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In Photos: The 138th Game
If ice hockey was a sport of two halves rather than three periods, Harvard men’s hockey would be coming out of the weekend with a win and tie.
However, the team’s third period performance in both Sunday’s matinee against No. 1 Boston College and Friday evening’s game against No. 10 University of Massachusetts proved to be decisive, as Harvard fell to both opponents.
Though the tallies were ultimately added to the loss column, the young team stayed competitive into the third period in each matchup, despite being outshot by double digits in each game. “I think we played pretty good hockey in the last four games,” head coach Ted Donato ‘91 said.
“Colgate and Cornell are tough places to play. You know, coming off of a weekend off and then playing an excellent UMass team. And then tonight, against a team that is fast, skilled- doesn't need a lot of opportunities to find the back of the net. So it was a great challenge for us.”
Both opponents of the weekend were top ranked nationally, while Harvard has fallen out of the rankings after starting the season at 15th. This can partially be attributed to how different the team looks, with the significant talent loss both from graduation and NHL contracts. It also hasn’t helped that the team hasn’t had an easy slate of opponents, but regardless, the team has struggled to manage the puck effectively and keep opponents out of its zone.
Of its seven games, four of the teams on the other side of the ice (BC, UMass, No. 16 Cornell, and No. 5 Quinnipiac) have been within the national top-20.
“In my three years of experience, this has definitely been the toughest first half stretch of games we've had. But with that being said, we've been in there with the best teams. We were right there with UMass, right there with BC until the end,” junior captain and forward Zakary Karpa commented.
“We can play with anybody and I think if we clean up what we need to do, we'll be good going into the second half.”
The squad has also struggled with injuries, which hasn’t helped the inconsistent start. Though Karpa himself returned against BC after missing a handful of games, the Crimson has been without junior defenseman Jack Bar since he left the Nov. 10th contest against Colgate, and after taking a lower body hit into the boards Sunday, junior captain and defenseman Ian Moore limped off the ice and did not return to the game.
Nevertheless, Harvard is optimistic that the group at hand can achieve big things.
“As a coach, the group is very enjoyable because they work hard, they don't get frustrated. And I do see a lot of steps being taken by these young guys,” Donato reflected.
“We're not spending a lot of time worrying about our lack of experience, we're just trying to get better and I think, as a coaching staff, it's a lot easier and as a player, it's a lot easier to see those steps when you win, but I think for us, we're happy with the effort and we hope the results will start to follow.”
BOSTON COLLEGE 4, HARVARD 1
The Crimson welcomed the Boston College Eagles into Bright-Landry Hockey Center for a Sunday afternoon showdown. Though not an unfamiliar opponent because of the annual Beanpot tournament, Boston College hadn’t made the trip to Cambridge from nearby Newton since 2019.
The Eagles, having more success this season than in recent years, boast a roster of several elite NHL prospects. Their first line of Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, and Gabe Perreault were all first-round picks in the 2023 NHL Draft, while second-line center Cutter Gauthier was the fifth overall pick in 2022.
From puck drop the game was one of speed and physicality. Throughout the entire contest, the officials had to pull apart players after the end of plays and in between whistles. In the scoreless first period, Harvard scraped together some of its best hockey of the season.
Senior goalkeeper Derek Mullahy stopped five shots in the frame, while the Crimson’s offense tested BC goaltender Jacob Fowler six times. There was one penalty seven-and-a-half minutes into the period against the Eagles’ Aidan Hreschuk for cross checking, but Harvard failed to capitalize on its power play chance. Moore got injured just over 11 minutes in, and as the Crimson’s extra skater was senior forward Ryan Drkulec, the team found itself down to five defensemen for the remainder of the contest.
The second period continued the momentum of the first. Sophomore defenseman Ryan Healey found himself in penalty trouble, getting his first whistle for cross checking just under three minutes in. During Healey’s stint in the box, the Eagles maintained a heavy presence in the Harvard defensive zone, and Perreault deflected a Gauthier slap shot past Mullahy to open the scoring. However, the tally did not hold, as BC forward Jack Malone was called for goaltender interference, as he bumped into Mullahy concurrent with the initial shot, causing the masked man’s stick to fly from his hands.
After being released, Healey found himself back in the box less than a minute later, this time for tripping. The Crimson was able to defuse the disadvantage without any close calls despite already being down a defender with Moore out. The team got to recalibrate as it received its own power play not long after, though Harvard failed to score.
The scoreless tie was broken with less than two minutes remaining in the period, as a failed clear from Harvard’s zone right before the blue line cascaded into a BC offensive push. Defenseman Charlie Leddy’s wrister was tipped by Leonard into the upper left corner above Mullahy’s shoulder, giving the Eagles the lead.
Though quieter up until this point in the period, the Crimson responded immediately. After losing the initial faceoff after the goal, sophomore defender Mason Langenbrunner cleared the puck and started the offensive momentum. A few seconds later it was Langenbrunner again who neutralized an attempted BC clear before finding first-year forward Cam Johnson. Johnson tried a wrister from the top of the zone and his rebound was tipped home by Karpa to tie the game.
BC attempted to challenge for goaltender interference against Karpa, but it was unsuccessful. The Crimson’s captain tallied his first goal of the season in his first action since Nov. 11th against Cornell.
“I feel good. I was excited to get back,” Karpa reflected. “Obviously I had the weekend off last weekend. So I took that time to get better, and I’m just excited to get to play again.”
With just about 30 seconds in the second, sophomore forward Philip Tresca was charged with hooking, and his penalty carried over into the start of the third. Though Harvard continued the energy and quality of play within the first few minutes of the final frame, the team found itself on the losing side of multiple close calls that proved to be decisive.
The first came after Eagles defenseman Lukas Gustafsson knocked down a high puck at the blue line to keep BC’s offensive possession alive, at just under 12 minutes into the frame. Though there was a question if the play had gone offside, there was no stoppage, and moments later the Eagles struck. In a tic-tac-toe sequence, Andre Gasseau found Oskar Jellvik, who screened Mullahy left, leaving Gauthier to finish the play with an open net. Harvard challenged the play, but the goal was upheld.
Harvard couldn’t muster the same response to an Eagles goal as it did the first time. Less than two minutes later, BC’s Colby Ambrosio was fed into a fast break by Malone, and in a desperate attempt to catch up, Healey tried to poke away the puck but tripped Ambrosio instead, causing him to collide with Mullahy. Concurrent with the collision, the puck crossed the goal line, and not only did Healey find himself in the box for the third time in the game, but the Crimson found itself down two goals after the tally was confirmed by replay.
With five minutes and change left, Mullahy was pulled for an extra skater. The Crimson offense drew a power play, and pulled Mullahy again after the initial whistle for a two-man advantage, but the power play unit failed to score.
The final nail in the coffin was a too-many-men call against Harvard, with just over three minutes remaining. Junior forward Alex Gaffney served the time for the Crimson, though he wasn’t in the box for long, as BC scored within the first 30 seconds of the advantage. At that point, down 4-1 with under three minutes to go in regulation, Harvard’s fate was sealed.
“I think there's definitely some positives. We're getting better, figuring out our structure, playing together,” Karpa remarked
“I think the biggest thing for us moving forward is we got to stay out of the box. I think that hurt us this weekend. Obviously, the costly penalty at the end of the too-many-man and then several penalties versus UMass. So, that's definitely something that we're going to look to improve upon.”
UMASS 6, HARVARD 5
The Crimson opened up its weekend with its first visit from the Minutemen in almost two decades. With both team’s offenses firing on all cylinders, the Black Friday showdown lived up to expectations but saw Harvard ultimately fall after a tightly-contested battle.
First-year forward Ryan Fine opened the scoring for Harvard just two minutes into the first period off a feed from fellow first-year forward Michael Callow, who found Fine alone in the slot. Just 15 seconds later, UMass headed to the box for interference, giving the Crimson an opportunity to build on its early lead. Sophomore defenseman Ryan Healey did just that for his first goal of the season, shooting a puck through a screen following passes from first-year Cam Johnson and sophomore Marek Hejduk.
Around halfway through the first period, first-year forward Ben MacDonald took a five-minute major penalty for a hit to the head, giving the Minutemen a golden opportunity to get back in the game. Harvard ultimately killed off the extended penalty, with sophomore goaltender Aku Koskenvuo making a myriad of saves.
The Crimson had a chance to extend its lead to three goals when UMass’ Lucas Vanroboys went to the box for slashing around 15 minutes into the opening frame, but the power play unit was stymied again. Just minutes later, MacDonald headed to the box again, this time for slashing, and with the shots piling up in favor of the Minutemen, first-year Jack Musa cut the Crimson lead in half off a centering pass on the power play. Koskenvuo otherwise stood tall in the first, turning aside 16 of 17 shots.
UMass continued to build momentum, tying the game just over a minute and a half into the second with a tally from junior Scott Morrow. Healey responded immediately with a highlight-reel goal, cutting through the neutral zone and burying a shot for his second of the game. Just 23 seconds later, the Minutemen’s Linden Alger knotted the game right back up with a wrist shot that beat Koskenvuo on the far side.
The flurry of goals didn’t end there. Junior forward Alex Gaffney scored his third goal of the season 6:20 into the period, again on the powerplay, with Ryan Ufko in the box for interference. 10 minutes later, Johnson tallied his first career goal after forcing a turnover and beating Minutemen goaltender Michael Hrabal from a tough angle, putting the Crimson back up by two. That was it for Hrabal, who was pulled for Cole Brady after allowing his fifth of the afternoon.
UMass closed out the second on a high note, however, with Vanroboys putting one past Koskenvuo late in the period. Lucas Mercuri started the third period on a strong note, following up on Vanroboys’ goal to tie the game for the third time. Mercuri was set up for an easy finish on a two-man advantage, with Fine and junior defenseman Christian Jimenez in the box for tripping and slashing, respectively.
The tie didn’t last long, as Kenny Connors, who helped set up Mercuri on the five-on-three, put one past Koskenvuo from right in front of the net for UMass’ third unanswered goal almost halfway through the third. Ultimately, a 49-22 shot disadvantage was too much to overcome for the Crimson, with a late game push proving unsuccessful. The Minutemen held on to defeat the Crimson 6-5, winning their ninth game of the season and handing Harvard its second regulation loss.
The Crimson hit the road next weekend for their longest road trip of the season in terms of distance. Heading to upstate New York, the team will pay a visit to Clarkson University on Friday followed by St. Lawrence University on Saturday.
These are the last two games before Harvard’s extended holiday break, as well as the first of eight straight road games. The team doesn’t return to home ice until the new year, on January 19th against RPI.
-Staff writer Bridget T. Sands can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on X @bridgsands
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