BOSTON — After a four-game losing streak on the road, Harvard found out that there’s no place like home.
Captain Steve Moore notched four points, including the primary assist on the game-winning goal at 16:04 of the second period to snap a 2-2 tie and the Crimson hung on through the third, killing off a five-minute major penalty to defeat Union, 5-2, Friday night in front of 2,776 at Bright Hockey Center.
The Skating Dutchmen went 1-for-5 on the power play, with the bulk of them in the third period as Harvard’s penalty kill sealed the win in a game which saw the Crimson send 35 shots on goaltender Brandon Snee, but was always in doubt thanks to the 30 penalties whistled during the contest. The most significant was a five-minute major penalty and game disqualification on sophomore Aaron Kim for cross-checking at 7:58 of the third.
“We knew [Union] would play a hard, non-pressure game and try to be opportunistic,” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “I’m disappointed with the number of penalties we took. They could’ve popped two on it and it would be an entirely different game.”
Kim, while Harvard was at the tail end of a brief power play itself, slammed Union winger Bryant Westerman from behind just beyond the right point. The Harvard penalty kill, which came into the contest ranked fourth in the nation at 90 percent, did not allow the Skating Dutchmen much attack time throughout the major. Union’s best chance came with about a minute left in the advantage.
Leading scorer Jeff Hutchins had a turnaround shot through a screen in the low slot that Crimson goalie Oli Jonas kicked aside and Jonas swiftly recovered to deny Union’s second gunner, junior Jeff Wilson, on the rebound.
Almost immediately after Kim’s penalty expired, Union was whistled for having too many men on the ice. At 14:21, freshman Tyler Kolarik corralled the puck around the red line and shaked his way down the right wing, slipping his way past two defenders and drilling a shot short side past Snee to put Harvard ahead, 4-2, and effectively end any Dutchman chance at a comeback.
“We could not convert our opportunities tonight; they were there,” Union coach Kevin Sneddon said. “Our guys takes one for the team and we couldn’t score. Then, we take a too many men and they end up capitalizing and that was the game. They have a good penalty kill, coming harding in the forecheck and down low in the zone.”
Harvard controlled the play for most of the night, holding leads of 1-0 and 2-1, before Kenny Turano was able to put the Crimson ahead for good with his third goal of the year on a remarkable play by Moore. The Harvard captain muscled his way down the right wing into the corner and threaded a pass between a Dutchman defender’s skates to Turano, who had parked himself in front of the net and the rookie buried it.
Moore busted out of a personal scoring slump Friday night with his four-point total. His goal at 7:50 of the opening period, the first of the game, was his first tally since the second game of the season. It was the first time a Harvard player had four points in a game since Brett Nowak bagged two and assisted on a pair on Nov. 5, 1999 in a 7-2 win vs. Dartmouth.
Freshman Tim Petit also joined the offensive party for the Crimson, which matched its highest goal total of the season in the win. The rookie scored twice, on the power play at 17:23 of the second period and an empty netter with 46 seconds left to drive the nail in the coffin.
“Everyone chipped in tonight, it was a total team effort,” Moore said. “It was real nice to finally get one. [Assistant captain Chris] Bala took a shot on net and I batted it down and I was lucky to have it go in.”
Hutchins registered the first Union goal, a power-play strike at 14:27 off assists from Wilson and Randy Dagenais. Nathan Gillies finished a two-on-one break at 9:26 of the second period, diving to redirect a pass from center Bryan Yackel on Union’s fourth shot of the frame.
“Jonas played a great game tonight for them,” Sneddon said. “The only times we got going was when we were going to the net.”
Jonas made 31 saves for Harvard, while Snee stopped 32.
The only real negative for the Crimson on the whole night was Kim’s penalty. It was his second DQ of the year, forcing an automatic two-game suspension.
With the debut of freshman Kenny Smith at Colorado College over Christmas break, the Crimson looked forward to having six solid defensemen for the first time all season. However, junior Graham Morrell did not return, as announced at Colorado on Friday and his status remains in jeopardy.
Morrell reinjured the shoulder that forced him to redshirt last season and it is unclear when or if he will be able to return to the Crimson lineup. Kim’s loss means that Harvard will host dangerous RPI on Saturday without two of its best blueliners.