Notebook: Officiating Plays Key Role in Men's Hockey's Wild Affair with Cornell
There were no celebrations. No fist-pumping congratulations.
The No. 13/13 Harvard men’s hockey team solemnly saluted the Bright-Landry Hockey Center crowd following their 2-2 tie with No. 16/- Cornell on Friday. The Crimson’s 10-year Ivy League title drought might not have ended in the way Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 would have drawn it up, but a trophy is a trophy, no matter how small.
The Crimson will have to wait until next week to learn whether they have clinched their league-leading 22nd Ancient Eight title outright, as a win by Yale at Princeton on Feb. 26 would split the Hobey Baker trophy between Cambridge and New Haven. In the meantime, Harvard will direct its attention to the conference and national races that lie ahead.
Midway through the first period, referee Cameron Lynch skated toward the left corner of the Cornell side as Harvard’s third line carried the puck up the right wing. Following an initial shot by Crimson junior Sean Malone, Lynch drifted behind the Cornell net and into the path of Big Red puck-carrier Ryan Bliss.
Pressured by Harvard junior Tyler Moy, Bliss tried a breakout pass, but his feed clipped Lynch’s right skate and skittered back to Malone, who buried the puck top-shelf for Harvard’s first score.
The play merited choice words from Cornell coach Mike Schafer after the game.
“What frustrated me the most was that I don’t know what the referee was doing standing behind our net on our breakout,” Schafer said. “What the hell is he doing there? Obviously he’s out of position. When our defense goes D to D, and it hits the referee, that’s a bad break. It happens.”
Malone’s goal highlighted a challenging night for the ECAC officiating crew, who contended with several close calls around the crease Friday. After a quick whistle on a loose puck under Harvard goaltender Merrick Madsen near the close of the second period, sophomore Seb Lloyd provided the Crimson’s second mark of the night from inside the crease on a pile-up play that could have been called dead before the puck crossed the line.
Later, Cornell got its own bounce off a skate, as stay-at-home sophomore defenseman Dan Wedman earned his first collegiate goal off a one-timer slapshot that changed direction off the boot of Harvard junior Clay Anderson.
“[It was] just a wild game from the goals that were scored, the calls that were made, but I thought two teams played really hard,” Schafer said.
Through Friday’s first two acts, Sean Malone was the Crimson’s leading man.
In addition to his goal, the third-line center made a key block inside the Harvard crease to keep the Crimson up by one at the first intermission. He followed that up with an open ice hit on 6’7” Cornellian Christian Hilbrich in the second period.
Malone made an early exit, however, with a lower body injury in the third period. In his absence, Donato rotated three lines through the game’s later stages, but he feels optimistic about the health status of the Buffalo Sabres’ draft pick moving forward.
“He’s bouncing around, so hopefully it’s something he’ll be able to recover from, but I’m not sure about his availability for tomorrow night,” Donato said.
The tie did little to help the Crimson’s place on the national stage. After Friday, Harvard maintained its 12th spot in the PairWise Rankings, placing the team near the bubble for an at-large NCAA tournament bid with three regular season games and a to-be-determined tournament schedule remaining.
Friday losses by St. Lawrence and Rensselaer, meanwhile, aided the Crimson in its bid for a first-round bye in the ECAC tournament. Harvard stands third in the conference rankings, a win ahead of Dartmouth and St. Lawrence for a top-four finish and home ice in the conference quarterfinals.
The Crimson's title hunt will not stop at the Ivy League trophy, shared or unshared.
“That’s a nice trophy to start with, but obviously we have a lot to play for down the stretch,” Donato said.
—Staff writer Michael Ledecky can be reached at email@example.com.
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