ITHACA, N.Y.--On the heels of a sloppy home-ice tie to Princeton, the Harvard men's hockey team absolutely needed a win against lowly Cornell.
It got it--but not by much.
Barely surviving a third-period rally and a manic crowd here in Lynah Rink, the third-ranked Crimson (17-2-2 overall, 14-1-2 ECAC) got a goal with 1:59 remaining by sophomore Cory Gustafson to seal a 6-3 victory over the Big Red (5-15-1, 4-12-1 ECAC). Junior Derek Maguire's empty-net tally with one second left provided the final three-goal margin.
It was rough going most of the time for the Crimson, who let the vocal Cornell supporters crawl under its skin.
"People tend to forget that we've still got a young team," Harvard Coach Ronn Tomassoni said after the game. "This can be an intimidating place to play, and we got a little rattled in the first ten minutes of the game, before we had a chance to calm down."
The opening stanza was anything but calm for the Crimson--the second line of seniors Steve Flomenhoft and Matt Mallgrave and freshman Tom Holmes teamed to score six points on two goals.
Flomenhoft took a pretty centering pass from Mallgrave and beat Cornell goalie Eddy Skazyk just 78 seconds into the game. At 7:00 of the first, Flomenhoft returned the favor, setting up Mallgrave in front of the goal to give a Harvard what was then a 2-1 lead.
"I had a lot of chances early," Mallgrave said. "It was a really fortunate way to start the game, especially when you consider our poor track record here [ties in the last two games]."
Neither were things calm around Crimson netminder Aaron Israel. Sandwiched between the two Harvard goals was a defensive collapse that led to a goal by Big Red freshman Brad Chartrand.
And only 1:32 after Mallgrave gave the Crimson back the lead, fourthline Big Red sophomore Tyler McManus collected a crazy bounce in the crease and wristed it past Israel to again tie the score.
"Obviously, we didn't play to our capacity as a team, especially in those first 10 minutes," Tomassoni said. "But Cornell did a heck of a job; they have talent and it would be wrong not to give them some credit."
But as can happen in hockey, a freak call turned the momentum back the Crimson's way. A Big Red "too many men on the ice" penalty was converted with marksman's precision--laser-sighted passing got the puck on the stick of sophomore Derek Maguire, who rifled a shot with Al lafrate speed and Ray Bourque's accuracy past Skazyk to give the Crimson the lead for good.
And then came what looked to be the clincher--a Hobey Baker Special from Captain Ted Drury. Starting from mid-ice, knifing through two defensemen, forehand-backhand stickhandling, finally slipping the biscuit under Skazyk...it was a world class goal if ever there was one.
"The last 10 minutes of the second period were all us," Tomassoni said. "We did a great job of forechecking and pinning them in their end, and Drury's goal was just a fantastic individual effort."
But Lynah Rink singlehandedly tried to rally its Big Red, a team tectering second-from-the-bottom in the ECAC, with but nine points. A cross-ice pass set up freshman Pierre-Claude Drouin on the edge of the right ring; when he beat Israel, Cornell was within one, 4-3. Credit the Crimson's unheralded fourth line (freshman Jason Karmanos, sophomore Perry Cohagen and Gustafson), though, for digging hard and setting up Gustafson's late goal.
"Those guys never seem to get much of the credit out there," Tomassoni said. "It was great to see guys like Karmanos working so hard out there at the end."
The journey through central New York now continues in earnest tonight against Colgate and Tomassoni knows his team can't get away with this kind of effort against the Red Raiders.