PROVIDENCE, R.I. — After shutting out Brown to snap a three-game losing skid midway through January, Harvard goaltender Merrick Madsen said that the Crimson had finally “gotten the bus in the right direction.”
Well right now, that bus is cruising.
Harvard, the third best team in the country according to both the polls and the PairWise, has not dropped a game in more than a month. And now, as a result of yet another shutout of Brown, the Crimson’s unbeaten streak stands at 10 games.
This time playing inside the Bears’ den, Harvard (20-5-2, 14-4-2 ECAC) skated circles around the overmatched hosts in a 6-0 rout Saturday night at Meehan Auditorium. The Crimson’s eighth consecutive victory closes out an 8-1-1 run through the Ivy League—Harvard’s best league mark since it won nine of 10 games during the 1993-1994 campaign.
“Closing out the Ivy League part of the season is huge for us,” co-captain Alexander Kerfoot said. “We came out here and got the job done.”
Senior Tyler Moy scored two goals for the second consecutive night and tacked on an assist, giving him an exceptional seven points for the week. Meanwhile, sophomore Ryan Donato racked up a career-best four assists.
Donato’s big night took just 28 seconds to get started, as a block of Brown’s first shot attempt by linemate Lewis Zerter-Gossage triggered an even-man rush, headed by Donato, the other way.
After carrying the puck up the right wing, Donato turned and served up a perfect feed to sophomore Jacob Olson trailing the play, and the defenseman picked the upper right corner from the top of the slot to open the floodgates.
“Olson’s been practicing his shots a lot like that in practice,” Donato said. “When I heard him calling the way he was, he must’ve been very open. He was screaming, so I gave it to him, and he buried it.”
After picking up another assist on an Adam Fox punch-in at 5:20, Donato finished off his hat trick of helpers with 29 seconds to go in the opening frame. From the bottom of the left circle, the sophomore spotted Kerfoot right where Olson struck 19 minutes prior, and the co-captain ripped the Crimson’s third goal of the period past senior goaltender Tim Ernst.
Saturday night’s contest was practically over before it started. But both Donato and Kerfoot stressed the importance of putting together such a fast start, especially after having received a humbling lesson about league parity from a 3-19-1 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute club back in January.
“We had a good streak going, and we lost focus against a team that we thought we could just show up and beat,” said Donato, referring to his team’s 4-0 loss at RPI on Jan. 13.
“I think a lot of guys had the tendency at the beginning of the year when we played teams that were low-ranked and weren’t doing very well to come in and think it’s going to be a point night,” the sophomore added. “It definitely isn’t in our league.”
By staying true to form against Brown (4-21-2, 3-16-1), however, Saturday did in fact become a “point night” on the stat sheet for the Crimson, as four skaters logged multiple points and seven more earned one.
Among the four big scorers was Moy, who netted both of Harvard’s two goals in the middle frame. At 4:42, the senior finished off a 2-on-1 with classmate Luke Esposito, fooling replacement goaltender Gavin Nieto with a deke to his left low in the slot. Then at 15:23, Moy popped in the Crimson’s fourth 5-on-3 tally of the week from the end line closest to Nieto’s right post.
Later, Harvard received its sixth goal from Phil Zielonka, a senior forward from Montreal who has received limited ice time over the last two seasons but around the team possesses the reputation of a sharpshooter. And about 40 feet from the goal, Zielonka proved why, sending a lightning-quick wrister into the top right corner of the net off a faceoff 12:25 into period three—his first score since Feb. 3, 2015.
“He’s got an unbelievable shot, and when you give him that much time in front of the net, it’s dangerous,” Kerfoot said. “We were joking around saying that he’s got one tonight, and then he got one in the third, so it was fun.”
Together, Madsen (11 saves in two periods) and freshman Cameron Gornet (12 saves in one period) produced the Crimson’s third shutout of the season. The amount of quality scoring opportunities Brown produced, however, could have been tallied on one hand.
Madsen and the Harvard blue line are sure to see far more shots next weekend when Clarkson and No. 17 St. Lawrence come to town to close out the regular season. The Crimson has already secured a first-round bye in the ECAC tournament but remains in second place with two games to go—one point behind Union and two points ahead of third-place Cornell.
“It’s always tough to get a sweep in this league, especially on the road,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “We want to compete for the league championship, and we needed to do our part.”
—Freshman defenseman John Marino missed his first game of the season after coming down with a stomach bug, according to Ted Donato. Marino was not the only member of the Crimson to come down with the bug, but others affected were able to recover in time to play on Saturday.
—Brown celebrated Senior Night on Saturday, prompting Coach Brendan Whittet to open the game with an all-senior lineup featuring two third-liners, a fourth-liner, his third defensive pair, and a backup goaltender. Thus, Harvard’s first tally 28 seconds into the contest probably could have been anticipated. Tim Ernst gave way to usual starter Gavin Nieto in net after the first period.
—Harvard technically finished 1-for-6 on the power play, but Adam Fox’s even-strength punch-in at 5:20 in the first period effectively came on the man-up. Fox lifted the puck into the cage from his backhand seven seconds after the expiration of a tripping penalty against Bears senior Davey Middleton—well before a fifth Brown skater could insert himself into the play.
—The Crimson has drawn 18 power plays in three games this week (with five conversions) and has received at least one 5-on-3 opportunity in four consecutive games. Co-captain Alexander Kerfoot spoke to this: “I think it’s a testament to playing with speed and getting in there and making the refs have to call penalties. I think that if you work teams down low and are hard on the forecheck, hard on pucks down low, they have to call penalties eventually. And that’s what we’ve been doing as of late. We’ve been getting the calls, and we’ve been executing on the 5-on-3, so that’s been helpful.”
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MeagherTHC.
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