In last season’s game against Union, goalkeeper Steve Michalek learned why a two-goal lead is never safe in hockey.
After the host Crimson jumped to a 2-0 first period advantage, the Dutchmen pounded Michalek with 47 shots. Four of them found the back of the net, and Union, which would win the national championship later that season, came back for a 4-2 victory.
Michalek may not be able to replay that loss, but last Saturday, he did his best to erase it.
With eleven seconds left in overtime, and Harvard clinging to a 2-2 deadlock after surrendering another 2-0 lead, a Union forward beat the Crimson defense for a point-blank chance against Michalek. But the 6’2” goalkeeper smothered the opportunity to ensure a tie against the No. 8 Dutchmen.
Over the game, Michalek recorded 42 saves, one shy of the career high that he set in last year’s defeat against Union. Many of his heroics came late, as the Dutchmen outshot Harvard 27-13 over the third frame and overtime. The Union game marked Michalek’s second impressive performance off the weekend. The day before, the goaltender had earned his third career shutout in a 4-0 win over RPI.
“Michalek handled a tremendous amount of pressure around the net,” Crimson coach Ted Donato said. “[He] made some big saves.”
Not every college goalkeeper can boast more than 40 games of experience, but Michalek, who will eclipse 2500 minutes on the ice in his next game, has played 45.
As a freshman, Michalek beat out then-sophomore Raphael Girard for the starting job. Michalek played in 24 games and recorded nearly 600 saves. However, Girard took over in February when Michalek conceded three early goals in a game against Quinnipiac.
The storyline was reversed in the 2013-2014 season. After returning from a year with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the USHL, Michalek watched Girard rise to the top of the depth chart.
Then, in February, Harvard suffered a 6-0 loss to Northeastern. This time it was Michalek who skated off the bench and into a sudden starting role.
Michalek’s experience extends beyond the Crimson team. In addition to playing with the RoughRiders, the goalkeeper played for the U.S. U-18 national team in an international tournament and was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
“For us to be a good team, we’re going to have to rely on him a lot,” junior forward Jimmy Vesey said. “It’s good to see him playing well already.”