The Harvard Men’s Hockey team spent the last weekend before the second academic semester contesting a pair of games against St. Lawrence University and Clarkson University, other members of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).
The Crimson were missing their top two point producers, junior captain and forward Nick Abruzzese and sophomore forward Sean Farrell due to health and safety protocols. Their absence this weekend acted as a test of adjustment, as Abruzzese and Farrell will depart in the coming weeks to represent Team USA at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
HARVARD 3, CLARKSON 4
The line of sophomore forward Alex Laferriere, junior forward John Farinacci, and first-year forward Alex Gaffney continued to click, putting Harvard in front 1-0 just 29 seconds into the game. After breaking through the neutral zone to create a two-on-one opportunity, Lafferiere skated down the left side and flipped a perfect backhand pass to Farinacci, who quickly cut from the right side to his backhand and tucked the puck past Clarkson goaltender Jacob Mucitelli. Gaffney also recorded an assist on the goal.
However, the strong start was soon erased. The Golden Knights responded with the equalizer 55 seconds later, as defenseman Noah Beck’s shot from the right point snuck through heavy traffic and bounced off the post past sophomore goaltender Derek Mullahy. The goal was reviewed to see if the puck completely crossed the goal line, and the play stood as called.
“We just didn’t execute some basic fundamentals and details,” head coach Ted Donato said. “We turned it over in our own zone, and we didn’t make the simple but essential plays you need to make.”
The Crimson reclaimed their early lead just over three minutes later on a fantastic individual effort from first-year left wing Zakary Karpa. Bumped up to the first line due to Covid-related absences, Karpa took the puck from the wing on his backhand and forced his way through the Clarkson defender and to the net, where he poked the puck past Mucitelli to give Harvard a 2-1 lead. However, Clarkson right wing Anthony Romano cashed in on a power play three minutes later, hammering a one-time slap shot from the faceoff circle past Mullahy to knot the game at 2.
The second period was far less active, as both teams significantly tightened their play and upped their physicality in the defensive zone. However, an interference penalty in the neutral zone on Clarkson defenseman Tommy Pasanen opened the door for the Crimson to take the lead.
Despite a poor power play in the first period, Harvard was much stronger on their second chance with the man advantage, maintaining possession and pressure in the offensive zone for most of the two minutes. With six seconds remaining on the power play, Gaffney tapped home a loose puck in front of the net off a feed from Farinacci to put the Crimson on top 3-2.
The third period continued the tight defensive structure of the second period until a chaotic sequence halfway through the period. Following a Golden Knights four-on-three rush, Clarkson fed the puck from the wing into the high slot, where the Golden Knights forward narrowly missed an open net, clanging a wrist shot off the post. The puck then ricocheted back into the slot, setting off a mad scramble around the net that ended when junior forward Austin Wong blocked a slap shot out of the defensive zone.
Although Harvard survived the flurry of Clarkson chances, the mad net-front scramble proved to be a turning point in the game. From that point forward, the Golden Knights were buzzing, forcing the Crimson into defensive zone turnovers, and hemming them in with persistent offensive pressure and forechecking. With 6:34 remaining in the third period, Clarkson forward Nick Campoli tapped in a loose puck in front of the net to knot the game at 3 goals apiece.
“We need to be able to play in tighter games with more detail, and it’s something we’ve talked a lot about,” Ted Donato said. “We’re a little bit immature, as a group, in that regard.”
The Golden Knights weren’t done yet. Only 1:22 later, Campoli put Clarkson in front on a similar play, easily tapping in a rebound from just outside the crease. Campoli’s second goal proved to be the game-winner, as the Golden Knights were able to withstand a slew of Harvard chances with the goaltender on the bench for an extra attacker, pulling out the ECAC victory 4-3.
“We need to pick up guys going to the net, we need to handle rebounds better,” Ted Donato said. “In crunch time, guys can’t be left alone. We can’t get beat off the rush and we can’t lose stick battles at the front of our net when the game’s on the line.”
Despite the difficult loss, senior forward and captain Casey Dornbach saw positives in the team’s play, especially with the younger players getting more ice time given the numerous absences facing the team.
“I think the young guys have been great,” Dornbach said. “We’re learning to do the details in tough games like that, three to two going into the third. You’ve got to find a way to have a clean third and come out with a win."
HARVARD 4, ST. LAWRENCE 1
Although the competition was less difficult, Harvard took down its first challenger of the weekend with ease, defeating unranked St. Lawrence 4-1 at Bright-Landry Hockey Center on Friday. Coming into the game, the Saints held a record of 5-11-4.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Dornbach said. “We believe we have a great group in the locker room.”
The Crimson started the game strong and fast. It kept possession in its offensive zone, barely giving St. Lawrence a chance to breathe. Within the first eleven minutes of the period, it outshot the Saints 18 to six. It finally converted a possession at 12:10 into the period, when Karpa corralled his own rebound, assisted by Dornbach and first-year forward Matthew Coronato.
Just over a minute later, Harvard struck again. Fed by first-year defenseman Jack Bar, Farinacci finished a beautiful open-net goal to give the Crimson a 2-0 lead. Harvard continued its control, outskating and outshooting the Saints throughout the period. It was held to two goals, however, as St. Lawrence goalkeeper Emil Zetterquist stayed strong between the posts.
In the beginning of the second period, the Saints tightened their defense, as there was no elongated control of the puck by the Crimson within its offensive zone. The transition of possession among the two teams was fast and more frequent, with neither team being able to hold the puck long enough to set up a proper offensive opportunity.
Harvard began to recalibrate and find its rhythm after being forced to the penalty kill by junior forward Wyllum Deveaux’s slashing penalty 4:53 into the period. Repeated saves by junior goalkeeper Mitchell Gibson helped the Crimson keep composure.
About four minutes later, 8:48 into the period, Laferriere notched his first goal of the game to stretch Harvard’s lead to 3-0, off Gaffney’s rebound, who, along with junior defenseman Ryan Siedem, was credited with an assist.
However, within a minute, the Crimson was forced back onto the penalty kill, as Wong was sent to the box for charging. The penalty kill unit again held strong, defusing the Saints’ advantage, with a breakaway by Jack Donato denying St. Lawrence an opportunity to set up their attack.
The period continued with a quick transition game, with Coronato being notably snuffed on multiple breakaway shot attempts by the Saints’ Zetterquist. St. Lawrence finally got on the board with 2:18 left in the period, after Saints forward Philippe Chapleau took a rebound, splitting the Crimson’s Bar and senior defenseman Marshall Rifai as a backhanded shot found the back of the net. St. Lawrence rode the momentum and kept the puck for the remainder of the period, but they failed to score again.
The third period was more similar to the first– Harvard came out strong and fast, controlling possession. 6:52 into the period, Laferriere netted his second goal of the game, assisted by Gaffney and Farinacci, effectively putting the nail in the Saints’ coffin.
Although it soon went to the penalty kill again, after Coronato was charged with hooking, the unit defused the advantage again, lowering St. Lawrence’s power play conversion rate to 7% on the season, the second-lowest in the ECAC.
The Crimson finished the game with confidence, not allowing another goal, despite not being able to finish another of its own. However, despite a strong third period in Friday’s game, the Crimson struggled to close out Saturday’s game. After the weekend’s games, Ted Donato urged his team to play more aggressively in the third period.
“We talked about playing on our toes, not on our heels, to start the third period,” he said of the team’s late game play. Harvard’s poor puck management and weak defense around the net allowed the Golden Knights to erase a late deficit Saturday, according to Ted Donato, as the Crimson dropped a 4-3 decision despite leading 3-2 after two periods.
“Just like every game, we’ve got to look at it objectively. There were a lot of positives, but there were some negatives that cost us,” Dornbach said. “We’ll be looking for a quick and short memory, bouncing back and using what we can from this game but moving forward.”
The Crimson will face Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, another ECAC opponent, at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center this Tuesday, January 25th at 6pm.
-Staff writer Bridget T. Sands can be reached at email@example.com.
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