It’s not very often an Ivy League team is ranked No. 1 in a major college sport, and the Harvard men’s hockey team learned Saturday night why its rivals from Yale had earned such a distinction.
The Bulldogs (14-1-0, 8-0-0 ECAC, 4-0-0 Ivy) topped the Crimson (3-11-0, 2-9-0, 0-5-0) by a score of 4-2, with four different Yale players tallying goals in front of the sold-out crowd of 3,076 at Bright Hockey Center. Yale took advantage of seven Harvard penalties by scoring twice on power plays to earn the win, despite Crimson senior goaltender Ryan Carroll’s 35 saves.
“You don’t always get the chance to play the number one team in the country,” sophomore forward David Valek said. “Obviously we were really excited for the game. Going in we knew we could play with them; it was just about sticking to our gameplan, playing hard, and being tough mentally and physically.”
Neither team scored in the opening frame. Senior forward Michael Biega had Harvard’s best chance on a power play, but his shot from the right deflected off Yale senior goalie Ryan Rondeau’s leg and went wide. The Bulldogs had a good look later in the period, but Carroll denied forward Broc Little’s attempt from point-blank range.
“[Carroll] hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to play but when he does he plays well,” co-captain Chris Huxley said. “He made a lot of big saves look easy.”
Yale got the scoring started early in the second period by netting two goals in a span of 48 seconds. Two minutes and 57 seconds into the frame, freshman Kenny Agostino put back the rebound of a long shot from teammate Josh Baich to give the Bulldogs the 1-0 advantage.
Fifteen seconds later, Harvard sophomore Danny Biega was called for tripping, and Yale made its hosts pay when senior Chris Cahill sent a slap shot over Carroll’s left shoulder after a rush up the left side.
“They have a different lineup [than most teams] with more skilled guys,” Huxley said. “We had to know who was on the ice; we had to watch out for their key players and respect everyone.”
Later in the period at 9:17, Biega atoned for his penalty by halving the Bulldog lead. The defenseman took successive passes from teammates Luke Greiner and Conor Morrison, moving in from high on the right side of the zone and putting the puck past Rondeau with a low shot from the face-off circle’s edge.
“Danny’s obviously one of our best defensemen, but he’s got great offensive skills,” Valek said. “He’s a guy we rely on a lot to make big plays.”
After outshooting the Crimson 15-8 in the second period, the Yale offense kept up the high-powered pace in the third. Four minutes and 53 seconds into the frame, senior Brendan Mason took the puck from behind the goal line and came around the net from the left side, putting it past Carroll to extend the Bulldog lead to 3-1.
Soon after, Harvard senior forward Matt McCollem was called for a five-minute boarding penalty, and Yale cashed in on the advantage 40 seconds into the ensuing power play when junior Chad Ziegler took a pass from Little and fired a one-timer past Carroll.
“We were right there with them when we played five-on-five, but when we started taking penalties, that’s when we ran into trouble,” sophomore forward Marshall Everson said.
“I think they’re around thirty percent on the power play,” Valek added. “We took too many penalties. You can’t really win when you dig yourself that big of a hole, and we put ourselves in a tough position.”
Biega tallied his second goal with 37 seconds remaining, after a Bulldog penalty and Carroll’s pulling gave the Crimson a two-man advantage. The sophomore took a pass from junior forward Alex Killorn and fired a shot past Rondeau from the right circle to make the score 4-2, which is what it would be when the final buzzer sounded.