HAMILTON, N.Y. — Harvard grabbed the lead with just 1:45 elapsed in the game and never looked back, holding off host Colgate, 3-2, in a hard-fought contest at Starr Rink.
The win gave Harvard (3-1-1, 3-1-1 ECAC) three points on the weekend after a tie at Cornell on Friday, and was only the third home loss since the 1998-99 season for injury-riddled Colgate (2-6-2, 1-3-0).
“We had two tough games this weekend, and both nights we competed very, very hard and played smart hockey,” Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “Tight games like these, especially on the road, were the ones that would have slipped away from us last year. We’re very pleased.”
The Red Raiders, who were without several key players and were barely able to dress the 18-man maximum for the second straight night, had hoped to record a weekend sweep after downing Brown, 6-4, on Friday. It didn’t take the visitors long to establish themselves and seize command, however.
After winning a faceoff, Brett Nowak maneuvered his way in front of the Colgate net and connected off a feed from David McCulloch, beating goaltender David Cann through the legs before he even had time to react.
Harvard was clearly the aggressor for the first period and a half, out-skating its opponents and stifling every Colgate scoring chance. Even when the Red Raiders appeared to regain their collective legs, Crimson players made the necessary adjustments and held them at bay.
“We definitely came out flat tonight, but we eventually battled back and
established a pretty good tempo,” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. “Unfortunately for us, we got some bad breaks and Harvard played a strong game defensively. In a scrappy game like this one, every mistake is going to hurt.”
Mazzoleni praised his special teams, which led to the Crimson’s next goal under unusual circumstances.
“Our team defense, especially during our penalty killing, was excellent tonight,” he said. “We believe in being aggressive. Even if we can’t get to the puck, we try to force opponents to move it where they might not want to and keep them out of rhythm. Tonight, we did an excellent job of this.”
Turning the tables on a Colgate power play, the Harvard penalty-killing unit capitalized on a freak play and emerged on a 3-on-1 break. After a Colgate defender broke his stick while attempting a slap shot, Chris Bala stole the puck, skated in and drew Cann out, then set up David Capouch for a top-shelf goal that the netminder was powerless to stop. The goal came at 3:52 of the final period.
Colgate senior captain Cory Murphy injected some life into his team with a slapper that beat goalie Oliver Jonas at 8:05 of the third. The native of Kanata, Ontario, took a pass from Etienne Morin and blasted the puck into the net on Jonas’ stick side.
Things looked to be turning the Red Raiders’ way, but another fine individual effort bumped the Harvard cushion back up to two goals.
With less than five minutes to play, freshman left wing Tyler Kolerik recorded his first collegiate goal on a breakaway to give his team a 3-1 advantage.
The Red Raiders again fought back as sophomore Daniel “Scooter” Smith scored his fourth goal of the weekend, beating Jonas with the Colgate net empty on the other end of the rink and only 48 seconds to play. Despite the last-minute surge, Harvard’s defense clamped down and ran out the clock on its hosts.
“We showed good poise in the third period. We could have easily let down after both of [Colgate's] goals, but we stayed together and stuck by the defensive mentality that we’ve implemented all season,” Mazzoleni said.
The biggest factor was most likely the play of the Harvard special teams, which held Colgate’s strong power play unit scoreless in four tries in addition to generating a shorthanded goal.
Jonas made 24 saves between the pipes for Harvard, while Cann turned aside 18 shots for Colgate in his second career start.
Harvard returns to the Boston area for a grudge match with Boston University on Tuesday night. Colgate will make the most of a week of rest before it takes on Niagara next Saturday in the opening round of the annual Syracuse Invitational Tournament.
“Resting is the best thing we can do right now,” Vaughan said. “Our bench is short and we’re banged up. After a few days off, we’ll come back and try to get back in sync. We’ve been getting some bad breaks, but we can’t use that as an excuse. It’s our job as a team to find a way through it.”