On Saturday night, Harvard men's hockey did the unthinkable, and over came a record of 0-9-1 in Lynah Rink against Cornell (11-11-3, 8-7-3 ECAC), defeating the Big Red, 5-3.
It would have been a stunning weekend for the Crimson (11-12-2, 6-10-2 ECAC) had they done the same against Colgate (13-10-4, 8-7-2 ECAC). But despite an all-time record of 13-4-2 in Starr Rink, Harvard fell 6-2 to the Red Raiders.
Still, all the fish and fans could not keep Harvard from gaining a pair of points, key to the playoff race.
Harvard 5, Cornell 3
Putting the previous night's disappointment behind them, Harvard came out with a vengeance against the Big Red.
Looking to notch a win at Lynah Rink for the first time since 1995, the Crimson started strong, a rare occurrence for Harvard this season.
"Yeah, it was a great hockey game, period. I thought both teams played really well, and it was a close checking game," Coach Ronn Tomassoni. "I thought it opened up a lot of times, and anyone in the stands certainly got their money's worth tonight."
Cornell also started an offensive and physical attack early, taking control of the puck. Harvard went on a power play 38 seconds into the first, as the Big Red's Doug Stienstra took a penalty for high sticking.
The intensity was back for the Crimson as it dominated the power play, but Harvard was unable to score. Sophomore forward Chris Bala took a shot from the slot, but was not able to send it past Cornell goaltender Matt Underhill.
Both sides had difficulty passing in the neutral zone, and both Cornell and Harvard resorted to a strategy of dump-and-chase, in an effort to gain the upper hand in the offensive zone.
Senior defenseman Ben Storey took a penalty for slashing at 5:32 into the first, giving Cornell a deadly advantage. Stienstra banged home a loose puck near the crease, putting Cornell up 1-0 at 6:57.
Back at even strength, Harvard overcame Cornell's momentum to even out the score. Junior Trevor Allman took a pass from freshman defenseman Peter Capouch to score halfway through the first.
Junior forward Brett Chodorow--back on the third line with Allman and junior Scott Turco--foreshadowed the game-winner with a classic shot off the top corner, catching Underhill off guard.
Harvard continued to press the Cornell defense in the beginning of the second period, using power plays to its advantage.
Storey brought the puck up from the Crimson zone, looking to capitalize on the first power play of the period. He dished off to junior line-mate Matt Scorsune, who sent a slap shot from the point flying past Underhill, putting Harvard up 2-1 at 2:44 into the second.
The Big Red answered Scorsune's score, as Jeff Oates scored off a rebound near the crease at 3:24.
Cornell captain Kyle Knopp took the puck up the ice halfway through the second, looking to move the score ahead. Prestifilippo made two consecutive spectacular saves, coming up big for the Crimson defense.
"Yeah, I felt pretty good, but the team was battling in front of me," Prestifilippo said. "There were some breaks at both ends, good breaks and bad breaks and the harder you work the luckier you get. And our team worked very, very hard."
To put Harvard ahead once again, sophomore center Steve Moore, in true fashion, scored arguably Harvard's most spectacular goal this season. Blowing by a pair of defensemen and another Big Red skater, he backhanded the puck by Underhill at 11:17 of the second period.
So far this season, the Crimson has proved unbeatable if leading after two periods, winning all nine of such contests. But Harvard couldn't hang on to their lead, giving up another power play goal to Cornell's Mike Rutter at 16:24.
Harvard nonetheless took control in the third, giving Cornell few chances to regain the lead. Chodorow put the Crimson ahead 4-3 at 6:29 with a shot poked in from the crease.
"Trevor Allman made a great win on the draw, and Turco circled in looking for something," Chodorow said. "He went up and down, and found me in front of the net. I just banged it home."
And while Chodorow's goal gave Harvard the lead for the third time in that day, Allman's second goal of the night at 14:47 sealed the Big Red's fate.
"Coach had the game plan of going hard on the defensemen wide and it paid off," Allman said. "The last one, I just picked up a nice play from Turco and [sophomore forward Harry] Schwefel through the neutral zone and beat the goaltender with the shot."
Prestifilippo had no need to fear any last minute shots from Cornell in the final minutes of the third. Even when Cornell pulled its goalie with about two minutes to go, giving them a 6-4 advantage on the power play, the Crimson defense was on fire. Cornell fans ducked their heads as the Crimson skated to an exciting 5-3 win.
The momentum gained off a win over Cornell, one of Harvard's biggest rivals, gives the Crimson some support when traveling to Clarkson and St. Lawrence next weekend.
"It doesn't get any easier, but that's okay. If we come committed and focused and willing to pay that price I really think we can win," Tomassoni said. "It's not going to be an easy weekend by any means but we're not going to run away and hide."
Colgate 6, Harvard 2
Freshman forward Jeff Stonehouse won the draw to open the first period, but the Crimson could do nothing to control the play afterwards. Weak fore-checking gave the Red Raiders numerous opportunities in the first few minutes of play, but Prestifilippo picked up the slack.
At 5:57 into the first period, Turco took the first two penalty minutes for holding, giving Colgate a the first of a pair of successful power play opportunities. Less than a minute in to the power play, Colgate's Etienne Morin battled past the Crimson defensemen to knock in a rebound from the crease at 6:43 into the first.
"I think their power play worked well against ours. They kept us running around a little bit, kept us scrambling," Storey said. "You have to give credit to their power play. It was good, but I think we made some mistakes that they just capitalized on."
Less than one minute after the Red Raiders went on the board they netted another goal at 7:28. The Red Raiders' Dan Wildfong took a pass from Mike Marostega, the game's MVP, and backhanded the puck past Prestifilippo, widening Colgate's lead to two.
Just after scoring Colgate's second goal, Wildfong took a penalty for slashing, giving Harvard the opportunity to capitalize on the power play. Unfortunately, Colgate's penalty killing was on target, and few chances emerged for Harvard to close the gap.
The Red Raiders dominated the puck in the offensive zone, taking advantage of Harvard's characteristically slow start. Another power play chance was handed to the Crimson as a result of a hooking penalty on Colgate's Darryl Campbell at 18:54. But Harvard's inability to clear the puck out of the corners and win face-offs allowed another penalty kill.
The second period seemed to be a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Harvard started stronger, giving Colgate fewer opportunities to score. Then Chodorow was called for holding at 1:20 in to the second, giving the Red Raiders a one-an advantage. But Harvard's penalty killing (83 percent effective) was in control, keeping Colgate at bay.
A defensive lapse allowed Colgate's Kevin Johns to break in on a two-on-one, but Prestifilippo stopped Johns' shot from the slot. Despite picking up the pace somewhat, the Crimson still had difficulty, especially clearing the puck out of the crease and getting rebounds.
"Plain and simple, we just didn't play well, and they outworked us on our defense all night," Storey said. "We were a different team tonight than we were last weekend and we just weren't playing hard."
The physical game grew more intense as the period wore on, with Schwefel taking a minor for holding at 5:02. Colgate was unable to score, and was called with a penalty of its own. The Red Raiders' Bob Vandersluis was called for holding at 7:02, giving Harvard another golden opportunity.
With only one second left on the power play, Bala netted the Crimson's first goal of the night. Scrambling in front of the crease, Bala poked home a rebound at 9:51, giving him his first goal since the Omaha trip, breaking a dry spell of over two months.
"Their line definitely could have played better," said Tomassoni. "But I think Bala's goal will hopefully give him a little boost."
The end of the second period showed much more offensive play by the Crimson. Moore had a handful of key attempts, including a shot from the crease at almost point blank range, saved by Colgate goaltender Jason Lefevre.
Unfortunately, offensive strength can be taken only so far. The major problem plaguing the Crimson has been an inability to clear the rebounds. Campbell grabbed a rebound at 14:47 and flipped the puck over Prestifilippo's right shoulder, bringing the tally to 3-1, Colgate.
The second period ended on a somber note for the Crimson, as Moore was called at 19:09 for roughing, leaving over a minute of penalty time to be made up at the top of the third period.
Beginning the third period shorthanded was the back-breaker for the Crimson. Barely 30 seconds in to the third period, Colgate's Mike Marostega one-timed a pass from Campbell sending the puck right by Prestifilippo's left side, giving the Red Raiders a 4-1 advantage.
"They came out early and scored about 30 seconds in to the third. You could really feel it on the bench, and that hurt us," Bala said. "A couple of heads went down, but we need to learn to come back from that. We've got to be stronger if we're going to make a playoff run."
The third period goal deflated the Crimson, allowing their guard to drop even further in both the offensive and defensive zones. Colgate scored a fifth goal at 7:33 on a power play. The Red Raiders' Etienne Morin notched his second of the night, sending a wrist shot over Presto's shoulder.
Less than a minute later, Colgate's Kevin Johns put the Red Raiders up by five, snaking around the net, and launching a shot from the crease past Prestifilippo. Tomassoni pulled the junior goaltender, and sent backup Oliver Jonas into the net for the remainder of the third.
"I don't blame J.R. one bit, but I felt that the score was getting out of control," Tomassoni said. "I gave Ollie some time tonight, and told J.R. to get ready for Cornell tomorrow night."
A twist of irony finished off the third period, as Colgate pulled its goaltender with only 3:10 remaining in the third. Chris Murray replaced Lefevre for his first appearance between the pipes as a senior.
Coincidentally, in last year's home-ice blowout of Colgate by the Crimson, Mike Ginal played the first game of his career with only 3:10 remaining in the third.
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