NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Jimmy Vesey has a flair for the dramatic. Sunday at Ingalls Rink, the junior scoring specialist’s eyes “lit up” when he saw his chance to end the longest game in Harvard history.
In the 97th minute of a decisive Game 3, Vesey punched in a double-overtime winner to beat No. 12/12 Yale, 3-2, and send the No. 18/- Crimson men’s ice hockey team (19-12-3, 11-8-3 ECAC) to the ECAC tournament semifinals.
“Luckily I beat my man off the wall, and my eyes lit up when I saw [the puck],” Vesey said.
With just over three minutes remaining in the second overtime period, the junior forward picked up a rebound from fourth-year defenseman Patrick McNally off the right pad of Bulldog sophomore goaltender Alex Lyon and lifted it blocker-side.
“It truly was a series that nobody deserved to lose,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “This was...an epic struggle for both teams.”
Sixth-seeded Harvard will play top-seeded Quinnipiac in the semifinal round at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Friday with a chance to advance to the conference final on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (18-9-5, 12-6-4), meanwhile, finish their tournament having beaten Harvard four times this year, but two losses on home ice this weekend leave coach Keith Allain’s team 18th in the PairWise Rankings, outside of an unlikely at-large NCAA berth. The Crimson had entered the weekend without a win at Yale since 2005.
“It was a big mental hurdle, I think, to win the series,” Donato said.
Harvard cleared its biggest hurdle late in the third period.
Trailing, 2-1, late in regulation, the Crimson had struggled to pressure a smothering Yale defense that held the visitors to two shots on goal in the first 12 minutes of the frame. The Bulldogs entered the night undefeated (17-0-1) this season when leading after two periods, while Harvard (0-9-1) had yet to win a game while trailing after two periods.
But with under four minutes to play, Harvard received a spark from a combination that would have seemed unlikely as early as three weeks ago.
Fourth-year forward Colin Blackwell, skating on the second line after returning from a long-term injury in the final weekend of the regular season, cut into the Yale zone and created space at the left point for McNally, who ripped a wrist shot through the legs of Lyon.