Icemen Take Home Debut, 4-3 On Wheeler's Overtime Goal

The profile of senior Don Crowley in the University of Vermont Hockey Guide pretty much tells the story.

"Deft with the hockey stick," it says of the Catamount center, "he is a slick playmaker." With a half-minute gone in sudden death overtime Saturday night at Bright Hockey Center, Crowley started to carry the puck from behind the UVM net.

Under personal, it reads "respects the work of Ghandi ('helping of people')." In this case it was Harvard's Rob Wheeler who benefited from Crowley's charitable instincts. Crowley fumbled with the puck, vainly trying to get it on the blade of his stick long enough for the Crimson left wing to steal it, dive across the UVM crease and tuck it away, giving Harvard a 4-3 victory in its home opener.

After the game, Wheeler failed to give Crowley his due: "I just picked up the loose puck and shoved it in the net."

But the Cat's goat had actually played a key role throughout the see-saw battle that raised Harvard's record to 2-0. In addition to helping Harvard with its tiebreaker, be scored the middle tally of a three-goal second-period UVM surge that left the Crimson trailing 3-2 after 40 minutes.

Before and after that Vermont-dominated period, Harvard managed to keep pace with the fast-moving visitors, who came to Bright off a 3-0 start, including a 5-4 upset of St. Lawrence a week earlier.

In the early going, the pace was so fast as to make playmaking difficult for the Crimson Four-and-a-half minutes after the face off Dave Connors, barreling down the middle, couldn't handle an on-target centering pass from line mate Phil Falcone. Seven minutes later, freshman Peter Chiarelli, moving at top speed on a power play, came in a bit too deep to take a great set-up from Wheeler.

Finally, late in the period, UVM goalie Tom Draper caught a shot off Wheeler's stick in his glove but dropped it, virtually teeing it up for Chiarelli to drive it home for the opening goal.

The momentum shifted soon after the start of the middle stanza. Catamount right wing Craig Staff tied it at one after two-and-a-half minutes, deflecting a shot from the point into the top of the Harvard net. Vermont jumped ahead quickly when a pad save by goalie Grant Blair on left wing Mark Litton pulled the Crimson sophomore out of position, allowing Crowley to slip the rebound in behind him.

With just under six minutes left in the period, Wheeler knocked in a Chiarelli rebound to tie it once more. But the deadlock lasted only 54 seconds, until right wing Malt Winnicki skated down the right side and blasted a powerful slap shot into the far upper corner of the goal.

Harvard had almost all the serious chances to score in the third period. After failing to convert on an early power play, the Crimson produced the game's third tie when right wing Peter Follows worked a textbook give-and-go with left wing Jay North, passing to North on the left side, breaking up the middle, taking the return pass and heating Draper from close range. Wheeler almost scored on a similar play with four minutes left in regulation, but put his shot over the net, so that he could score the game winner in more dramatic fashion a few minutes later.

THE NOTEBOOK: The win marked the Crimson's 10th straight game at Bright without a loss. Since UVM's 5-3 win at Bright in January 1982, Harvard has gone 19-1-3 at home... Harvard's next game is its traditional early-season matchup with local rival B.U., Wednesday night on the Terriers' ice. At Bright Center Vermont  0  3  0  0--3 Harvard  1  1  1  1--4

H. Peter Chiarelli (Ken Code, Rob Wheater) 16.53. V. Crag Staff (Henry Owen) 2:32, V. Den Crowley (Mark Litton, Norris Jordan) 4:00 H. Wheeler (Chiarelli, Tim Smith) 14:08 V. Matt Winnicki (Kevin Foster, Tony Messina) 15:2: H. Peter Follows (Jay North, Brad Kwong) 10:17 H. Wheeler (funasated) 36.

Saves--V. Tom Draper, 9-6-8-0--23, H. Grant Blair, 14-9-7-0--30.