Sophomore center Sean Malone returned to the ice with a power play goal and two assists as the No. 9/8 Harvard men’s ice hockey team (8-1-2, 4-1-2 ECAC) defeated Princeton (2-8-1, 1-6-0 ECAC), 4-3, at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink on Friday.
After missing the first 11 games of the season, Malone scored a backhander at 1:35 in the third period to break a 2-2 tie and give the Crimson its final lead of the night. Five minutes later, he assisted classmate Tyler Moy on another power play goal, which would prove to be the game-winner.
“It was stressful at the beginning of the season not playing,” Malone said. “I’m glad to be back and I think I showed that last night.”
With leading scorer Alex Kerfoot out of the lineup for the first time this season, Harvard welcomed Malone’s return. The reigning co-Ivy League Rookie of the Year led the Crimson on a challenging night for the visitors, who peppered Princeton goaltender Colton Phinney with a season-high 55 shots yet struggled to create separation on the scoreboard.
The Crimson jumped out to a two-goal lead early in the second period, but Princeton drew even by the middle frame’s end.
Defenseman Brayden Jaw struck first for Harvard with his first goal of the season at 13:52 in the first period. The junior beat Phinney with a strong shot from the point off assists from junior forwards Luke Esposito and Greg Gozzo.
At 6:52 in the second period, freshman forward Jake Horton pushed the Crimson’s lead to 2-0, powering a drop pass from Malone on the rush at the top of the right slot.
Despite being outshot more than two-to-one, Princeton climbed back into the game in the second half of the second period with a pair of strikes from defensemen.
Sophomore Tommy Davis picked up the Tigers’ first goal of the night on the power play, beating Harvard goaltender Steve Michalek blocker-side with a wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle. Freshman Joe Grabowski followed at 18:16, knocking in a rebound after Michalek lost his footing stopping an initial two-on-one opportunity created by forwards Max Becker and Kyle Rankin.
Both goals were collegiate firsts for the blue liners. Princeton’s best defender on the night, however, was in net. Phinney finished with a career-high 51 stops, turning away flurries of Harvard opportunities throughout the game.
In the third, Malone and Moy gave Harvard a new two-goal lead to defend. Junior forward Jimmy Vesey extended his point streak to 11 games with the primary assist on Malone’s goal. Moy passed his freshman goal total from last season at 6:39 in the period with his fifth tally of the season.
After converting on two of four power play opportunities on the night, Harvard has now scored on 32% of its chances this season, tops in the ECAC. Quinnipiac has the next highest conversion rate with 23%.
“We’ve been really successful [on the power play],” Malone said. “Even when we have guys out, we have other guys that can step in and produce.”
Senior Princeton forward Aaron Kesselman cut Harvard’s lead in half with just over three minutes left in regulation, but the visitors held on for their fifth straight win. With the victory, the Crimson moved into sole possession of second place in the ECAC. The team will visit first place Quinnipiac on Saturday.
—Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MDLedecky.
—Staff writer Kurt Bullard can be reached at email@example.com.
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