The letter of the law is clear, and that is what referee Dana Hennigar decided to invoke, intent be damned. "Anytime you hit anything above the neck--that's a major penalty," admitted Harvard coach Billy Cleary after last night's loss. "It's in the book."
So when Hennigar saw Alan Litchfield's stick playing Trac II with Gary Sampson's stubble at 13:08 of the first period, he made the call. Never mind that Sampson had turned into the stick and Litchfield's legal check became a wooden choker for Sampson. Never mind that calls like that aren't supposed to happen on home ice or that nobody ever calls that one a major. Litchfield was whistled off for a five-minute stint in Darryl Petit's favorite playpen, and when he came back, Harvard's 2-1 lead had become a 3-2 deficit.
And goalie Wade Lau asked everyone's question in the dressing room after the game: "Why do we never get any luck? By the book it's a penalty," he saids, "but five minutes in your home rink--that's a tough call. I mean, how many times do you see it called?"
With Greg Olson, Harvard's finest penalty-killer, out of action with a thigh injury, and Mike Watson and Scott Powers also on the injured list, the Crimson was no match for the crack (29 per cent) B.C. power play. Not five minutes of it, anyway.
And when Jeff Cowles tipped in a rebound to knot the game at two and Billy O'Dwyer put the Eagles up 3-2 minutes later, it becaem obvious that call had been the turning point of the game.
Harvard didn't get its momentum back until the middle of the third period, when Scott Fusco's second goal of the night awoke the icemen from their somnolence and cut the B.C. lead to 4-3.
But the late flurry failed, and when it was over a beatable Boston College squad skated away with two points they hadn't really earned.
"You take away a penalty-killing unit, you take away a power-play unit, and considering the circumstances, I think the kids played well," Cleary said after the game. They played the Eagles even, if that's what he means, but for long stretches the zap was missing on both sides.
They started passing out the No-Doz early in the second period and from then until Scott Fusco's late goal the only excitement for a near-capacity crowd of 3000 was a rousing Neil Sheehy check on Billy McDonough that featured three Panama Knee Digs. That, and Adam Beren's famed cowbell which finally made its season debut early in the final stanza.
Olson, injured himself in the second period of Harvard's first game with Western Michigan over the holiday, and Powers, who was still on crutches with a sprained ankle last night, were replaced by Gary Martin and Brian Busconi, both returning to the varsity after stints with the jayvee's.
Watson, who is in the infirmary with the flu, was a last-minute scratch and provided junior David Silverman the opportunity of playing his first varsity game. The decision was late in the day, and Silverman was forced to skate with Bill Sztorc's old number 20 jersey, name included. A hooking penalty in the second period assured him a permanent spot in the Harvard hockey archives. Watson is expected back for this weekend's trip to St. Lawrence and Clarkson, while Olson and Powers are day-to-day cases.