No one could have guessed it was going to be this close.
Last night at Bright Hockey Center, Team USA barely scrapped by with a 5-4 victory over a young Harvard men's hockey squad in a game oozing with Crimson pride.
The future Olympians may have snagged a victory, but it was Harvard that garnered the respect of the 3214 fans at the exhibition contest.
Harvard's veteran defense, anchored by Captain Kevin Sneddon and Sean McCann, kept the power-house USA squad at bay, while the Crimson's untested offense produced when it had to.
"I don't think I've ever been as happy with a loss," senior Tim Burke said. "I was impressed a lot with the poise of the freshmen. They played great hockey."
Indeed, the freshmen came up big for the Crimson, with Corey Gustafson netting a goal and Brad Konik tallying an assist. Gustafson and Konik sparkled on the offensive end, creating key plays throughout the night.
But the Crimson also received some clutch play from its returning members.
One minute into the third session, junior Matt Mallgrave raced down the right side and slapped a hard shot into the upper right net past USA netminder Ray LeBlanc. Mallgrave's tally knotted the game at 4-4.
It took a late tally by 1991 Hobey Baker winner David Emma with seven minutes left in the game to put the national squad on top for good.
"I'm obviously very pleased," Harvard Coach Ronn Tommassoni said. "If we come out and give that effort every night, we can beat any club. Konick had a heck of a game, but so did his other classmates."
"We have four pretty balanced lines out there. I couldn't tell you who the first one is," Tommassoni gushed.
Harvard may have outplayed the Olympians tonight, but Team USA was playing at less than full strength. The top line, led by Sean McEachern, sat the night out, as did starting goalie Scott Gordon, in preparation for two upcoming games against National Hockey League opponents.
Indeed, the national squad looked out of synch all night, failing to capitalize on chances in front of the net and missing key passes.
"I think we just caught them on a flat night," Burke said.