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WORCESTER, Mass.—For the second year in a row, the Harvard men's hockey team concluded its season in Worcester. Or perhaps it might be more apt to say the team had its season concluded. A year ago, Maine shut the door in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This season, BU played the role of doorman, ending the Crimson's hopes for the Frozen Four, 6-4.
The early story of the game was how Harvard (22-10-2, 17-4-1 ECAC) rallied to tie the score following every Terrier (25-13-3, 13-10-1 Hockey East) goal. But the story of the game that emerged later had nothing to do with the Crimson's first period rallies and everything to do with a three-and-a-half-minute lapse to begin the third.
The six goals Harvard surrendered were a season high. The Crimson continued its futility against tournament teams, as its record against them fell to 0-7-1.
Based on the way the first two periods were played, few in the crowd of just over 9,000 would have predicted such a high-scoring game. The third period began with the teams tied 3-3 and skating in a 4-on-4 situation, but BU wasted little time assuming its third lead of the game. Brian McConnell intercepted a pass near center ice and skated into the Harvard zone, feeding linemate Mark Mullen in the left slot. Mullen quickly buried the puck, as Crimson sophomore goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris couldn't catch up to his top-shelf shot.
The Terriers' fifth goal came on the power play. McConnell won a draw in the Harvard zone back to defenseman Bryan Miller, whose slap shot made its way through traffic in front and passed unseen between Grumet-Morris's legs. It came a mere eight seconds after the power play began and was to be followed in short order by another BU goal.
Frantisek Skladany moved the puck off the boards deep in the Crimson end and skated towards the net. With his man behind him, Skladany fired a short-range shot on net. Grumet-Morris made the stop, but the rebound went straight back to Skladany, who fired again from even closer, this time igniting the red light and giving the Terriers a 6-3 lead at 3:34 of the third.
Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni called a timeout in an attempt to rally his troops. In retrospect, the damage was already done.
"We dug our own hole," Mazzoleni said. "We took some very poor penalties out there. We had some breakdowns, no question about it."
"You can't dig a hole like that against a team like Boston University," he continued.
Following the timeout, the Crimson rallied, taking the play to the Terriers and getting a fourth goal at 7:53 of the final period when captain Dominic Moore slapped a shot past BU netminder Sean Fields on the power play.
Faced with a two-goal deficit and more than 12 minutes to play, Harvard’s lack of discipline cost it the hope of a comeback. Already short one defenseman following sophomore Ryan Lannon's game disqualification, junior Dave McCulloch took a penalty for hooking at 13:57 of the third. McCulloch also received an additional 10-minute misconduct, forcing the Crimson to kill the penalty instead of pushing on offense.
"We were a little undisciplined at times," Moore said. "We were a little sloppy during the game."
Harvard had dug itself smaller holes in the first, twice falling behind the Terriers, but each time it responded. Trailing 1-0 after BU’s Brian Collins broke the ice, junior forward Tim Pettit stole the puck along the boards behind the Terriers’ net. He looked up and found sophomore linemate Brendan Bernakevitch open between the circles, and Bernakevitch fired a quick shot by Fields only 28 seconds after Collins’ tally.
The Crimson found itself down a goal again at 14:57 after fourth-liner Matt Radoslovich fired a Ryan Priem rebound under Grumet-Morris's right pad. But the team again responded quickly. On the power play at 16:17 after a Collins high-stick, Harvard worked the puck around the zone. Moore pushed the puck to fellow senior Brett Nowak along the low boards. Nowak found sophomore defenseman Noah Welch open on the blue line, and he in turn passed down to Pettit near the top of the right circle. Pettit wound up and fired a hard slap shot on net that junior forward Tyler Kolarik got a piece of, and the game was tied 2-2 with less than 3 minutes to play in the period.
With 16 seconds left in the first, Lannon was given a five-minute major penalty for butt-ending and a game disqualification. The Crimson was able to slip unscathed through those last 16 seconds skating 4-on-3, but the start of the second brought the promise of a 4:44 BU power play. It looked like that stretch would be the crucial part of the game, as the Terriers had a chance to bury Harvard. When the Crimson managed to kill off that extended man-advantage, the momentum swung toward Harvard.
Pressuring Fields, the Crimson took its first lead of the game at 8:33. Nowak had the puck along the lower boards in the BU zone. He pushed the puck along the boards to Kolarik, who looped towards the net, shielding the puck, and released a shot. Nowak and Kolarik both followed the shot and, after Fields made the initial save, Nowak poked home the rebound to give Harvard a 3-2 advantage.
After assuming the lead, the Crimson continued to control play, outshooting the Terriers by eight and winning 28 faceoffs to BU’s three in the second period.
But though Harvard had the momentum and was far superior at the dot, the second period would end tied after Brad Zancanaro skated into the Crimson zone down the middle of the ice. Flanked by linemate Ken Magowan and Skladany, Zancanaro took advantage of a free lane to the net, wristing a hard shot over Grumet-Morris's glove but just under the crossbar.
"I don't think there's any question the Zancanaro goal was the biggest goal of the game," BU coach Jack Parker said.
If nothing else, it helped dull some of the momentum Harvard had developed throughout the second. The rest of that momentum would soon vanish amidst the Terrier barrage at the top of the third.
Mazzoleni felt his team lacked the defensive intensity it needed to play BU, noting that the Crimson had some great individual efforts, but didn’t put forth a cohesive team effort. He particularly emphasized the role of Moore, who scored his 29th point in his last 13 games. The Harvard captain, who finished his career with 147 points—good for 11th all-time at Harvard—on the strength of that late-season run, was again the team's most consistent offensive option.
"I thought Dominic Moore was exceptional tonight," Mazzoleni said. "I've never seen anyone dominate a game the way he did faceoff-wise, and I thought he was just a force out there.
"I thought he was head and shoulders the best player on the ice," Mazzoleni continued. "What you saw tonight shows you the kind of winner he is in the way he went out."
—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at email@example.com.
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