HAMILTON, N.Y. — The Harvard men’s hockey team didn’t expect to be .500 heading into a much-anticipated matchup with Cornell on Saturday. Nevertheless, the No. 5 Crimson (2-2-0, 2-2-0 ECAC) fell to Colgate, 2-1, on Friday night, evening its record at just that.
By the mid-way point of the game, Harvard found itself in a two-goal hole. The Raiders (5-2-4, 1-0-1) were simply the more opportunistic team in Friday’s bout, cashing in on their chances despite being outshot 31-20.
“We had chances. I think we were in-tight all alone with the goalie probably four or five times,” coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “[On] a couple of them, we need to bear down. We had empty nets before [the goalie] even knew the puck was there…. We need to find a way to generate more offense five-on-five.”
The disparity in shots came primarily from the Crimson’s efforts to tie the game in the third period. With the ice slightly tilted in favor of the more desperate team, Colgate sent only three shots on Harvard tri-captain Merrick Madsen in the final frame.
While play was more even, Harvard needed almost two whole periods to crack the code of sophomore goaltender Colton Point. In the final minute of the second frame, the Crimson finally cashed in on its fourth power play opportunity of the night when junior forward Ryan Donato buried a feed from sophomore Ty Pelton-Byce.
In the shifts leading up to the goal, Colgate made an overt effort to get under Donato’s skin—every time he touched the puck, the dynamic junior could count on an extra shove, elbow, or chirp coming his way. Donato answered these provocations with the man-up strike.
“Obviously it’s kind of hard to look past [the goal] now with the loss,” Ryan Donato said. “At the beginning, [the Raiders] were all up in my line’s grill. They were yelling at us, chirping us…trying to get us to retaliate. But we kind of held back, and scoring that goal definitely felt pretty good.”
Despite the power play goal, Harvard was still trailing 2-1 entering the final third of the game. As the Crimson mounted its come back, the puck spent more time in Point’s end of the ice and the shots accumulated. Still, grade-A scoring chances were scarce.
Of the high-quality attempts that Harvard did muster in the period, none was more promising than junior forward Michael Floodstrand’s point-blank chance with eight minutes remaining.
A puck fed to the net-front ricocheted off a pair of skates and bounced right onto the junior’s tape. Floodstrand took a touch too many, however, and by the time he put a shot on goal, Point was in slightly better position to make the save. A flailing Point got a piece of the puck, knocking it into the air where it was punched away to safety by a Raiders defenseman.
“It looked like we could’ve reacted a little bit quicker,” coach Donato admitted. “Hey, guys are trying hard. Nobody doesn’t want to score goals, so we’ll have to just keep working at it…. It’s hard to win hockey games without scoring a goal even-strength.”
Colgate opened the scoring on just its second shot of the game. Co-captain Mike Panowyk, exiting the penalty box after his team’s first infraction of the night, jumped right into a Raiders rush. The senior hopped on the puck and threaded a pass through backchecking Crimson skaters Adam Fox and Lewis Zerter-Gossage. The biscuit found the tape of linemate Jared Cockrell and, ultimately, the back of Madsen’s net.
“We had the momentum obviously, and then their guy jumps out of the box,” Ryan Donato remembered. “Then all of a sudden it’s a three-on-one and we were kind of lost.”
Later in the period, at the conclusion of defenseman Rory McGuire’s tripping penalty, Colgate once again tested Harvard with a threatening pass to the man leaving the sin bin.
Other than a few power play chances for the Crimson and the Raiders’ ensuing attempts to catch the visitors off-guard, the first period didn’t feature much more action. This was somewhat expected ahead of Friday’s bout, considering Colgate’s defense-first tendencies.
Through this young campaign, the man most responsible for the Raiders’ goal-preventing success has been Point. Colgate’s last line of defense, who entered the contest with a league-best 1.08 goals against average and .965 save percentage, posted his eighth scoreless first period through nine starts this season.
“You always got to expect [Point] to make the first save, maybe the first two saves. You got to get the rebounds,” Ryan Donato lauded. “He played really well tonight. We’re going to see him again. We just have to be ready for him next time.”
Even beyond the opening frame, Point’s acrobatic saves—and his defense’s concerted effort to block shots—kept Friday’s game a low-event, low-scoring affair.
The Crimson has no time to dwell on the loss, no matter how disappointing, as it arrives later tonight in Ithaca, N.Y., in advance of tomorrow’s Ivy League rivalry showdown with the Big Red.
—Staff writer Spencer R. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Spencer on Twitter @SMorrisTHC.