TROY, N.Y.-- Over the first half of the last season, mired in its eight-game winless streak, the Harvard hockey team often followed a rather frustrating routine: It would outmatch the opposing team through the opening period, but then fall into a chores of what became known as "The Second Period Blues," and go on to lose the contest.
Against Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) here at Houston Field House Saturday night, the Crimson looked like it might be playing the same old song.
After skating and shooting the Engineers right out of their tiny (smallest in the ECAC) rink in period one and taking a 5-1 lead into the first intermission. Harvard fell out of its wheeling and dealing, skate-the-puck-down-their-throats style and let RPI bounce back into a game it never belonged in.
By the 4:23 mark of the third period, the Engineers had cut the Crimson lead to 6-4, and threatened for more.
Only Harvard's third-period penalty-killing (including 18 seconds of three-on-five), some great saves by freshman goaltender Grant Blair (making his varsity debut a busy one with 44 stops), and a gorgeous sweeping one-hander by Greg Britz at 12:13 of the final stanza got the Crimson out of town with a 7-4 victory.
The win raises the Crimson's record to 2-0 ECAC (2-0 overall), while the Engineers even their record at 1-1 (4-3 overall).
"You're right, we did lose our composure at the end of the second period," said a relieved Harvard Coach Bill Cleary after the game. "We were running around we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off.
"But the thing that pleased me was that we didn't lose our composure [in the third period], "Cleary added. "That's the sign of a mature team."
In the first period, it didn't take long to see which team was the Larry Holmes and which was the Tex Cobb.
Though the Engineers opened the scoring at 2:51 when a Mike Dark slapshot deflected off Blair's pads and into the net, from then on it was all Harvard.
At 6:15, Mark Fusco unleashed a wobbly slapshot from the right point that Britz knocked, out of the air in front of the net and linemate Tony Visone slammed home to even the score at one.
Almost seven minutes later, with Crimson forward Bobby Starbuck serving a two-minute penalty. Harvard got its third short handed goal of the still-young season.
Defenseman Neil Sheehy broke in along the right boards and shot from the circle area RPI goaltender Scott Saari came up with the initial pad save, but when the puck deflected wide left. Sheehy swooped around the back of the net and poked the puck into the left side. The goal was also Sheehy's third, and gave Harvard a 2-1 lead at 12:54.
And then the Brothers Fusco took over.