CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — After a disheartening loss to Brown in Saturday’s season opener, the Harvard Crimson salvaged their home weekend with a decisive 5-2 victory over ECAC rival Dartmouth. Sunday night’s marquee matchup was the pair’s first meeting since the Crimson clinched a 3-2 overtime win over the Big Green in the consolation game of the ECAC Championship tournament last March.
Despite a sluggish start at the top of the opening period, Harvard answered Dartmouth’s two-goal challenge with three unanswered goals of its own, including two of them before the first intermission. Fittingly, the veteran Crimson line combination of Brett Nowak, Tyler Kolarik and Dominic Moore on the power play came through with the game-winning goal, giving Harvard a much-needed boost of confidence.
“The game was ours for the taking,” Dartmouth Coach Bob Gaudet said. “The game seemed to be fairly even, and then all of a sudden they were up by two. Those two goals killed us … we just weren’t able to recover.”
Nowak’s goal, his first of the season, was the first of a pair of tallies notched on the Crimson’s five-on-three advantage in the second period. At 11:58, Moore dazzled his opponents with a flawless backhand pass to Kolarik, who handed the puck off to Nowak. Nowak quickly launched the puck over Big Green netminder Nick Boucher’s shoulder and found the back of the net to put the Crimson ahead for good, 3-2.
Prior to the momentum change, the early minutes of the first period seemed to be a continuation of Harvard’s lackluster effort against the Bears the previous night. Dartmouth pressured Crimson goaltender Will Crothers — who has only logged 80 minutes of action prior to this season — peppering him with 10 shots on net in the first period. Overall, Crothers was spectacular between the pipes, stopping 26 shots on net.
“We beat a lot of good schools to get Will here,” Harvard Coach Mark Mazzoleni said.
Dartmouth winger Mike Murray scored first for the Big Green, on the man advantage, 4:21 into the game. Teammate Trevor Byrne launched a wrist shot from the slot that rebounded off Crothers. Murray quickly slammed home the rebound to put the Big Green ahead 1-0.
The Crimson, struggling to fight off the Dartmouth onslaught, courageously staved off the Big Green’s five-on-three advantage, but suffered an unlucky blow as the second penalty concluded. After Big Green forward Chris Baldwin sent a pass through traffic in the slot, the puck deflected off the defender’s skate, allowing center Frank Nardella to slam it home, putting Dartmouth up 2-0.
The tide appeared to turn at the halfway point, as Harvard increased its attack time in the offensive zone. Dartmouth’s defense, which is pegged as one of the top units in the league, could not accomplish what Brown did the previous night: shut down the Crimson in the neutral zone.
Moore and sophomore winger Tim Pettit both had excellent chances to take advantage of an absent Boucher. Though Boucher was caught out of position, neither Pettit nor Moore could find the backstop, but junior linemate Aaron Kim put in Pettit’s rebound to put the Crimson on the board at 11:58.
Less than four minutes later, Pettit struck gold with a perfect rebound shot from the left faceoff circle at 18:55 in the first period. Rookie center Tom Cavanagh took a hard shot from center slot, which deflected wide off of Boucher’s chest. Pettit, who had been crashing the net, quickly put the puck past Boucher’s glove-side to knot the score at two apiece.
From that point on, it was the Crimson’s game, both at even strength and on the power play. Even when Harvard was not on the man advantage, it appeared to play as if it was. Dartmouth was held scoreless for the remainder of the game, while Nowak and Moore put up two power-play goals apiece in the middle frame.
However, the Crimson were able to blank the Big Green in the final two periods thanks, in part, to being on the receiving end of a difficult call. Nardella attempted to put up his second goal of the night with a wrap-around of his own, but officials called a man in the crease at 7:40 to keep the score tied at two. Dartmouth appeared to rattle after that, succumbing to emotions that allowed the Crimson to gain a five-on-three advantage and a pair of power-play goals.
Nowak’s tally sealed the Big Green’s fate, and Moore’s goal, his second goal of the season, insured Dartmouth’s sixth straight loss at Bright Hockey Center.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday evening in Hanover, after the Crimson travel to Vermont and the Big Green host Brown on Friday.