In the end, Harvard had the answer.
Battling from behind for most of the game, No. 20 University of New Hampshire refused to quit, coming back from a 2-0 and then a 3-2 deficit.
But the Wildcats (7-7-1, 5-3-0 Hockey East) could not overcome the Crimson’s 41-second, two-goal outburst with just over six minutes left in the third period, and the Harvard men’s hockey team (4-5-1, 2-4-1 ECAC) came away with the victory on Tuesday night at the Towse Rink in Durham, N.H.
Heading into the third period down 3-2, the Wildcats tied it up with senior Dalton Speelman’s power-play goal. The forward was able to poke it past Harvard senior goalie Raphael Girard, squeezing it by the right post on the second shot of the possession. This was only the fourth power-play goal allowed by the nation’s third best penalty-killing unit.
Sophomore Kyle Criscuolo broke the tie for the Crimson, tallying his second goal of the game, banking the puck off the left pad of UNH netminder Jeff Wyer and into the back of the net. Junior Tommy O’Regan was credited with the assist.
“The whole game was back and forth,” Criscuolo said. “They were gaining a little bit of momentum. We tried to stick to the game plan, get pucks to the net, and on the fourth goal it went in from behind the net.”
O’Regan soon made it 6-3 with a goal of his own, sending a sharp pass from freshman Luke Esposito past Wyer to the right side of the net.
Harvard made the most of its opportunities throughout the night, while the Wildcats out-shot the Crimson, 36-21. Girard, who is currently third in the nation with a .947 save percentage, collected 33 saves on the night.
“We wouldn’t have won the game if we weren’t in net,” Criscuolo said. “I think we all have confidence when he’s in the net—he battles. Once he makes the first save, he’s going to battle to make sure he’s in position to make the second one.”
The Crimson was able to jump out to an early lead in the first period, as Esposito and Criscuolo each scored to put Harvard up, 2-0.
A little over three minutes into the game, Esposito netted his second goal in as many contests, assisted by O’Regan, who sent a pass across the ice, right to left. After an interference penalty by UNH, Harvard took the advantage on a Criscuolo goal, as the forward was able to one-time a pass from junior Patrick McNally.
But the Wildcats soon erased this lead, scoring two goals within a minute and a half near the end of the second period. Dan Correale beat Girard stick side after a strong move to get past the Crimson defense. Grayson Dowling then made it 2-2 with a shot near the right crease that beat Girard high glove side.
Harvard knocked in its third goal soon thereafter, as freshman Alexander Kerfoot fired a shot with 1:20 left in the second period that just trickled through the legs of Wyer.
Kerfoot’s goal made it two on the night for the Crimson’s rookies, whose solid contributions bode well for the squad’s future.
“I think [playing collegiate hockey] is definitely a transition,” freshman Sean Malone said. “I think we have a lot of skill. We are just really young at this point. As we play more games and get a lot more experience, we will be better and more patient with the puck.”
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