Those who had been denied--A Harvard men's hockey team waiting to step on a team of smaller stature than it, an offense waiting to punch in the pucks that had been floating through the slot game after game and the hard workers, waiting for all that hard work to produce something more than tears--got their due last night in Bright Hockey Center.
There was no more waiting.
Behind gargantuan efforts from the players Harvard needed--but didn't expect production from--the top-seeded Crimson cruised past tenth-seeded Princeton, 6-2, and took the first two points of the best-of-three-points ECAC quarterfinals.
Down 1-0 in the second period, Harvard pumped in six goals over two periods as freshman Jason Karmanos turned a hat-trick with three goals. Sophomore Cory Gustafson added four assists and a whole raucous cast of unsung heroes sang sweet lullabies to Princeton for the final 40 minutes.
As expected, the mood of this chorus was festive last night in the locker room, with the united laughs of victory and luscious, melodious Metallica booming out a portable stereo.
"That's the most zip we've had all night," an elated Coach Ronn Tomassoni said after the game. "That's the most zip since Yale. You could see it in practice this week. We'd been getting a bit stale."
This was only the second time since January 9 that the Crimson topped the six-goal mark, and one of the few times this season it tipped in five even-strength goals.
And it was the first time anyone on the fourth line had a hat trick or four assists.
"Some days it's going to happen like that," said senior Steve Flomenhoft, who assisted on Harvard's second goal. "There can be a bounce this way or that and the Drury line may not always score. But that's the mark of a good team, when everybody's making a contribution."
Harvard plays Princeton again tonight at 7 p.m. If it begins the way it did last night, this team is heading to Lake Placid, N.Y., for the ECAC Final Four.
Within the first two minutes of play, Harvard sophomore defender Bryan Lonsinger knocked the helmet off a Princeton player, and everyone on the ice was slipping and sliding. The Crimson came out doing what it wanted to do, forechecking at every possible turn, but came up empty, as the Tigers cleared out the zone and benefited from some fancy flopping by senior goalie Craig Fiander.
After a woeful power-play at 7:58, Harvard took advantage of its next man-up opportunity at 12:16, pelting Fiander in the closing seconds, as Captain Ted Drury, junior Chris Baird and junior Brian Farrell all unloaded hard shots. Fiander turned them all aside.
Harvard continued to pound away in the second--on both the players and the net--but Princeton's confidence grew with every puck cleared out of the zone and every retaliatory check. Then, intense junior Troy Ewanchyna, the first player to race around the ice after the "Star-Spangled Banner" before the first period, did what he had dreamed of, sticking a breakaway shot by Harvard goalie Aaron Israel's glove-side hand and silencing the crowd.
In came the vision of another home loss. In came the vision of ECAC quarterfinals past. In came visions of no tournament glory.