One year after Clarkson swept the Harvard men’s hockey team in the schools’ two-game season series, the Crimson set the record straight Friday night with its second win of the season over the Green and Gold—a 4-1 triumph at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center. No. 3 Harvard (21-5-2, 15-4-2 ECAC) remains unbeaten at home this season, improving to 10-0-2 at the expense of the Golden Knights (14-14-5, 9-9-3).
“It was a good, solid game,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “I think Clarkson is a good hockey team: well-coached, big, physical down low, good goalie. So we prepared for a game that was going to be tight and heavy.”
Six minutes into the middle period, Harvard senior blue-liner Clay Anderson fired a 70-foot shot to the front of the net, where it ricocheted ambiguously off a leg before trickling through freshman netminder Jake Kielly’s pads. Senior Phil Zielonka was initially awarded the goal before it was formally credited to Anderson who, with a bit of puck luck, notched his third tally of the season. The blue-liner’s goal proved to be the game-winner in what amounted to the Crimson’s ninth consecutive victory.
“[Anderson] made a good play to keep [the puck] in the zone,” said Donato of the winning tally. “It looked like it got deflected, I’m not sure if [Zielonka] got a piece of it…but obviously a big goal there.”
Co-captain Alexander Kerfoot cracked open the scoresheet just over four minutes into the first period, burying a Lewis Zerter-Gossage feed for his 13th goal of the season. Flying into the zone on the rush, the sophomore threaded a saucer pass from the right faceoff circle into the slot, where it landed perfectly on Kerfoot’s tape.
Harvard availed itself of quick neutral zone regroups early in the first, peppering the Golden Knights' blue-liners with rush after rush. Eventually, Kielly caved under this short burst of offensive zone pressure.
“We just wanted to make sure that we were putting pucks behind [the Golden Knights] and using our speed,” Donato said. “They have some big, strong defensemen, and we wanted to win some foot races…. Great finish by Alexander Kerfoot.”
Senior forward Luke Esposito was up to his recent tricks on Friday night, as he once again tallied a man-down strike, putting the Crimson up 3-0. Winning a foot race against Clarkson defenseman Shane Kuzmeski, Esposito threw a shorthanded puck past Kielly’s right pad while falling to one knee just 1:13 into the third. The Greenwich, Conn., native’s third 4-on-5 goal of the month put the game out of reach and gave Harvard its 11th shorthanded conversion of the season—the highest mark in the country.
“We’ve been working hard now on our PK and with the forwards,” Esposito said. “With the talent we have killing and the speed we have up front, we’ve just been looking to push the pace and get up ice and disrupt any way we can.”
Having conceded the opening goal of Friday night’s game, Clarkson falls to 4-7-2 when its opponent strikes first. Once the Golden Knights allowed Kerfoot to connect on his first-period punch-in, the odds were stacked against them; Clarkson is now 2-6-0 when trailing after 20 minutes and remains winless at 0-8-1 when the opposition enters the final period with the lead.
A hooking infraction against Zielonka 5:16 into the contest gave the Golden Knights their first man-up opportunity of the evening. But despite being undermanned, Harvard set the pace, trading chances with Clarkson and testing Kielly multiple times. The visitors’ difficulty cracking the Crimson shorthanded unit was indicative of their recent struggles with the man advantage. After finding twine from the man-up in their first seven games of 2017, the Golden Knights have gone six straight games without a power-play conversion, failing on all 22 attempts.
Before a rebound sent top shelf by Clarkson’s Terrance Amorosa broke junior goalie Merrick Madsen’s perfect night, Harvard was set to complete its second straight clean sheet, following last week’s shutout over Brown. It would have been the first time since 2007 in which Harvard blanked two consecutive opponents.
“I’ve been feeling good,” Madsen noted. “It makes it really easy to play when we have guys up front that are scoring in the first five minutes of the game. It just makes my job a lot easier.”
Madsen is playing his best hockey at the right time for the Crimson. Over the course of Harvard’s 11-game unbeaten streak, the Philadelphia Flyers prospect owns a 1.49 goals against average and a .942 save percentage.
Yet despite not having lost in more than a month, the Crimson is still vying for its first Cleary Cup—given to the regular-season ECAC champion—since 1994. The win over Clarkson was not enough to put the Crimson ahead of Union, who sits atop the ECAC with 33 points.
While Harvard was sealing the deal against the Golden Knights on Friday, the Dutchmen were digging themselves out of a late-game deficit that ultimately turned into an overtime victory against Colgate. The recipient of the Cleary Cup, therefore, won’t be declared until Saturday night, when the Crimson hosts St. Lawrence and Union entertains Cornell in the teams’ respective regular-season finales.
—Staff writer Spencer R. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.