The Harvard men’s hockey team (8-12-3, 4-9-3 ECAC) found itself in a familiar place Monday evening against Boston University (8-16-4, 3-8-3 Hockey East) at the TD Garden.
Playing in its sixth straight consolation game and its 15th in 16 years, the Crimson faced the Terriers in the consolation match of the annual Beanpot tournament for the second straight campaign and third time in four years.
Like last season, Harvard trailed BU at the first intermission after the Terriers struck first at 10:42. The goal was the only score in the period and Harvard trailed, 1-0, after 20 minutes.
But the second period was another story, as the Crimson erupted for three goals in the first seven minutes, continuing the offensive dominance Harvard has shown against BU in its past four matchups. In fact, the Crimson has netted 26 goals in these four games, all Harvard victories.
The Terriers attempted to mount a comeback in the third period, scoring at 7:20 to cut the deficit to two. However, the Crimson responded with a goal of its own just 37 seconds after the BU strike, making the score 4-2 and ending any momentum that BU had just gained. Harvard went on to add two more goals in the final three minutes of the game to cap off a 6-2 victory.
“I think we are happy to get the win,” coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “I thought our guys battled. We threw a lot of pucks at the net. I thought our hard work got rewarded with a couple bounces, as well. We are happy to get the win and hopefully it will help us coming down the stretch.”
With its fourth straight third-place finish in the Beanpot, Harvard won consecutive games for the first time this year. It also recorded its second victory after trailing after one period, both wins coming against the Terriers. In previous years, the Crimson defeated BU in the 2011 and 2013 consolation matches.
Sophomore goaltender Steve Michalek stopped 25 shots for Harvard, becoming the first Crimson goalie since the turn of the century to win two career Beanpot games. Harvard’s penalty kill shutout the Terriers, 0-3, improving to 82-94 (87.2 percent) on the season, good for fifth in the nation.
Early on in the first period, the Crimson showcased strong play, leading the Terriers shots, 10-5. But midway through the period, Terrier Evan Rodrigues fired a one-time wrist shot past Michalek after receiving a pass from Robbie Baillargeon.
In the second period, sophomore Kyle Criscuolo began the scoring onslaught for Harvard, beating BU goalie Sean Maguire with a slapshot from the top of the right circle at 1:14 that tied up the game at one goal apiece.
“[Criscuolo] actually looked at me right before we went out for the second and said ‘I got one here’,” said freshman linemate Luke Esposito, who had two goals of his own. “And sure enough, first shift he rung one off the post.”
Sophomore Brian Hart soon followed just over two minutes later, sending a shot from near the crease through Maguire’s five-hole to give Harvard its first lead of the night, one that it would not relinquish all evening.
Esposito took advantage of a rebound off a shot by Criscuolo, making it 3-1 for the Crimson, scoring one of the three goals the two combined for on the evening.
“It’s nice playing with guys with that much speed and that kind of work ethic, [who are as] relentless on the puck as Kyle and [sophomore] Greg Gozzo [are],” Esposito said. “So it just makes it easier whether you are that high guy or that guy helping him.”
Ahti Oksanen, who leads the Terriers in points, cut Harvard’s lead to two with a goal. Oksanen scored while gliding down the left side after receiving a pass across the ice from Rodrigues.
But the Crimson benefited from a fortunate bounce soon after, as BU captain Ryan Macgregor deflected a shot from Esposito that redirected past Maguire and into the net. The Terriers could not find the net after this, and Harvard scored an empty net goal from sophomore Jimmy Vesey, as well as a goal from freshman Tyler Moy with 26 seconds left in the game.
This contest also marks the final nonconference game of the season for Harvard. It looks once again to use the consolation game victory to drive some momentum for the final six games of the regular season.
“Last week was very disappointing but I thought our guys bounced back,” Donato said. “We are a young team and we are constantly improving…. But most importantly, I think we are trying to get some momentum so we are playing our best hockey at the end of the season.”
—Staff writer David A. Mazza can be reached at email@example.com.