BOSTON — The Harvard spiral winds deeper and deeper.
The Crimson blew leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 Friday night at Bright Hockey Center, extending its losing streak to five games as Clarkson skated away with a 5-4 victory in front of a sparse crowd of 1,711.
On a strange night of bounces for both teams, the Golden Knights’ goal to give them the lead for the first time in the game was clean. With 7:25 left in the third period, junior David Evans rushed into the Crimson zone one-on-one with a Harvard defenseman. He beat the defender and tucked a shot behind goalie Oli Jonas on the backhand.
“I’ll take the win anyway I can get it,” Clarkson coach Mark Morris said. “After a suspect start, we played with some emotion. It was a hotly contested hockey game.”
But Clarkson (15-9-3, 10-5-2 ECAC) caught a couple of breaks to recover from separate deficits of 3-2 and 4-3.
Junior Kerry Ellis-Toddington tied the game at 4 at 8:25 of the third on an apparently harmless wrist shot from the right circle that went off of Jonas’ glove and trickled home.
The Golden Knights evened the contest at 3 with just six seconds left in the second period. Playing hockey’s version of pinball, rookie of the year candidate Rob McFeeters blasted a shot from the top of the left circle that Jonas appeared to have lined up, but it bounced off three players and inside the right post.
“Overall, I thought we fought for the whole game and played well in the defensive zone when everything was set up. We didn’t allow much,” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “But I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but we still had breakdowns on fundamental plays. … They caught a few breaks too.”
The Crimson simply couldn’t take over the game when it had the lead. Harvard leading scorer Dominic Moore gave it one final chance on a rebound goal at 1:02 of the third period, but it proved ultimately to no avail. It was the second straight game Harvard in which had difficulty with the advantage. Against Northeastern on Monday in the Beanpot consolation game, the Crimson blew leads of 2-0, 4-2, 6-3 and 7-5 before falling, 8-7.
Harvard had the better of play during the first two periods, playing with a jump and life that had been missing over the past couple of weeks, which has seen some ugly losses, including a 7-0 thumping last week at Dartmouth.
One trend that has continued has been the suddenly shaky goaltending of Jonas. The senior made 29 saves, but some goals were soft, including Elias-Toddington’s goal, the Golden Knights’ first tally, a soft wrist shot by captain Kent Huskins that went five-hole.
“I don’t think we got particulary good goaltending tonight,” Mazzoleni said. “But in fairness to Oli, he’s bailed us out many times this year, so we can’t complain.”
In fact, this game was a matchup of two season-long surprise stories in goal — Jonas and Mike Walsh for the Golden Knights. Jonas was the three-year backup to one of the best netminders in program history, J.R. Prestifilippo, and starred in his one chance to shine. Walsh made the team as a mid-year walk-on and Morris, in one of his famous goaltending fits, opted to play him over Karl Mattson when Shaun Grant struggled.
However, Friday night it looked like the clock was about to strike midnight for both Cinderella stories. Walsh didn’t fare much better than Jonas, struggling to control his rebounds and letting Harvard take a 3-2 advantage on a shot by freshman Tyler Kolarik that he’d probably like back.
“I don’t think it was Walsh’s best night,” Morris said. “But he’s our guy. This is part of the normal process for a goalie. He hasn’t even seen all the teams in the league yet.”
Harvard also struggled on its specialty teams, allowing two power-play goals while going 0-for-3 with the man advantage. Not too long ago, the Crimson had one of the finest special teams units in the nation.
Freshman Tim Pettit and captain Steve Moore opened the scoring for the Crimson with goals at 1:37 and 5:46 of the first period. Jean Desrochers notched the second Clarkson goal at 5:19 of the second.
Moore’s goal was somewhat controversial as there was question whether his shot trickled completely over the goal line before Walsh could fetch it out.