The Harvard men’s hockey team wasted no time shaking off the exam-period and holiday rust, jumping right out of the gate with five first period goals to come away with a 9-3 victory over the Russian Red Stars in a Sunday night exhibition game at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
In the visitors' third match of six in their annual North American tour, the Crimson put up a strong showing against the Red Stars, an all-star team of 17 to 21-year-old players from the MHL, a 64-club junior hockey league encompassing nine eastern European countries.
The game settled down a bit after the first period, but Harvard (4-7-2, 2-6-2 ECAC) maintained its offensive onslaught with two more goals in the second and two more in the third. The Red Stars fought back with the first goal of the second period and two more in the final frame, but it was not enough to match the Crimson’s highest-scoring game of 2013.
“I think for us coming out of the break it’s a nice opportunity to get a game in and to get some guys some game situations,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “We scored some goals, which makes the coach happy and more importantly it makes the players happy, and I think some guys who might have been squeezing their sticks otherwise felt good to get on the scoreboard tonight.”
Sophomore Jimmy Vesey led the way for the Crimson, recording a hat trick and an assist. Freshman Alexander Kerfoot had four points on the game as well, with one goal and three assists. Twelve Harvard skaters recorded at least one point during the game.
“It was good to come off break,” Vesey said. “We struggled a bit in the first half scoring goals so it’s good to put up nine to get our confidence going, and hopefully it carries into Saturday [against BU]."
Senior Raphael Girard and sophomore Peter Traber split the time in net, recording 18 and 12 saves, respectively.
After Kerfoot opened the scoring with a goal at 6:54 with help from junior Patrick McNally, Harvard netted four goals in the span of less than three minutes.
Vesey immediately took advantage of a power-play opportunity with a one-time shot from the left crease after a soft pass from sophomore Kyle Criscuolo to make it 2-0. Senior David Valek scored 13 seconds later, tapping in a pass from streaking junior Tommy O’Regan.
After the Red Stars replaced goaltender Vascheslav Volkov with Artur Khaniarova following the Crimson's third goal, Harvard continued to pile onto its lead with two goals within 77 seconds of each other.
Freshman Phil Zielonka put a shot through the legs of Khaniarova near the left post after a cross-ice pass from Criscuolo off a Harvard faceoff win in the left circle. Freshman Luke Esposito capped off the first-period scoring for the Crimson with an elevated backhand shot over the sprawled Red Star goalie following a deflection off sophomore Brian Hart’s leg.
“[The Red Stars] are used to playing in a big rink. They play on an Olympic size rink [in Europe], so they tend to rely on skill and stick-handling,” Vesey said. “We play on a smaller rink and with a more physical style, and I think that caught them off guard a bit.”
The Red Stars began the second period looking to mount a comeback and adjust to Harvard’s style of play, as Alexei Shamin netted a power-play goal just under two minutes into the frame.
But the Crimson responded later in the period with another quick burst, scoring two goals in 29 seconds. Freshman Sean Malone capitalized on strong passing by Hart and freshman Clay Anderson during a Crimson man-advantage, and junior Ryan McGregor put back a rebound off a McNally slap-shot to make it 7-1 with six minutes left in the second.
In the final frame, Vesey potted his second goal of the night 49 seconds into the period with help from Hart and Malone. The sophomore completed the hat trick less than eight game minutes later on the power play. Alexandr Timirev and Alexander Kuvaev scored for the Red Stars.
Harvard, which entered the game ranked tenth-worst on the power play among Division I teams with a 13.5% success rate, finished the night 5-for-6 performance on the man-advantage.
“It’s nice to build some confidence on special teams, on the power play,” Donato said. “That’s an area we continue to work on and we need to continue to improve upon to have success in the rest of the season.”
—Staff writer David A. Mazza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.