Ryan Donato put a dent in Northeastern’s 3-0 lead off an offensive zone faceoff a little over 10 minutes into the middle frame. The rookie skated on the second line for the third straight game Monday—this time alongside senior Colin Blackwell and junior Luke Esposito after junior Sean Malone was suspended one game for his role in an altercation with Yale defenseman Rob O’Gara on Saturday.
“We certainly have other guys who have shown themselves very capable of stepping in and playing well for us,” Ted Donato said. “But as a group, we had a lot more passengers than we did have guys that were prepared to play the type of game we would have needed to play to have success.”
The rookie’s second Beanpot goal, paired with a holding penalty against Northeastern’s Garret Cockerill in the final minute of the second period, gave the Crimson a bit of life heading into the final frame. But the power play expired without Harvard generating a single shot, and the Huskies tacked on two more en route to the 5-1 victory.
With the loss, the Crimson’s descent down the rankings continues. Harvard now sits 11th in the PairWise, leaving the Crimson just a few spots above the NCAA tournament bubble.
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at email@example.com.