CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Entering its game with Union, Harvard was 7-0-0 this year when leading at the second intermission. Meanwhile, the Skating Dutchmen were 0-10-1 when trailing after the same amount of time.
So when the Crimson (11-12-4, 10-7-3 ECAC) took a 1-0 lead into the third period on Saturday night, history indicated that the outcome was no longer in doubt.
But history received some help from Harvard freshman Dov Grumet-Morris, who was brilliant all night long between the pipes. The Evanston, Ill. native made 32 saves and posted his first collegiate shutout in the Crimson’s 4-0 win before 1,857 at Bright Hockey Center.
“The most important thing was the win,” Grumet-Morris said. “We needed the win no matter what, so the shutout was secondary. This was a huge game. We needed a stop. We needed to play hard and get the ‘W.’”
Grumet-Morris was quick to give credit to the defense in front of him.
“Our team did a great job of boxing men out and keeping shots to the perimeter,” he said.
The victory was only Harvard’s second since Jan. 12 but it was enough to vault the Crimson into a second-place tie in the ECAC standings with Clarkson and Dartmouth, both of whom lost Saturday night.
“This is a big win for us … a real big win for us,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. “We needed to right our ship tonight and we did that. The big thing is that we didn’t get behind tonight. We weren’t satisfied with one [goal]. We kept on coming. Our kids really hung in there and battled, and that was really good to see.
“And I thought [Grumet-Morris] played outstanding. He had control of everything and didn’t give up any rebounds. He commanded the position well and really made some key saves. That’s the type of goaltending we need. He knew he had to come up with a big game and he did it.”
With Princeton’s 4-2 win over Vermont, Union (12-12-6, 7-10-3 ECAC) now finds itself in ninth place.
“I thought our team played pretty well tonight, up until the very end,” said Dutchmen coach Kevin Sneddon. “The game came down to Harvard capitalizing on our mistakes and us not capitalizing on Harvard’s mistakes. We had a lot of ‘Grade A’ opportunities, but [Grumet-Morris] played very well in net for them.
“We worked hard, but we just don’t have much to show for it. That’s the only disappointing part of it.”
Grumet-Morris and Union netminder Brandon Snee kept the game scoreless through most of the first two periods, but Harvard sophomore winger Rob Fried solved Snee with 6:32 to play in the second.
Crimson center Dominic Moore put a shot on net from just above the left faceoff circle that Snee was able to stop. The rebound, however, came loose in front, where Fried picked it up and slipped it through Snee’s pads to give his team a 1-0 advantage.
“When you go in front of the net, good things are going to happen,” Fried said. “Pucks are going to be there. And when we get that first goal, we’re a much more deadly team. That’s when we really pounce on teams, so that was huge.”
Grumet-Morris — who had allowed an average of over four goals per game over his four previous starts — was outstanding during that second period, weathering a storm of 15 Union shots.
Harvard freshman defenseman Noah Welch gave his team some breathing room by beating Snee with a hard slapper from above the right faceoff circle at 12:29 of the final period.
Union coach Kevin Sneddon pulled Snee with just under three minutes to play, hoping to get his team on the board. It nearly worked, as Dutchmen center Jordan Webb rung the crossbar behind Grumet-Morris with 2:40 to go. However, play quickly swung back the other way and Crimson junior center Brett Nowak potted an empty-netter from just outside the blue line to give his team a three-goal advantage.
With Snee back in net, Fried notched his second marker of the game with 1:46 to play for the final margin of victory.
“He gets better with every game,” Mazzoleni said of Fried.
Snee was very effective between the pipes for Union and kept his team within striking distance until the game’s final moments. He finished with 29 saves.
Harvard is now 8-1-1 in its last 10 games with the Dutchmen. Union’s last win at Bright was a 4-2 victory on Jan. 10, 1997.
The Crimson was without the services of sophomore winger Tyler Kolarik, who entered the weekend as the team’s leading scorer. Kolarik broke his thumb during the first period on Friday night and is out indefinitely.
“We’ll be fighting this battle for him,” Fried said of Kolarik, his teammate dating back to their days at Deerfield Prep. “He’s been a big part of this team. Hopefully he’ll be back for the playoff stretch.”