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MINNEAPOLIS—Call it a pitcher's duel. Call it a clash of defensive titans. Or just call it a 0-0 tie, because that's all Dov Grumet-Morris and Tuomas Tarkki—netminders of the Harvard and Northern Michigan men's hockey teams, respectively—got after turning in a pair of goaltending gems in the semifinal round of the Dodge Holiday Classic.
Mariucci Arena's matinee event, featuring the No. 10 Crimson (9-3-2, 6-3-1 ECAC) and the Wildcats (9-4-4, 7-3-2 CCHA), was the precursor to the evening rumble between No. 1 Minnesota and Merrimack, and when the puck dropped for the first game, it was all but assumed that the earlier contest's winner would go on to face the Golden Gophers for the championship.
Entering the day, Harvard had never won a holiday tournament, a streak that would continue yesterday with an official tie and then a sudden-death shootout loss that propelled Northern Michigan into today's finals and dropped the Crimson down to a disappointing consolation matchup.
Harvard senior Andrew Lederman, who launched two attempts against the Wildcats that were barely turned away by the goalframe, described the situation as "tough to swallow."
It's definitely disappointing," he admitted, though he added that "it does count as a tie" despite the shootout.
In the second period, Lederman directed the puck from the top of the left circle that barely skipped off the crossbar. And in the last frame, his shot from between the circles again found the pipes, one teammate Jon Pelle later told him "hit off the inside of the post."
Mariucci's 200 foot by 100 foot sheet of ice—Olympic-sized, as opposed to the Crimson's 204 by 87—was cited as a possible hindrance to Harvard before the game. Following the game, all affiliated with the Crimson refused that excuse. But, Lederman later added, "they didn't tell us the posts were bigger out here, too."
Said Harvard coach Ted Donato, "we had some good chances. It's a game of bounces, and there's not much you can say."
The tie was, in large part, the result of stellar goaltending. Grumet-Morris amassed 37 saves to Tarkki's 33, and the former earned his first shutout of the year.
"Obviously, when your team throws a shutout, you expect to win," Grumet-Morris said, "but this is an unusual circumstance. It's what happens when you play in a tournament. It's what happens when you play against great opponents. Great hockey was played by both teams."
And by both netminders. Each turned away breakaways, smothered blistering slapshots, reacted with lightning-fast pad saves and stymied endless brief shifts of momentum that swung back and forth all contest.
"I know we had, obviously, a real tough time with their guy," said Wildcats coach Walt Kyle, "and our guy was real tough as well."
So tough that after 65 scoreless minutes of play and an official tie, the two squads faced off in a shootout to determine which would play in tonight's finals.
Fittingly, the first two attempts—by Northern Michigan's John Miller and the Crimson's Brendan Bernakevitch—bounced off the pipes yet again.
Wildcat Andrew Sarauer followed with a quick goal that upped the pressure, but Lederman knotted the shootout two skaters later with a shot that bounced off Tarkki's glove and into the goal.
Immediately after, Northern Michigan's Darin Olver lifted the puck over Grumet-Morris, but Harvard's Dan Murphy countered with a quick snapshot across Tarkki's body.
The 10-skater shootout ended in yet another tie, this one 2-2, and so a sudden-death shootout followed. Olver scored immediately, going top-shelf on Grumet-Morris, and Tarkki miraculously kept Bernakevitch's attempt from crossing the line with his left pad.
The Wildcats skaters rushed the ice and enveloped Tarkki in celebration. On the other end, the Crimson skaters consoled Grumet-Morris one-by-one.
It would enter the record books as a tie, but once again, Harvard would not get its crack at a tournament title. Nor would it get a crack at No. 1 Minnesota, which would go on to defeat Merrimack 6-2 in the evening's matchup.
"It was one of those games where it really looked like the team that was going to get the first goal would win," Donato said. "I didn't realize it was going to be in the shootout, though."
—Staff writer Rebecca A. Seesel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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