UPDATED: November 23, 2016, at 3:30 p.m.
BOSTON — Hockey games between Harvard and Boston University never seem to disappoint.
In the neighboring rivals' first meeting since their back-and-forth battle at the Bright which featured 11 lamp-lightings back in January, the two offenses were rocking and rolling early on Tuesday, combining for six goals in the first 25 minutes of play.
But when the dust settled at Agganis Arena, only one team managed to find the back of the net in the game’s final stanza. Riding a pair of third-period tallies, No. 7 Boston University staved off No. 9 Harvard (5-2-1, 2-1-1 ECAC) to pick up its seventh win of the season—a 5-3 victory over the visitors from Cambridge.
Breaking a 3-3 stalemate approaching 20 minutes in length, third-line senior Nick Roberto lifted the Terriers (7-4-1, 2-1-1 Hockey East) to victory upon discovering that the bank was open on Tuesday night. A little more than three minutes into the third, the senior threw a shot off of junior goaltender Merrick Madsen and in from behind the net, giving BU a 4-3 edge that it would not relinquish.
The game-winner almost never happened, however, given that it came on the heels of a Terrier power play that the Crimson had successfully staved off. But after Harvard gained possession of the puck in its own zone, senior Tyler Moy had his pocket picked by Roberto, who later got in position to net the difference-maker.
“When we were in trouble, we didn’t make it easy on ourselves and make a couple clears,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “[We] kind of extended some shifts for them… [and] it led to us trapping ourselves in the zone.”
The Crimson struggled to generate enough offense in the final frame—six shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of the period—to come up with an equalizer. Freshman center Patrick Curry sealed the deal with 1:30 remaining in regulation, taking the baton from sophomore Bobo Carpenter following the second-year’s run up the right wing, then beating Madsen with a point-blank wrister.
“That’s a big win for us,” BU coach David Quinn said. “That’s an NCAA implication win. When you win a nonconference game against a team like that... that’s going to mean a lot in March.”
Before the Terriers took control in the final frame, no lead had lasted more than four minutes. And on two separate occasions, neither team could hold an advantage for more than 30 seconds.
With the score even at one in the final minute of the first period, BU had a chance to break the game open with a 5-on-3 lasting for 1:41. Yet, Harvard was the one to make some noise.
Picking the pocket of freshman Kieffer Bellows on the Terrier 5-on-3, co-captain Alexander Kerfoot broke free towards netminder Connor LaCouvee from his own blue line, and beat the junior high glove-side to put the Crimson in front with 41 seconds remaining in the period.
But when play resumed, there was no changing the fact there were two extra Terriers on the ice. Seconds after the first infraction expired, associate captain Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson hit rookie Patrick Harper with a back-door feed that the freshman easily knocked home, 23 seconds removed from Kerfoot’s go-ahead score.
History repeated itself early in the second period—only this time, the hosts were first to serve. Five seconds into BU’s first power play of the frame, freshman Dante Fabbro put the puck in the net for the second time of the night—this time benefitting his own side. Fabbro’s blast from atop the left faceoff circle beat the glove of Madsen, who had 6’5” Jordan Greenway standing right in front of him, to put the Terriers in front, 3-2.
But having read through the script, senior Sean Malone tied things up within 20 seconds. One period after scoring Harvard’s first goal thanks to a bit of luck—his shot from the right dot ricocheted off the left skate of Fabbro and into the BU net—Malone fired a shot past LaCouvee from the right faceoff circle for his second tally of the night, a 3-3 equalizer.
Ultimately, however, as Donato said after the game, the Terriers won both the special teams and goaltending battles. BU, who entered Tuesday ranked 45th out of 60 Division I teams on the power play, finished 2-for-5 on the man-up, not including Roberto’s winner which came moments after the Crimson’s penultimate penalty expired. Meanwhile, Madsen surrendered a season-high five goals on 31 shots in the loss.
While Tuesday certainly wasn’t the Harvard defense’s night, Quinn said after the game that he felt the Crimson’s blue-line was much improved compared to last year. Consequently, Quinn went on to say he feels Harvard has a real chance to become a threat down the stretch.
“They’re a very good team,” Quinn said. “That’s a team that could win a national title. You talk about teams that have a chance to win it, Harvard’s one of them."
—Down a goal, Harvard suffered a self-inflicted wound with 4:56 remaining in regulation when called for a too many men on the ice penalty. The Crimson did generate the only shot on goal over the span of the ensuing BU power play, but ultimately, the infraction left a Harvard team that had been struggling to generate offense late in the game with little time for a breakthrough. Donato was visibly heated with the officials when the call was made but far more collected afterwards.
“It was two lines that kind of ran into each other,” Donato said. “At that time in the game, guys are pretty intense, and I think [our guy] only got 15 feet off the bench, but it was enough. It was right in front of the ref. So that’s a tough one to swallow. Guys are working hard; it was just a mistake.”
—BU captain and Marblehead native Doyle Somerby nearly opened the scoring 5:54 into the game, as his blast from the left circle trickled over the goal line. But the officials ruled no goal, claiming that Madsen was interfered with by BU’s Gabriel Chabot—a fortunate break for the Crimson given a minimal amount of contact.
—Sophomore defenseman Adam Baughman returned to the ice for the first time since Harvard’s season opener against Arizona State on Oct. 28. Sophomore Jacob Olson, who entered the lineup in Baughman’s absence, remained on the second pairing alongside freshman Adam Fox where he’s been for seven games, while Baughman took sophomore Viktor Dombrovskiy’s spot on pairing three.
—The Crimson finished 0-for-3 on the power play against a strong BU kill which ranks sixth in the country (90.7 percent).
—Harvard narrowly edged out the Terriers in the shots on goal department, 32-31; but BU did the same in terms of attempts, winning that battle, 57-56.—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MeagherTHC for updates.
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