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BOSTON—There was nothing dramatic about Harvard’s loss in last night’s Beanpot consolation game. It wasn’t the lowest of the low, like last Monday’s semifinal clunker against Boston College. Nor was it the highest of the high, like Friday’s five-goal third period that capped an improbable comeback at Yale.
No, it was just a loss. A plain, simple, painful loss—the kind the Crimson has experienced far too often this season.
“I thought tonight would’ve been the night,” frowned Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni after his team’s nondescript, 3-1 loss to Northeastern before a sparse matinee crowd at the FleetCenter. “I’ve tried everything in my trick bag. I’ve talked about it with our captains, our older kids, but we just haven’t shown the ability to put together anything back-to-back.”
The Crimson is 9-12-2 overall. Once the nation’s sixth-ranked team, it has won only five of its last 15 games. Its last winning streak ended Thanksgiving weekend.
“Our consistency isn’t there,” said senior captain Kenny Smith. “We’re not showing up, 20 guys, every night, for 60 minutes.
“It’s easy to see that, and easy to say that, but it’s not so easy to fix that.”
Harvard outshot Northeastern 32-25 but converted only one of its 20 third period shots against Keni Gibson (31 saves). The Huskies (8-13-5, 2-10-4 Hockey East) scored three goals on seven shots in the third, signaling another night of quiet words and shaking heads outside the Crimson locker room.
“We’ve underachieved all year,” freshman defenseman Dylan Reese said flatly. “We’re playing like a roller coaster right now, high and low. We played an unbelievable third period against Yale, but we didn’t come out with that same jump tonight.”
“Not to take anything away from those guys, but if we played our game, we should’ve beaten them handily,” Reese added. “And we didn’t.”
Harvard certainly didn’t do much to help itself in the first period. Neither did Northeastern. The Crimson had seven shots, matched by six for the Huskies. Reese had the best chance to score, a try at the left post in the final minute that Gibson swatted away.
“The first period was a feeling-out process for both teams,” said Mazzoleni, 2-8 in his Beanpot career. “There wasn’t a lot of flow to the game.”
Harvard started the second even slower, forcing Gibson to make only two saves in the first 13 minutes before showing flashes of the forecheck that made it successful at Yale. But only flashes.
“We weren’t getting the puck as deep [as against Yale],” Smith said, “and so we weren’t getting the same opportunities.”
The game remained scoreless after two, but Northeastern dynamo Jason Guerriero changed that 56 seconds into the third. He caught Harvard in a slow change after a Crimson power play expired, took a 2-on-1 feed from Mike Morris, and beat Dov Grumet-Morris (22 saves) for his 10th goal of the season.
Harvard tied it six minutes later on the power play when junior Tom Cavanagh tucked a back pass from Noah Welch inside the right post.
But the Huskies moved ahead to stay with about eight minutes left, when they skated through the Crimson’s flat-footed defense for another 2-on-1 goal, this one from Morris. “We didn’t pick up the guys we needed to pick up,” Smith said of the scoring play.
Gibson made the lead stand with three key saves on Harvard freshman Kevin Du—a kick save on a 3-on-2 chance with six minutes left, a sprawling deck stop with 3:15 left, and another 2-on-1 bid 15 seconds later.
The Crimson outshot Northeastern 6-1 over the final five minutes, but the Huskies had the only goal—Ray Ortiz’s empty-netter with 13 seconds left—beginning anew the search for answers that Harvard thought had ended in New Haven.
“We’re looking to catch a flame,” Reese said. “I don’t know what it is … It’s something we have to change going into the playoffs.
“We’re missing something, and we’re trying to find it. When we do, we’re going to be dangerous.”
—Staff writer Jon Paul Morosi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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