Looking for its first winning streak this season, the Harvard men’s ice hockey team faced up against a then-winless Dartmouth squad Saturday night.
But despite having scored half of its goals this season so far in the third period, the Crimson (4-6-1, 2-5-1 ECAC) could not muster another late goal and it was the Big Green (1-8-0, 1-6-0, ECAC) who netted the decisive score in the final frame, downing Harvard, 2-1, in the Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H.
Though the Crimson had its fair share of chances in its second road game in a string of four straight, Harvard was only able to net one goal and unable to convert on any of its six power-play opportunities.
“We sort of shot ourselves in the foot,” freshman forward Sean Malone said. “We probably could have put a few in on the power play because we had a lot of power-play chances. But we didn’t capitalize.”
The failed night on the power play also snaps a streak of six straight games in which the Crimson had a man-up goal, after four straight games to start the season without a power-play score.
Sophomore forward Jimmy Vesey had the lone goal for Harvard, a second period tally that opened up the scoring on the night. Malone was able to intercept an opposing pass and then find Vesey in the slot who put it in the net on the far side past Big Green sophomore goalie Charles Grant.
The point makes Malone second amongst Harvard rookies in points, with his six points second to Luke Esposito’s seven. Overall the Crimson’s freshmen have had a fairly strong showing so far this season, with seven of the nine logging at least a point.
“The freshmen are starting to settle in,” sophomore forward Kyle Criscuolo said. “They are starting to gain more confidence which is huge for us… We just need them to keep doing what they are doing and not try to do too much and understand they are going to be key players for us now and moving forward.”
Dartmouth responded soon after, with freshman forward Grant Opperman knotting the score at one-all just over three minutes later at 13:34 in the second frame, with help from sophomores Brad Schierhorn and Geoff Ferguson.
The score remained tied for most of the rest of the game, until Big Green junior forward Eric Neiley broke through with a goal at 17:19 in the third, assisted by junior Brandon McNally and sophomore Ryan Bullock.
With the goal Neiley builds on his team-leading eight points and six goals, and Bullock builds on his team-leading six assists as the top-scoring defenseman on the team.
Dartmouth was able to withstand Harvard’s extra-man attack with a pulled goalie with in the final minute, holding on for the 2-1 victory, the team’s first of the season.
Overall the Big Green outshot the Crimson, 35-23, while Harvard won the overall face-off battle, 30-24. Grant came up with 22 saves over the usual Dartmouth goalie, senior Cab Morris, to secure the win.
For the visiting Crimson, senior goalie Raphael Girard’s second straight game of 33 saves proved not to be enough on Saturday.
“He’s been solid for us,” Malone said. “[There was] a lot of point blank chances… and it’s huge to have him back there, someone you can rely on. Championship teams have really good goaltenders and having Raph in the net is huge for us and definitely helps out defensively.”
Harvard continued its strong penalty-kill, shutting out the Big Green on the two power-play chances, improving to a kill-rate of 90.5 percent, good for third in the nation. Advanced scouting and prep work, along with Girard in net, is a big reason why the Crimson continues to do well in this area.
“We always do work in terms of video before each game on each team’s power play and how we are going to prevent them from scoring,” Malone said. “It’s something we take pride and we have some good penalty killers.”
With its first win of the season, Dartmouth continues to plague Harvard, picking up its ninth win of the last 15 matchups, unbeaten in nine of the last ten. The Crimson will look to bounce back next weekend in its final two ECAC games of 2013, on the road against Brown and reigning NCAA champion Yale.
—Staff writer David A. Mazza can be reached at email@example.com.
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