While their home turf was blanketed with snow, the Harvard Men’s Ice Hockey team blanketed their competition on the road this weekend.
The Crimson were sent to New York face off against two conference opponents, the Colgate Raiders, who entered the weekend 3-6-2 in interconference play, and the Cornell Big Red, entering 8-2-0. Harvard itself began 7-4-1.
The weekend’s games continued a stretch of six games in 11 nights for the Crimson, putting a lot of pressure on the team’s depth, and especially its goaltending, as junior goaltender Mitchell Gibson started both halves of the back-to-back set.
“It’s definitely a challenge for us, playing six games in 10 or 11 nights,” head coach Ted Donato said. “But I think we have a lot of confidence in the depth of the team. We don’t just rely on a few players, so I think we were able to make it through pretty well as far as the energy level.”
Despite entering the weekend on a two game losing streak following losses to Clarkson and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Crimson rebounded with a 5-3 against Colgate before earning a 2-2 regulation tie and shootout win against Cornell.
“I don’t think we were in a spot where we were really concerned with how we were playing,” Ted Donato said. “It’s always a tough road trip to go to Colgate and Cornell, and I thought our guys responded really well.”
HARVARD 2, CORNELL 2 (HARVARD WINS IN A SHOOTOUT)
Facing a big test with a road game at No. 8/9 Cornell, Harvard played a strong overall game to earn a regulation tie and shootout win to take five of six possible points from the Big Red this season.
The game began ominously for the Crimson, as a boarding penalty to junior forward John Farinacci just 63 seconds into the game. Cornell forward Brenden Locke converted the man-advantage opportunity just 20 seconds later to put the Big Red ahead 1-0.
Despite conceding the early lead, Harvard carried the play for the rest of the period. Sophomore defenseman Ian Moore had a golden opportunity to tie the game on a shot from the high slot, but the puck rolled just past Cornell goaltender Ian Shane. Farinacci also set up first-year forward Alex Gaffney for a prime chance in front of the net that rolled just past Shane. After a chaotic defensive zone sequence at the tail end of the first period, the Crimson drew a penalty on Cornell’s Justin Ertel to earn a power play chance to carry over to the second frame.
At the start of the second period, Harvard began to capitalize on their strong play. Senior defenseman Marshal Rifai tied the game at 1-1 on the carryover power play with a slap shot rocketing from the faceoff circle, and first-year forward Matthew Coronato put the Crimson in front three minutes later when he corralled the rebound of his own shot just outside the crease.
Despite Harvard controlling play once again for the first half of the second period, Cornell was able to tie the game with nine minutes remaining on a goal by forward Matt Stienburg. From that point forward, Cornell regained some momentum, and began peppering Gibson with chances. The goaltender stood strong, however, and sent the Crimson to the dressing room knotted at 2-2.
“We’ve got a couple freshman defensemen, and they’ve really come into their own,” Gibson said. “Everyone’s been taking care of the little things, little details that we’re paying more and more attention to. Just blocking shots and being selfless.”
Despite the rapid pace of the first two periods, the third period was significantly tighter defensively, with the two teams combining for only 11 shots on goal. Coronato and junior forward and captain Nick Abruzzese each had quality scoring chances but were denied by Shane, sending the game to three-on-three overtime.
Despite outplaying Cornell for significant portions of the game, with Harvard outshooting the Big Red 36-22 for the night, the Crimson was unable to solve Shane during overtime, further extending the game into a shootout. With shootout goals from senior forward and captain Casey Dornbach, sophomore forward Alex Laferriere, and Abruzzese, Harvard prevailed in the shootout after six rounds, with Gibson making the decisive save on Cornell’s Sullivan Mack.
“I think no matter what you want to win,” Gibson said. “There was a lot of excitement during the shootout just to get bragging rights that you came out with a win against a good team like that.”
Donato was similarly thrilled with the outcome considering the rivalry implications between Harvard and Cornell.
“That's a game that's always special to us and to come out and play well and carry the play for most of the night and to ultimately win in the shootout was a great way to end the weekend,” Ted Donato said.
HARVARD 5, COLGATE 3
In the first game of the weekend back to back, the Crimson (9-6-1 overall) were in Clinton, NY on Friday to take on the Colgate Raiders (8-13-2 overall). After a very competitive 60 minutes of ice play, Harvard came out on top 5-3, breaking their two game losing streak.
The first period did not lack in action. Both teams erupted with energy, shift changes jumping out quickly from behind the bench. Within the first four minutes, the Crimson were on the power play, after the Raiders’ first-year forward Alex DiPaolo was sent to the box with hooking. Although Harvard’s power play unit has converted on less than 20% for the season, a clear attempt by Colgate was intercepted by junior defenseman Henry Thrun, who passed to the open sophomore forward Alex Laferriere that found the back of the net on a wrist shot.
Less than a minute later, with the Raiders back to full-strength post power play, the Crimson notched another, extending their lead to 2-0. Junior forward John Farinacci snuck one past Colgate senior goalkeeper Farrier, with Farinacci’s linemates Laferriere and first-year forward Alex Gaffney credited with the assists.
“Although they’ve only played together for a few weeks, I think they’ve looked excellent for us,” said Ted Donato of the Farinacci-Laferriere-Gaffney line, noting that the trio has previous experience playing youth hockey together.
Although down 2-0, the Raiders kept game-play competitive and aggressive, with possession staying quite even. Colgate’s senior forward Josh McKechney executed 7:27 into the period, taking Harvard’s lead down to one.
Repetitive change of possession allowed for fast breaks for both teams. The Crimson were more controlled and consistent, taking time to set up a structured offensive. This would work to their advantage, as first-year defenseman Ian Moore rocketed a slap-shot that found the twine behind Farrier after being deflected in by senior forward Jack Donato with just under eight minutes remaining in the period.
Colgate remained competitive, but so did Harvard. At 13:02 in, first-year forward Matthew Coronato was charged with hooking, causing a power play which his teammates successfully killed. However, the penalty kill unit would fail at their next opportunity, when junior defenseman Ryan Siedam was charged with holding with 3:04 remaining. While the Crimson frantically attempted a clear after junior goalkeeper Mitchell Gibson lost control of a save, the congestion of the goal area got the best of them, allowing the Raiders’ junior forward Matt Verboon to sneak the puck under Gibson’s glove.
Both teams remained strong in the last two-some minutes of the period.
Harvard started the second of three strong. The Crimson’s second line of Laferriere, Farinacci, and Gaffney took their first shift head on, a shot by Farinacci within the first two minutes of the period barely missed, and the frustration resulted in a confrontation among the teams in front of the net. It was broken up just before gloves dropped, and Colgate’s junior defenseman Liam Watson-Brawn was sent to the box for hitting-from-behind on the play prior.
Harvard failed to convert the power play. Consequently, on the Raiders’ first possession back to full strength, senior forward Griffin Lunn found the back of the net off of his own rebound 4:04 into the period, his maneuver causing Gibson to fall and lose awareness of the puck.
Although gameplay was competitive and both teams had an abundance of fast breaks, Lunn’s score would be the only of the period. Harvard failed to capitalize on two more power plays, while Colgate failed once, after the Crimson’s senior forward Baker Shore was penalized with hooking. The contest continued to be fast and aggressive, but Gibson kept Harvard in the game, stopping ten shots on goal within the period.
The first three-fourths of the last period continued the close competition among the teams. Gibson continued to come up with big saves, and the second line of Laferriere, Farinacci, and Gaffney continued to make big plays.
“Going into the third in a tie game, I was really happy with the way we responded,” Ted Donato said. “It was a much needed win and really a great boost to morale.”
Game play was steady and there was no clear dominance, until Farinacci punched home a backhander off of a Gaffney pass with 4:17 remaining in the game. Harvard continued their momentum, keeping possession in their offensive zone.
They drew an icing call from the Raiders, which led to a faceoff in their offensive zone, to which Crimson senior defenseman Marshall Rifai gained possession, and sent in his second goal of the season, third of his career, and Harvard’s fifth of the game, solidifying their win.
“This stretch of games is really a great learning opportunity, and I think we've come out feeling a lot better about where we are as a team and where we could get to,” Ted Donato said.
The Crimson finished the game with first-year defenseman Jack Bar in the box on a cross-checking call, but were still able to neutralize Colgate’s six man offense, as Farrier was pulled from net.
The Crimson will head across town and look to add to its winning streak in a pre-Boston Beanpot showdown against the Boston College Eagles (10-11-4) this Tuesday at Kelley Rink in Chestnut Hill, MA at 7pm.
-Staff writer Bridget T. Sands can be reached at email@example.com.
-Staff writer Aaron B. Shuchman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.