SCHENECTADY, N.Y.—After scoring the game’s first two goals and appearing comfortably in control, the No. 8/8 Harvard men’s hockey team (6-1-2, 4-1-2 ECAC) struggled to a tie here on Friday night against conference foe Union (4-6-4, 1-5-1), mounting two third-period comebacks to earn a 4-4 draw.
“That’s a good hockey team. Teams like [Boston University] and Michigan have come in here and had their hands full, so we knew it was going to be a battle,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 after the game, which Union led twice in the third until the Crimson’s Wiley Sherman equalized the contest with 2:29 remaining. “I thought our guys stayed with it. I thought we had a very good third and overtime, and we were pressing there. There’s some things we can certainly do better, but the effort was there.”
Hitting the road for the second consecutive weekend, Harvard got off to a fast start in front of a near-capacity crowd at Messa Rink when co-captain Jimmy Vesey quieted the fans with a goal just 10 seconds into the first period. The strike, Vesey’s eighth of the season, came after a Union defensive zone turnover gave Harvard co-captain Kyle Criscuolo the puck in the slot.
“I knew their [defensemen] was going to be coming back thinking I was going to shoot, so I heard Jimmy calling for it back door, and when you have a goal scorer like him, you’re going to give it to him,” Criscuolo said.
Criscuolo them tacked on another goal for the Crimson, helping Harvard to take a 2-0 lead 17:22 into the game.
The momentum shifted quickly, however, after Dutchmen winger Spencer Foo dampened the Crimson’s energy with an unassisted strike with 15 seconds remaining in the first period. The tally brought the crowd to its feet and killed Harvard’s two-goal buzz.
“Can’t give up a goal in the last minute of the first period, so that was pretty tough for us going into the locker room,” Criscuolo said.
“We had several chances to extend it, and then we give up a goal—I know the shots were pretty close, but I didn’t feel like the play was close or the chances were close,” Donato said.
The Dutchmen took the energy and ran with it, tying the game in the second when Vesey went to the penalty box and Union sophomore forward Ryan Scarfo notched a power-play goal, his seventh of the year. Union took the lead a minute later when top-line forward Sebastien Vidmar scored his first of the year.
“[In the first period] the goalie made some great saves and we hit some posts, but then Union really played well in the second period.” Donato said. “We helped out by just fundamentally not being as sound as we were in the first period.”
Playing from behind, Harvard kept the pressure on, peppering Union’s Alex Sakellaropoulos with 38 shots on the night and battling for position around the net. The push paid off early in the third when Crimson freshman Michael Floodstrand tied up the game at 3-3 with his second goal of the season just 1:25 into the period, assisted by fellow freshman Ryan Donato and junior Luke Esposito.
The tie was short-lived, as a power-play shot from Scarfo found the back of the net again two minutes later, allowing the Dutchmen to quickly retake a one-goal lead. With the third period ticking away, Harvard continued its offensive-zone onslaught, and Sherman eventually leveled the score with under three minutes to play. His goal, just his second of the year, saved the Crimson from recording just its second loss on the season, with its only defeat coming against No. 3/2 Quinnipiac (14-0-2, 5-0-2).
Harvard will face Union once again at home on February 13, but not before it plays Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Saturday in Troy, N.Y. Harvard handily defeated RPI over the Thanksgiving break, 4-0.
Friday’s draw, though, was made even more sour for Harvard after junior Alexander Kerfoot suffered an upper body injury late in the third period. Kerfoot had to be helped off the ice, and Donato would not comment on the injury after the game.
—Staff writer William C. Skinner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WSkinner.