BOSTON — After a long exam break, Harvard knew it needed a warmup before battling archrival Cornell Saturday at Bright Hockey Center. But Colgate wasn’t supposed to work the Crimson out this hard.
In a rugged, physical contest more expected of a Harvard-Cornell game, the Crimson (10-8-1, 9-4-1 ECAC) scored three goals in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie and walk away with a 4-1 win over Colgate (5-16-4, 3-9-1) in front of a lively 2,423 at Bright.
The game was a lot closer than the score reflected.
“We showed a lot of character,” said freshman winger Tyler Kolarik, who had two goals and an assist Friday night. “For the first time all season, we had a real gut check in the third period. These were two points we had to have.”
Harvard had clung to a 1-0 lead since halfway through the first period, but Colgate corralled the momentum early in the third on a floater by defenseman Bryan Long that Scooter Smith deflected past Oliver Jonas at 1:21.
Colgate, the No. 10 team in the ECAC, looked poised to take the lead against the first-place Crimson when captain Steve Moore took a holding penalty at 9:23.
However, 10 seconds into the penalty, Moore’s younger brother, Dominic, poked the puck into the neutral zone off a faceoff and went around the defenseman for a shorthanded breakaway. Red Raider goaltender David Cann stopped Moore off a backhanded deke, but Harvard’s leading goal-scorer tapped home the rebound for his 10th strike of the year and a 2-1 lead.
The goal also boosted Harvard’s ECAC penalty kill back to a plus-one for the year — that is, the Crimson has scored one more shorthanded goal than it has allowed the opposition’s power play to score.
“We had a really good feeling on the bench at that point that we were gonna get the job done,” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. “We had a really good opportunity on the power play, win the draw clean, and their center breaks through and boom, it’s a shorthanded goal. I’ve never been on a team where we are not getting any breaks at all.”
The Red Raiders appeared to get plenty of breaks midway through the second period when Harvard took two minor penalties that surrounded a five-minute major and game misconduct to freshman defenseman Kenny Smith. Colgate had over five minutes of continuous power-play time and a shade under four with a two-man advantage.
But the Crimson put on a penalty-killing clinic as it wiped out the long manpower deficit. The Red Raiders took plenty of shots, but most were from the outside and Jonas made two spectacular saves on Etienne Morin. Morin was robbed on a breakaway and then, with 7:53 left in the period, he took a bang-bang pass on the doorstep with apparently a wide open net, but Jonas flung his goal stick across the crease to send the usually tame Bright crowd to its feet.
Jonas made a career-high 47 saves on the night. Overall, Colgate was 0-for-5 on the power play.
“I have never coached a team that gives up an average of 34 shots a game,” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “Jonas has been our savior and put us in position where we can succeed.”
Sophomore Brett Nowak opened the scoring at 12:40 of the first period on the power play, poking home a puck that had stopped on the goal line after a blazing end-to-end rush by Kolarik. Kolarik would have to wait until the third period to score as he iced the game for the Crimson, netting the game’s final two goals: the first at 17:19, and an empty-netter at 19:39.
The Crimson had not played an ECAC contest since Jan. 13, a 3-1 loss at Yale. Colgate, whose winless streak extended to five, thought that it might have caught Harvard a little rusty from its break for final exams.
“We talked about Harvard’s long layoff during practice this week,” Vaughan said. “I thought we really played well and got a lot of shots on net. But Harvard made the plays when they had to and we just could not get anything by Jonas.”
Harvard now gears up for a first-place showdown with top rival Cornell. The Big Red trail the Crimson by just one point in the standings and hold a game in hand over Harvard. The usually intense contest between these two schools has even more tension with first place on the line. Bright Hockey Center is sold out for the contest, with even standing room and the usual reserve of walk-up student tickets gone.
“I think our team is starting to realize that it has a chance to do this and take first place,” Mazzoleni said. “Every game is important. We needed the two points tonight and now we are set for Cornell.”