HAMDEN, Conn.—The Harvard men’s ice hockey team enters the December break with a lead to defend.
Junior goaltender Steve Michalek made a career-high 43 saves as the No. 9/8 Crimson (9-1-2, 5-1-2 ECAC) defeated the No. 15/15 Quinnipiac Bobcats (10-5-1, 6-2-0), 5-2, at High Point Solutions Arena on Saturday. In its last game before the exam week recess, Harvard picked up its sixth straight win to tie Quinnipiac for first place in the ECAC conference standings.
“The power play made some good plays, and after that, I think we did some good things,” Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “We won a lot of battles and footraces. It’s a nice way to finish off before the break.”
With time winding down in the second period and Harvard on the man advantage, sophomore center Sean Malone corralled a rebound off a slap shot from defenseman Patrick McNally and backhanded the puck around the left pad of Bobcats’ goaltender Michael Garteig as the buzzer sounded.
After review, officials determined that the puck crossed the line with 0.8 seconds left on the clock to give the Crimson a 3-1 lead heading into the final frame.
The goal capped a productive second period for the Harvard power play. Sophomore Phil Zielonka capitalized on a failed Quinnipiac clearing attempt to break a one-all tie at 12:03 in the second period, seconds after the Crimson’s second power play of the game expired.
After missing the first 10 games of the season to injury, Malone finished his first weekend back with two goals and two assists.
“We were obviously holding our breath waiting for [Malone] to come back,” Donato said. “He was pretty amazing for how well he played, for just being tossed in…. He really made some big plays for us and [gave] us another dynamic.”
Harvard is now waiting for the return of its other top sophomore center, Alex Kerfoot, who missed both games this weekend with an undisclosed injury.
The visitors carried the momentum from Malone’s goal into the final frame. Junior forward Jimmy Vesey lifted a drop pass from junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo to beat Garteig top-left at 4:23 in the period and extend the Crimson’s lead to three. The goal was Vesey’s team-leading ninth of the season and extended his point streak to 12 games.
Harvard got out to a quick start yet still looked shaky in the opening minutes.
Criscuolo netted the Crimson’s fastest goal of the season 16 seconds into the game, picking up a rebound off the first shot of the night from sophomore linemate Tyler Moy. Yet the Bobcats controlled the first period play from there, with junior forward Travis St. Denis scoring the equalizer less than two minutes after Criscuolo’s strike.
Steady goaltending and opportunistic special teams helped Harvard turn things around in the last two periods.
Gaining confidence as the game progressed, Michalek made one timely save after another, matching his career-high save total. He came up with his best stop midway through the third period, kicking aside a break away attempt from first line Quinnipiac forward Sam Anas.
“I think all of us have been a lot more consistent,” said Michalek of the Crimson’s quick start to the season. “We’ve really developed an identity; I think I’ve developed an identity. We have a ton of confidence in each other right now.”
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