No Historic Comeback This Time

Rebecca A. Seesel

Captain and defenseman Pete Hafner and the Crimson were unable to overcome Yale’s 3-1 advantage—unlike two years ago at Ingalls Rink, when Harvard pulled off a dramatic comeback after being down 4-0 in the first period and 5-2 in the sec

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—They entered the weekend as polar opposites: Harvard floating atop the conference standings and Yale, still winless in the ECAC, mired at its cellar.

“But I think you can pretty much throw the records out when these two play,” said Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91 after the Bulldogs beat No. 14 Harvard 4-3 yesterday at Ingalls Rink. “Great rivalry, great tradition.”

Of course, we know all this already. The centuries of enmity and the inexhaustible competition for bragging rights—they make close games of certain blowouts, and they pack the stands time after time.

Two seasons ago, Harvard trailed Yale 4-0 after one period and 5-2 after two in New Haven. But twenty minutes and five unanswered goals later, the Crimson pulled off a comeback that even its players admitted they weren’t expecting.

And it was that game, that one merciless period, that “kind of broke the Yale hockey spirit for a while,” said Bulldogs coach Tim Taylor ’63.

“We’ve had some long postgame wakes, so to speak.”

Harvard (7-4-1, 6-4-0) dug itself another hole yesterday afternoon.

After opening up its conference season with an 0-6-0 stretch, Yale (3-8-0, 2-6-0) downed Brown 5-2 Friday night and manufactured a 4-1 lead over the Crimson after two frames yesterday. Outskated and outmuscled from the start, the visitors took a full 40 minutes to warm up.

“I thought that 4-1 was a fair score,” Taylor said, “but I knew Harvard had more to show.”

Memories of the Crimson’s 2004 comeback haven’t faded yet.

“How many goals do we have to score before we feel comfortable with the lead?” one Yale fan asked, to which his friend replied, “About 20.”

Defenseman Tom Walsh brought the score to 4-2 with just over eight minutes to play, and forward Charlie Johnson brought Harvard to within one at 18:44, after goaltender Justin Tobe had been pulled for an extra skater.

“That third period was vintage Harvard hockey,” Taylor said. “We just couldn’t get it out of our end.”

Finally skating with life, the Crimson outshot the Bulldogs 18-4 in the final frame.

“If we’d played like that all night...” sophomore Jon Pelle lamented.

The weekend sweep moved Yale into a three-way tie for last—a small victory, to be sure, but a victory nonetheless.

“We’re building it back up,” vowed Taylor, who skated six freshmen, including Alec Richards in goal.

Music wafted out of the Bulldogs’ locker room as Taylor spoke, and his players’ shouts echoed down the tunnel. Twenty yards away, outside the visitors’ locker room, things weren’t so merry.

Harvard players readied to board their bus in a two-way tie for second. Beat the conference whipping boy, and the Crimson would have been in first. Not that the standings mean much in December, anyway—but two points now is two more points down the stretch.

“I don’t think their record to this point really is indicative of the talent they have,” Donato said of Yale. “Having said that, I am certainly disappointed that we didn’t play better.

“We didn’t respond to their pressure and their physicality the way I liked, and we got what we deserved,” he said.

—Staff writer Rebecca A. Seesel can be reached at