Decade-long streaks weren’t only snapped on the gridiron this weekend in Cambridge.
One night before Yale’s football team surprisingly spoiled Saturday, the icemen from Harvard also tried the streak-stopper role on for size. Up against a third-ranked Boston College team it had not beaten at home since 2006, the No. 11/10 Crimson exploded for five goals—including three third-period tallies within a single minute—en route to a 5-2 victory at a sold-out Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
That single minute transformed a back-and-forth contest into a trouncing. In a span of 49 seconds, all three members of the Crimson’s solely senior second line lit the lamp, paving the way for Harvard (5-1-1, 2-1-1 ECAC) to hand No. 3 BC (10-3-1, 5-0-1 Hockey East) its first defeat in over a month.
Just as a Crimson power play—one on the tail end of a Harvard 5-on-3—was set to expire early in the third period, Luke Esposito kicked off the rapid rally with a scrappy conversion amid a scrum in front of freshman goaltender Joe Woll, putting the Crimson up, 3-1.
Before play even had a chance to restart, the officials whistled the Eagles’ Casey Fitzgerald for roughing, sending Harvard’s power play unit right back onto the ice. And Tyler Moy made BC pay, ripping a slapper from the top of the right faceoff circle over Woll’s glove to make it 4-1. Sixteen seconds later, Sean Malone poked another loose puck past Woll, bringing the rookie’s night to a premature close.
“I thought Harvard played better than we did tonight,” BC coach Jerry York said. “They were just a little more intense, just a little quicker than we were…. I was really impressed with Harvard’s team. I’m sure we’ll see them later on during the year, so it’s our objective to be better the next time we play them.”
If the two sides do meet again this season, it would have to be either in the second round of the Beanpot or in the NCAA tournament, where the Eagles ended the Crimson’s 2015-2016 campaign with a 4-1 opening-round victory back in March.
Earlier in the week, Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 deflected talk about the last meeting, preaching how each year’s a new year. But presenting a different perspective after the game, Moy revealed that the contest in March was “definitely” on everyone’s mind and that playing well against BC is something members of the team “take pride in.”
“It’s a bitter taste in your mouth when they ended our season last year, so we were coming back for vengeance,” Moy said. “We put together a good effort. Everyone knew what was on the line here.”
Moy, who leads the Crimson with 11 points through seven games, finished with two goals on the night. In addition to his power-play strike in the third, Harvard’s player of the game—a designation confirmed by the hat Moy wore at the podium—notched the go-ahead goal late in the second period.
With the score even at one, Malone threw a shot at Woll from behind the net that somehow slipped through the freshman’s pads. Standing all alone by the opposite post was Moy, who tapped in perhaps the easiest 5-on-5 goal of his career to put the Crimson up, 2-1.
That goal gave Harvard its first lead of the night. The Eagles had jumped in front six minutes prior thanks to persistence in front of the Crimson net from BC sophomore Christopher Brown. Junior goaltender Merrick Madsen was sharp for most of Friday, making a season-high 33 saves, but he was left with no shot of stopping Brown’s second-chance opportunity atop the crease at 10:23.
But three minutes later, an “outstanding play” from freshman defenseman Adam Fox in the eyes of Donato evened the score at one. With the puck on his stick in the slot, Fox delivered an extra pass to the far post, where junior Seb Lloyd misfired but co-captain Alexander Kerfoot bailed him out, using his quick hands to slip the puck inside the pipe from just behind the net.
Donato said he felt the Fox to Kerfoot connection gave his bench life and led his side to start moving the puck better and create more opportunities. Harvard went on to outshoot the Eagles, 19-10, in that middle frame.
Subsequently, the floodgates finally opened in period three. The Crimson’s two power-play goals 33 seconds apart helped the hosts finish 3-for-7 on the man advantage—a monumental improvement for a unit that previously had been just 2-for-17 since its opening weekend against Arizona State.
The special teams success proved to be enough to dethrone BC, marking another significant step forward for the Harvard program, which had lost 12 of its last 13 matchups against its rival from Chestnut Hill. Not one to be fixated by the past, however, Donato simply joked after the game about how the Crimson’s hardly been BC’s only victim.
“I think they’ve been the best team in college hockey over the last 15 years,” Donato said. “So anybody that’s not had their struggles with them, I’d like to meet.”
—Harvard successfully killed 5-of-6 penalties on the night, including a 5-on-3 that lasted for more than a minute towards the end of the opening period. Prior to Friday, opponents not hailing from Arizona had been converting at a 35 percent clip against the Crimson.
"When you play the game, you’re looking for opportunities to get momentum," Moy said. "We have a lot of guys who can kill penalties here. And I think when you sacrifice your body, you get in front of shots, and get pucks out, it’s really something you can build off of as a team. And I think we did that well."
—Sophomore forward Ryan Donato looked sharp on the attacking end yet again on Friday, logging a whopping six shots on goal in the second period alone. He leads the team with 32 through seven games.
—While Harvard won the shots on goal battle, 38-35, the Eagles out-attempted the hosts, 68-61. This was just the second time this season that the Crimson has surrendered more attempts than it has generated (Nov. 11 at Princeton).
—The result marked Harvard's first victory over a top-five team since Nov. 29, 2014, when it beat No. 4 UMass Lowell on the road. Four days earlier, the Crimson had also knocked off No. 1 Boston University at Agganis Arena, where Harvard will play the Terriers this coming Tuesday.
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MeagherTHC.