NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Yale head coach Tim Taylor didn’t even think the Bulldogs’ thrilling, come-from-behind, 4-3 victory over Harvard was one of his team’s best games of the year.
Ironically, some of those better games Taylor spoke of saw the Elis end up on the wrong end of a one-goal score. And for a while, it looked as if this game would once again see Yale fall by the slimmest of margins as Harvard led with less than three minutes to play.
Enter Chris Higgins.
The Eli freshman picked the perfect moment to snap his seven-game goal-less streak, scoring two goals in a 1:23 span in the final 2:29 of the game, electrifying the sellout crowd of 3,486 at Ingalls Rink and keeping the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes alive on the eve of the regular season finale.
“The last 10 minutes of this game was Harvard-Yale as I’ve always known it,” Taylor said. “We just weren’t going to be denied during the last part of the third period.”
The Bulldogs — who were basically using a three-line rotation due to injuries — got on the board first, when a Vin Hellemeyer shot found the back of the net at 1:18 of the first period. Chris Higgins corralled a rebound on the right boards and quickly fired the puck to the top of the crease where Hellemeyer redirected it and sent it past Crimson netminder Dov Grumet-Morris.
Some excellent play by both Grumet-Morris and Eli goaltender Dan Lombard kept the score at 1-0 as the teams headed to the locker rooms for first intermission.
Just after the puck dropped on the second period, though, Harvard tied the score. Dennis Packard fired a wrister from the right faceoff circle and the shot found its way past a screened Lombard just :43 into the stanza.
A nifty play from Denis Nam put Yale back out in front less than three minutes later. Nam skated across the blueline and accelerated through the left circle before skating behind the net and sending a pretty feed to Joe Callahan, who netted the puck from the right slot at 4:32, giving the home squad a 2-1 advantage.
Several spectacular saves by Lombard — who finished with 27 — kept the score at 2-1 for much of the second period, and it appeared as if Yale would lead heading into the final 20 minutes. The Crimson had other ideas, however, when New Haven native Brett Nowak beat Lombard stick-side on a wrist shot from the right circle with three seconds remaining in the period to knot the score at 2-2.
“[After that goal] I said ‘not again,’” Taylor said. “We had a bit of a deflated attitude after that but [team captatin] Luke Earl and I said some things. You have to will it to happen, and these guys did. I am so proud of them.”
Harvard controlled the early stages of the third period, though. Tim Pettit gave the Crimson a 3-2 advantage 4:22 in, when Yale failed to clear the puck off a rebound and Pettit netted it from the top of the crease. Lombard was impeded from stopping the puck as a result of being pushed out of position by a sliding Crimson forward.
Yale came on strong for the final 10 minutes. The game-tying goal came at 17:31 when Earl fed Higgins in the slot. Higgins backhanded a shot from the slot that found the net. Just over a minute later, Earl picked up the puck just inside the Harvard blue line and quickly dished it to Higgins, who worked the right side. Higgins fired the game-winner from 15 feet away, blasting a shot that Grumet-Morris couldn’t cover.
After that, Harvard mustered only one more quality shot, but Lombard made an impressive kick-save and the threat was extinguished.