It was exactly as they planned it. Wait out the regular season, grab a play-off spot and then, and only then would it unleash its full potential on the ECAC league.
Well, sort of.
In what most will attest as one of the ugliest playoff wins in recent memory, the Harvard men's hockey team squeaked by St. Lawrence, 4-2, in last night's ECAC preliminary round match at Bright Hockey Center.
Spearheaded by a three-goal second period, the Crimson's victory allows it to remain alive in the postseason race. It must now regroup for a three-game quarterfinal series with Cornell this weekend.
"Well, we won," sighed Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni. But after one period, things didn't look so promising.
Shot after shot, play after play, minute after minute, the Crimson played as if its season was already over. Intensity was nonexistent on both the Harvard bench and the ice as St. Lawrence dominated each and every shift, pelting Crimson goal-tender J.R. Prestifilippo (29 saves) with 16 shots by period's end.
It was hardly shocking that it took only three minutes for Saints' forward Paul DiFrancesco to inflict harm with a one-timer from just inside the right face-off circle. Although it was only the first tally of the game for St. Lawrence, by the look of Harvard's play, it certainly didn't figure to be the last.
"In the first period, wow, that was just pathetic," said sophomore Rob Millar. "You can harp and harp about how young our team is, but there really is no excuse for coming out and playing the way we did."
Fortunately for the Crimson, it escaped that torturous first period only down by one goal. When asked what he told his troops after the first period, Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni replied, "You don't want to know."
Whatever was said, it worked...eventually. Just after the halfway mark of the game, the Crimson exploded with three unanswered goals in a 107-second span.
Millar led the charge with his 12th goal of the season at the 10:56 mark. Collecting a beautiful lead pass from senior Macro Ferrari, he broke free down the right side of the ice and beat Clint Owen to knot the game at 1-1.
Suddenly, the floodgates opened. Sophomore Clayton Rodgers and freshman Trevor Allman followed Millar's lead, and all of a sudden the Crimson had built a 3-1 lead.
"We regrouped," said Millar about the second-period transformation. "Coach came in and told us what he thought of our [first-period] play...everyone was mentally kicking themselves. But it was only a onegoal game and we were still in it. We just realized how fortunate we were and we knew what we had to do."
The third period was a lesson in hanging on, but despite a power-play goal by St. Lawrence defenseman Thomas Cullen midway through the period, the Saints could never catch up.
A breakaway shot by Millar that ricocheted off the pads of Owen and into the St. Lawrence net with six minutes to go in the game didn't hurt matters either.