BOSTON--Just a couple of questions I kept asking myself last night: 1) Was that the same Harvard team in the first period, as compared to the team that showed up during the second and third periods?
2) Did some aliens (or maybe Yalies?) steal Harvard's jerseys for the first 20 minutes last night?
3) How can any Harvard player or fan not be proud of the way the team came back in the final 40 minutes, the way the team wore the Crimson jerseys with pride and almost won a game that most of the people in Boston Garden thought had no chance to win after the first period?
Harvard's first period against Boston College last night was bad enough to make any die-hard heave. But the Crimson's second and third period efforts were so gritty and showed so much heart that it is a darn shame that the team won't be playing for its 11th Beanpot championship next Monday.
Harvard sent 53 shots at the B.C. net over the final 40 minutes and limited the Eagles to 25, but the massive four-goal hole the Crimson dug itself into in that first period proved to be too much.
"All I can say is that I'm pretty darn proud of my group--we kept battling back," were the first words an emotionally drained Harvard Coach Ronn Tomassoni said once the game ended--a 7-6 Eagle win.
Oh, had Harvard not made those four crucial, un-Harvard hockey-like mistakes!
Had two defenders not been undressed by Michael McCarthy, who got to the puck before lunging Harvard netminder Tripp Tracy 4:23 into the first period...
Had the Crimson not been caught in a bad line change, leading to a breakaway goal by Ryan Haggerty just over two minutes later...
Had Harvard not been stunned from a crushing body check by Eagle Don Chase on captain Ben Coughlin and allowed Chase to follow up his unguarded rebound into an open net...
Had the Crimson not been caught puck-watching late in the first period, allowing an easy tap-in goal by Brian Callahan...
"We made four big boo-boos, and they capitalized," Tomassoni said. "They were four fundamental mistakes--bad decisions or mishandling the puck--that was the game."
At least a different team showed up in the second period. Harvard took the body well, Harvard got numerous good-quality shots on goal, Steve Martins was no less than superhuman, the team played disciplined hockey and the Harvard power play starting clicking, especially late in the second period.
"It is a tribute to our players that they played hard," Martins said. "We showed tenacity in the third period when we were down three goals. We had a lot of heart."
No matter how one puts it, last night's loss hurt, and it hurt badly. The Crimson fell to another team that it should have beaten.
However, if the players did search deep inside themselves in their locker room during the first intermission and found their game, and if they can put out their final-40-minute effort for three full periods the rest of the season, the pain of last night will be a distant memory.
"I think it would have been demoralizing if we had not come back at all, but at the same time it is important to know that the team can fight back and not give up," Coughlin said. "I think that this game will go a long way to determining the rest of the season."