Nolan Vesey is no longer the only Vesey sibling with a collegiate hat trick to his name.
For the No. 7/8 Harvard men’s hockey team, the end of Nolan’s bragging rights could not have come at a better time.
After the Crimson failed to find twine in the first 40 minutes of play Friday night against No. 18/- St. Lawrence, three goals from co-captain Jimmy Vesey in the span of less than five minutes provided the offensive surge needed for Harvard to take down the Saints (10-9-2, 4-4-1 ECAC), 3-2.
“We had to grind it out in a way that wasn’t pretty,” Vesey said. “But that’s a huge two points in the ECAC.”
Vesey’s first strike came just over three minutes into the final frame. With 31 seconds left on a 4-on-4, the Predators prospect skated from the right corner behind the net and out to the blue line, bringing a St. Lawrence defenseman with him. Then he turned on a dime, leaving his man behind as he charged towards net. A deke spun another defenseman around, opening a shooting lane that Vesey took full advantage of, flicking a backhander top-shelf to beat sophomore goaltender Kyle Hayton and pull Harvard (9-3-3, 5-2-3) even.
Less than two-and-a-half minutes later, the former Hobey Baker finalist struck again, moving from the right boards at the blue line to between the faceoff circles. The senior let go a wrister just before absorbing a huge hit, but the puck found the net nonetheless, giving Harvard a 2-1 advantage with 13:45 left to play.
And, just in case the one-goal lead would not suffice, Vesey took matters into his own hands one more time less than three minutes later for his final tally of the night. Skating between two defensemen and around another, the Charlestown native threatened a backhand shot but instead beat Layton’s right pad on the forehand to notch his first career hat trick on an unassisted effort.
“I’m happy he’s on my team,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “Jimmy certainly made a lot of big-time plays.“
Vesey’s third goal was more than just a ceremonial achievement. St. Lawrence would strike with 1:31 remaining to cut the lead to one, as senior forward Sean McGovern poked in a rebound that eluded the glove of sophomore goaltender Merrick Madsen, who was trying to freeze the puck. But the Crimson managed to prevent the Saints from finding an equalizer in the last 91 seconds, giving Harvard its first win over St. Lawrence since Feb. 24, 2012.
“For the last 10 minutes, I thought we did a lot of good things—getting pucks deep, holding onto pucks, not giving them any odd-number rushes,” Donato said.
At the end of the second period, it looked as if the Saints might have been able to pull out a win thanks to a bit of luck halfway through the contest. On not the prettiest of plays, Saints sophomore Joe Sullivan drove left towards the goal line with associate captain Alexander Dahl waiting in front. The Vegas native threw the puck weakly on net to generate some sort of action in front for Dahl to capitalize on, but instead saw the puck beat a confused Madsen five-hole to give his squad an early lead.
“I thought Merrick looked solid for the most part,” Donato said. “The first goal is one I’m sure he’d like to have back.”
The goal came after both teams were unable to find a rhythm offensively in the early portion of the game. Despite three Crimson power plays paired with one for St. Lawrence in the first frame, the teams only combined for 14 shots on goal. Harvard's top line of Vesey, Kyle Criscuolo, and Alexander Kerfoot had just two.
“Our line’s kind of the one that likes to get stuff of the rush, and [St. Lawrence] doesn’t give you a lot of space to do that,” Vesey said.
Junior forward Tyler Moy looked to have Harvard on the board for a moment in the first frame. Senior defenseman Desmond Bergin rocketed a shot from the point which bounced off of Hayton’s chest and popped into the air, enabling Moy to put it home. But the refs immediately deemed that Moy struck the puck above the crossbar—a high-sticking call that would stand after further review.
In what was for most of the game a low-scoring contest, neither team was able to break through on special teams—a familiar fate for the Saints, but not the Crimson. St. Lawrence entered the game last in the conference in power play conversion rate with a rate of 11 percent, which it did not help with an 0-for-3 performance. Harvard, despite having scored on 15 of 52 chances coming into the game, failed to deliver on any of its four chances.
—Staff writer Kurt T. Bullard can be reached at email@example.com.
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