NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Powered by over three points per game from the junior forward pairing of Jimmy Vesey and Kyle Criscuolo, the No. 6/6 Harvard men’s ice hockey team entered Friday with the fourth highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 3.7 goals per game.
But in a visit to Ingalls Rink, a venue in which the Crimson (12-7-2, 8-5-2 ECAC) has not won since 2005, the top liners were given little room with which to work. Together, Vesey and Criscuolo mustered just four shots, as Harvard failed to find its rhythm on offense, ultimately falling to Yale, 3-0.
After generating just four shots in the first period, the No. 15/15 Bulldogs (13-6-3, 8-5-2) came out flying in the second. Junior forward Stu Wilson got Yale on the board with a powerful wrister from the right wing in the opening minutes of the frame, shifting momentum in the Bulldogs' favor.
Following an array of Yale scoring chances over the remainder of the period, the Bulldogs finally came away with something to show for their consistent attack when sophomore forward Chris Izmirlian received a pass in the slot in the frame's closing minutes.
Izmirlian lifted his stick, prompting the Crimson to take the bait and send an extra defenseman to defend the shot. But Izmirlian had other ideas. The sophomore instead delivered a pass to an open John Hayden, who tapped the puck past junior goaltender Steve Michalek from the right post to double the Bulldog lead.
“That [goal] hurt,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “That hurt because we had some chances, we killed some penalties off, and [we] had some good saves and good blocked shots. But we needed to keep [the defecit] within one.”
Yale goaltender Alex Lyon provided more than enough validity to that claim, anchoring the Bulldogs with 24 saves in his seventh career shutout, a new school record. The sophomore has allowed just two goals in three games to the Crimson this season, racking up a .975 save percentage over that span.
In the loss, Vesey was held off the score sheet for the first time this season, bringing his streak of 20 consecutive games with a point to an end.
Vesey had four shots on the night, but the Bulldog blue line did everything Yale coach Keith Allain could have asked. The junior found himself on the receiving end of two passes through the crease from Criscuolo and sophomore forward Alex Kerfoot, but the Bulldog backcheck had an answer each time, getting multiple sticks in the way of the Harvard first line’s bread and butter.
“I thought we had some chances to put a couple pucks in the net tonight,” co-captain Max Everson said. “It’s probably a different game if we score a goal in the [first or second period], but I think we started to get away from our game plan a little bit, started to play into their hands.”
After its strong defensive performance in the opening frame, the Crimson watched Yale flip the game around in the second, as the Bulldogs began to frustrate the Harvard attack, which had been building the bulk of its chances out of its own zone. As a result, Yale went on to outshoot the Crimson, 14-5, in the frame.
“As the game wore on, they won more races to pucks and won more battles,” Donato said. “We made a few mistakes on their goals, but really the story of the game was that they outbattled us and outcompeted us.”
Harvard tried to climb back into the game in the third, but Lyon held his ground, sending aside all 11 shots he faced. The Crimson hit two posts, with sophomore forward Sean Malone ringing the iron from high in the slot and junior forward Brian Hart nearly connecting on a poke down low, but Harvard could never find the back of the net.
Fresh off a record-breaking Beanpot performance in which he made 63 saves, Michalek made 32 stops on the night, keeping his team alive when the Bulldogs were on the brink of blowing the game open in the second. Yale’s final score came after the junior had already vacated his net.
Despite Michalek’s recent success, the Crimson is now just 2-6-0 since the start of the new year, having lost its third straight game for the first time all season. On the flip side, the Bulldogs move into a tie with Harvard for third in the conference, seven points behind No. 16/- Quinnipiac and four behind St. Lawrence.
“[Harvard and Yale] are two teams that want to be around when the dust clears at the end,” Donato said. “We know they’re a good hockey team, and we hope that we get a chance to play them somewhere ahead because we expect they’ll be somewhere in the mix. And we hope to be.”
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at email@example.com
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