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PRINCETON, N.J.—One night after falling flat against No. 4/3 Quinnipiac, the Harvard men’s ice hockey team took the ice against Princeton on Saturday night aiming to make a statement. And make a statement it did—just not the biggest one of the night.
The No. 7/6 Crimson skated circles around last-place Princeton in the opening period, launching 15 shots on target in the frame and finishing with a season-high 42 for the game. But Tiger goaltender Colton Phinney had a statement of his own to make.
One season removed from his 51-save performance against the Crimson at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink, Phinney stopped every shot he saw on Saturday. The only difference in the game—the one shot Phinney failed to see.
Stationed between two Tiger skaters right above the goalmouth early in the first period, Jimmy Vesey, a finalist for the Hobey Baker award last season, redirected a Desmond Bergin blast from the point past Phinney to lift Harvard to victory in the house that Hobey built.
Vesey’s goal, paired with two empty-netters from sophomore defenseman Clay Anderson and junior forward Alex Kerfoot in the game’s final minute, paved the way for a 3-0 Harvard victory, as the Crimson (4-1-1, 4-1-1 ECAC) held off a Princeton squad (1-5-0, 0-4-0) that hardly looked the part of an ECAC cellar-dweller.
“Princeton came ready to play,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “In the first period, we came out and tried to reestablish our identity…. I’m happy with our guys. We got our hard hats on again after a tough one last night.”
Having escaped the first period down only one score, the Tigers emerged from the locker room after the intermission looking like a whole new squad. Princeton generated 19 shots in the middle frame, testing sophomore goaltender Merrick Madsen early and often after spending very little time in the attacking zone in the first.
Manning the crease for the first time in two weeks, Madsen was unfazed by the revitalized Tiger attack. The sophomore cut out a number of Princeton wristshots throughout the final two periods, coming up with huge stops against Tiger right wingers David Hallisey and Alex Riche to preserve his second clean sheet.
On the former chance midway through the second, Madsen thwarted Hallisey’s backhanded attempt on the doorstep with a poke-check after the sophomore made his way in on goal all alone. On the latter opportunity, Madsen left a rare rebound in front but cleaned up the mess, stoning Riche’s second-chance opportunity.
“I thought Merrick was excellent all night,” Donato said. “He looked calm down there, played a lot of good pucks out of the zone on dump-ins, and let us get out of the zone a little easier.”
Madsen’s 38-save effort may be enough to move the sophomore ahead of rookie Michael Lackey—Friday’s starter—on Donato’s goaltending depth chart. But the performance of the night belonged to the man commanding the opposing crease.
Entering the weekend with the third best save percentage in the ECAC, Phinney kept his team in contention with one timely save after another. The junior stoned Vesey seven times on the night, once following some masterful stick work from the Hobey hopeful on his left post and again on a rocket from the top of the slot.
But Vesey was not the only member of the first line to put pressure on the netminder. Phinney’s biggest save of the game came partway through the second period when co-captain Kyle Criscuolo cleanly fed Kerfoot across the crease on a 2-on-1. The junior lifted his stick hand, spun through the air, and somehow found a way to keep Kerfoot’s one-timer out of the net, keeping the score 1-0.
The Crimson first line was a force on Saturday, setting the tone for a different-looking Harvard lineup which saw junior forwards Tyler Moy and Luke Esposito skate on the second line for the first time all year with senior Colin Blackwell out for the weekend.
‘We stopped trying to make too many plays through the neutral zone, got it down low, and started to play the way we were playing last year,” said Criscuolo about his line. “[We] played below the circles…because ECAC hockey, you’ve got to play down low.”
The score line remained the same until Princeton coach Ron Fogarty was forced to call his team’s most valuable player to the sideline, enabling Anderson and Kerfoot to hit the open net. Anderson hurled the puck the length of the ice to double the Crimson’s lead with 56 seconds remaining, and Kerfoot delivered a second score with 20 ticks left to seal Harvard’s fourth win of the season.
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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