DURHAM, N.H. — On the strength of three third-period transition goals and tenacious defense, the New Hampshire Wildcats defeated the Harvard Crimson, 4-1, at the Whittemore Center.
“I feel like Al Gore giving my concession speech,” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said of the game, in which New Hampshire outshot the Crimson 42-16. “I thought they were the best defensive team we’ve played all year, and we’ve played BC and BU. We never really got anything going, and they did pretty much offensively what they wanted to do. We’ve made positive strides from last year, but we’re not at that level yet.”
The Wildcats (11-3-3, 4-2-2 Hockey East) came out flying in the first period, outshooting Harvard (6-5-1, 5-3-1 ECAC) 14-3, but Crimson netminder Oliver Jonas stood tall, turning away all 14 shots.
The Wildcats had several scoring chances, but the best came while shorthanded. Darren Haydar stole the puck in the neutral zone and broke in alone on Jonas. The Wildcats’ leading scorer could not get a good shot off as he was slashed by Blair Barlow, who was sent to the box, negating the power play.
The second period was more of the same, as the Wildcats outshot Harvard 16-2, with both Crimson shots coming in the last few seconds of the frame.
Forward Josh Prudden netted the first goal of the game at 1:49 of the second period off the faceoff.
“I tried to win the draw back, and we both missed it,” Prudden said. “It kind of just sat there, and I stepped by the guy and shot it, and it went between the goalie’s legs.”
There was no more scoring in the period, but tempers ran high as New Hampshire’s Sean Austin and Harvard’s Dave McCulloch were each sent to the showers with game disqualifications for fighting at 9:43 of the period. Both players will sit out their next games.
The second period ended with the Wildcats clinging to a one-goal lead despite outshooting the Crimson 30-5.
“I think [Jonas] played well,” Mazzoleni said. “He’s unfortunately seen over 30 shots a game, and the performance you saw tonight is pretty much what he’s given us the whole year. The game could have been a lot higher [scoring] if it wasn’t for him. He’s done that on a nightly basis.”
The third period started with Haydar stealing the puck at center ice and again racing in alone on Jonas. Haydar was tripped up by Tim Stay before getting the shot off, which was again turned away by Jonas.
The third time for Haydar was a charm.
“Haydar scored one of the great goals [I've seen] in this building,” New Hampshire coach Dick Umile said.
Haydar again broke in, faked out two defenseman, deked Jonas and flipped the puck into the net at 4:17. Mick Mounsey and Nathan Martz assisted on what proved to be the game winner.
“It’s great playing with someone of [Haydar's] caliber,” said forward Corey-Joe Ficek, who was lined up with Haydar and forward Nathan Martz for the first time this year. “He’s just a great player.”
After generating some offensive flow for the first time in the game, the Crimson finally managed a goal at 11:30 on the power play. With Mike Lubesnick in the box for delay of game, the Crimson took just 10 seconds to score.
Star forward Chris Bala picked up a rebound on the doorstep and beat Ty Conklin high bringing the Crimson back within one, 2-1.
The Goal broke Conklin’s 174-minute, 56-second shutout streak.
“It was [hard to get into the flow of the game],” Conklin said. “Even though they weren’t generating a lot of shots, they still had the puck in our zone some, and our defense did a great job. Whenever you have to play the puck, it keeps you in the game.”
The Crimson seemed to grab some momentum following the goal, picking up the pressure on Conklin, but it was the Wildcats who struck next.
Forward David Busch skated down the left wing, and fed a nifty pass to forward Lanny Gare, whose first attempt was stopped by Jonas. Gare then slapped the rebound past Jonas, giving the Wildcats a 3-1 lead at 15:21.
The final goal came just over a minute later on a similar play. Forward Jeff Haydar skated in with wing Johnny Rogers to his right, and slid a pass to Rogers, who lifted the puck past a sprawling Jonas.
“New Hampshire really took it to us the entire game,” Jonas said. “They deserved to win tonight. They have some really skilled forwards. I think we were prepared for their system, but just didn’t come out to play tonight.”
“I’m obviously pleased the outcome, but more pleased with [the fact that] we played a 60-minute hockey game,” Umile said. “Our defense has been playing real well, we’ve just been struggling scoring goals.
“Even through two periods we struggled scoring goals, and we couldn’t get the knockout punch. Haydar’s goal took a lot out of them and the guys scored a couple of pretty goals to put it away.”
The Wildcats return to action Saturday night as they host Princeton. The Crimson resume their schedule on Dec. 29 at Colorado College.