CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The “Cardiac Crimson” flat-lined Friday night.
Harvard (8-6-3, 7-3-2 ECAC), which entered its contest with Princeton having come from behind to win its last three games, fell to the Tigers (6-12-0, 5-6-0), 2-1, before 2,111 at Bright Hockey Center.
The loss was the Crimson’s first against an ECAC foe since dropping a 5-1 decision to Vermont on Nov. 9.
And while Harvard’s dominance — as evidenced by a 38-18 advantage in shots on goal — could have easily made the difference, the story of the game was Princeton goaltender Dave Stathos.
Stathos set the tone early by turning away all 16 of Harvard’s shots in the first period, and never looked back.
“Our goaltender played a tremendous game for us,” said Princeton coach Len Quesnelle. “I’m glad to see us finally get a win when he plays well.”
With things shored up in their own end thanks to Stathos, the Tigers set to work on Harvard freshman goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris. After a scoreless first period, they broke through with 2:33 to play in the second on a goal by freshman winger James Fitzpatrick.
The Crimson maintained its pressure and physical play throughout, but Stathos was both steady and spectacular between the pipes, making perhaps his most amazing save of the night during a Harvard power play early in the third period.
After turning away a shot from the point by Crimson defenseman Dave McCulloch, Stathos lost the rebound to his right side. It found the stick of Harvard winger Brett Nowak, who slammed it toward what seemed to be an open Tiger net. However, Stathos was able to bend backward — as if auditioning to succeed Dominik Hasek in a MasterCard commercial — and miraculously snagged the puck an inch before it crossed the red line.
“It was just a reflex,” Stathos said of the save. “The shot came in, I felt the puck on my pad, and then I saw the rebound right away. I just tried to put as much as I could on it and make a desperate save.
“It wasn’t textbook, anyway,” he added with a smile.
Harvard continued to press during the third period, hoping to add another chapter to its tale of third-period comebacks this season. The Crimson seemed poised to do so when it went on the power play at the 7:16 mark after a slashing call on Princeton’s Trevor Beaney.
However, the Harvard cause was dealt a serious blow when linesman Chip McDonald whistled junior forward Dominic Moore for a questionable high-sticking-the-goaltender call at 8:25 of the period.
The penalty took Harvard off the power play, but — more importantly — led to another Princeton score. With Moore just about to step out of the box, Grumet-Morris turned away David Del Monte’s shot from the point. The rebound found the stick of Brad Parsons, who slammed it home for a 2-0 Tiger lead with 9:33 to play in the game.
True to the late-game form that brought it wins over Cornell, St. Lawrence, and Bowling Green, though, Harvard refused to give up.
With Princeton winger George Parros in the box for charging, Crimson captain Peter Capouch worked his point position to perfection and found Tim Pettit, who blasted a one-timer past Stathos from the top of the right faceoff circle to make it 2-1 with 7:19 to play.
But despite the fact that the Crimson played with an extra attacker for the final 1:39 of the game, Harvard wasn’t able to beat Stathos a second time.
“This is definitely huge as far as confidence,” said Stathos, who finished the game with 37 saves, just two shy of his career best. “It’s important to look ahead to [Brown] because we haven’t swept a weekend in two years.”
After the game, Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said he was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I thought our kids played very hard,” Mazzoleni said. “The difference was goaltending. You’ve got to give their kid credit. He played as good a game as he could have played, put them in a position to win, and shut the door.
“That’s hockey, though, when you run into a good goaltender.”
Grumet-Morris finished with 16 saves in the loss, his first ever in league play.
Jon P. Morosi is a staff writer for The Harvard Crimson. He can be reached at email@example.com.