Going into last night's games at Vermont, the Harvard hockey team had not won a game in Reading Period since 1980, a 13-game January losing streak. But UVM, holding the second-worst record in the ECAC and riding a six-game losing streak, could not be denied, as it took a 7-2 thumping from the Crimson.
The penalty-filled game (40 minutes of pehalties, 22 for Harvard) marked the farewell to college hockey of the Catamounts' high-scoring captain. Kirk McCaskill, who's switching sports and heading for the California Angels training camp. But McCaskill notched just one assist in front of the Cats' 333$ fans, while Harvard's Scott Fusco stole the offensive show with a pair of shorthanded goals.
McCaskill's first shift of the night led to his only appearance on the scoring sheet, as he helped set up teammate Matt Winnicki for a blast from the point that beat Crimson goalie Grant Blair for a power-play goal and a 1-0 lead.
But the visitors struck back quickly. After Brian Busconi tied the score 45 seconds later, Scott Fusco found linemate Greg Britz free right on the doorstep for a power-play goal that put Harvard ahead for good. With Crimson blueliner Ken Code in the penalty box late in the first stanza, Fusco struck for the first of his two tallies. Skating in on UVM netminder Mike Mundorf, he was taken down by a defenseman but still managed to swipe at the puck while sliding on the ice.
The red light flashed behind Blair for the second time early in the middle period, after UVM's Tom Mahre scored from the slot to close the gap to 3-2. But the freshman was impeccable the rest of the way, as he stopped 29 pucks overall.
When Harvard's Dave Burke, playing in his first game since an injury at Cornell December 12, went to the sin bin for cross-checking six minutes later, he set the stage for Fusco's second shorthanded goal. Phil Falcone opened the gap to three late in the period.
The Crimson added a pair of insurance goals in the final 20. First, Shayne Kukulowicz knocked home a rebound of a Mark Fusco shot to make it 6-2. Then, on a late power play, freshman Tim Smith, free in the slot, called for a pass from linemate Bill Larson and whipped the disk past Mundorf to finish the scoring.
The win, which raised Harvard's record to 9-4-1 (7-3-1 in the ECAC), marked the first half of the easiest week of the Crimson's entire schedule. Having faced Vermont--now 1-9 in the ECAC and losers of their last 15--the icemen return home Thursday to face the only team with a worse ECAC record, the 0-9 Black Bears of Maine.
THE NOTEBOOK: Fusco's shorthanders give him four, and the team eight, for the season... With a 2.65 goals-against average, Blair currently ranks third in the NCAA... Fusco regained the ECAC scoring lead with his two goals... Harvard outshot UVM, 35-31 V. Matt Winniciu (Tony Mossina Kirk McCaskull) 1 07. H. Brian Busconi (Greg Chalmers Shayne Kukutowicz) 1 52, H. Greg Botz (Jim Turner Scott Fusco) 3 18, H.S Fusco (Mitch Olson, Turner) 17.09, V. Tom Mahre (Michael O Connor, Rob McConnell) 2 28, H.S Fusco (Turner. Mark Fusco) 9.00, H. Phil Falcone (Tony Visone) 18 58, H. Kukutowicz (M Fusco) 1 41, H. Tim Smith (Bill Larson, Gary Martin) 17 56 Saves Harvard, Grant Blair. 12-8-9--29 UVM Mike Mundort, 11-10-7--28 Att 3335
V. Matt Winniciu (Tony Mossina Kirk McCaskull) 1 07. H. Brian Busconi (Greg Chalmers Shayne Kukutowicz) 1 52, H. Greg Botz (Jim Turner Scott Fusco) 3 18, H.S Fusco (Mitch Olson, Turner) 17.09, V. Tom Mahre (Michael O Connor, Rob McConnell) 2 28, H.S Fusco (Turner. Mark Fusco) 9.00, H. Phil Falcone (Tony Visone) 18 58, H. Kukutowicz (M Fusco) 1 41, H. Tim Smith (Bill Larson, Gary Martin) 17 56
Saves Harvard, Grant Blair. 12-8-9--29 UVM Mike Mundort, 11-10-7--28