CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Just like that, morning dawned on the Harvard season.
The Crimson snapped a five-game losing streak Saturday night with a stunning 4-1 upset of No. 15 St. Lawrence at a sold out Bright Hockey Center. Harvard’s deep funk not only prevented it from falling further in the ECAC, but it also denied Saints coach Joe Marsh his 300th career victory.
“There is definitely no better way to snap a five-game losing streak than to beat the best team in the conference,” said freshman winger Tim Pettit, who iced the game for Harvard in the closing minute with two goals in an 11-second span.
The Crimson played its best hockey in three weeks and effectively shut down the high-powered Saints, who were already crippled with the loss of star center Erik Anderson (sprained ankle Friday at Brown). Harvard took over the game with a two-goal second period in which it allowed the visiting Saints just seven shots on goal, all while bombarding goaltender Jeremy Symington with 17 of its own.
Harvard was finally rewarded at the 7:01 mark of the second when assistant captain Chris Bala one-timed a pass from leading scorer Dominic Moore at the top of the crease.
The advantage grew to two goals on the power play when junior assistant captain Pete Capouch rifled a shot from the left point that Jeff Stonehouse deflected past Symington at 10:56.
“That was a gutsy effort by our kids tonight,” Harvard Coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “We don’t say a game is a must-win too often in a year. But we challenged them tonight because we had to have this game if we wanted home ice.”
St. Lawrence had numerous opportunities to draw back into this contest, including a 43-second two-man advantage to start off the third period. But the Crimson penalty kill was up to the task and ultimately denied eight Saint man advantages on the evening. St. Lawrence had a 25.7-percent success rate on the power play entering the evening.
Harvard certainly benefited from the absence of St. Lawrence star Erik Anderson. Linemates Mike Gellard and Alan Fyfe did not have the same chemistry with sophomore Jim Lorentz at the top of the Saint attack. Moreover, Harvard goalie Oliver Jonas, who has been battling his own personal demons the past couple of games, didn’t need to see an old nemesis staring down at him. In St. Lawrence’s 6-3 win over Harvard at Appleton, Anderson factored in every single goal, with a hat trick and three assists.
“Not having Anderson certainly factored into the game,” Marsh said. “I think he’s the best player in the conference and you could see the chemistry just wasn’t there, especially on the power play.”
Crimson goaltender Oliver Jonas also had a hand in Harvard’s success rate, making 35 saves. The only shot that eluded him was a blast from the left point by Russ Bartlett that rung top shelf at 4:24 of the third. The goal set up a tense finish for a Crimson team which has blown several leads over the past week, including three Friday night in a 5-4 loss to Clarkson.
But Pettit iced the game with an empty-netter at 19:10, and beat Symington off a turnover 11 seconds later.
Pettit has had a remarkable season for Harvard and is one of the top candidates for Rookie of the Year honors. Not heralded at all before the year began, his three points on the night gives him 24 for the season, good for third on the team behind the brothers Moore. He has really found a home on the Crimson’s most dynamic scoring line, playing with Dominic Moore and Bala.
“There was no pressure on me at all entering the season and I kind of liked it that way,” Pettit said. “Hopefully, I can keep on surprising people.”
The loss meant that Marsh, a living legend in Canton, N.Y., will have to wait until next Friday to attain his coaching milestone, when his team returns to Appleton Arena to face Cornell. With Harvard limping into Saturday’s contest on a five-game losing streak and the Saints having captured eight of their last nine games, victory seemed all but certain for the loveable Marsh.
“We gave a good effort tonight,” Marsh said. “We had many chances at the end of the game, but Harvard played real well and kept us from setting up on the power play.”
The victory was Harvard’s first over St. Lawrence since Dec. 6, 1997 at Appleton Arena.