MILWAUKEE — A day before his 20th birthday, John Daigneau had quite a party at the Bradley Center.
With a group of 15 to 20 family members cheering him on save by save, the Harvard backup goaltender from nearby Brookfield, Wis., made 25 saves to backstop the 13th-ranked Crimson’s 8-1 victory over Colgate on Monday.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better gift,” Daigneau said.
Tyler Kolarik had his second two-goal game of the season and added an assist, Tim Pettit had a goal and an assist, and all 10 Harvard forwards that dressed got on the scoresheet as the Crimson took third place in the Bank One Badger Hockey Showdown.
Daigneau, who played three seasons in the United States Hockey League after attending the University School of Milwaukee, had made only one other appearance in his collegiate career — he made seven saves and was the goalie of record in a 6-3 win at Princeton on Dec. 6.
He had a bit of trouble controlling and directing rebounds, but he made his share of important saves, especially when the game was close in the first and second periods. Seven minutes into the first period, with the game scoreless, he slid quickly to deny P.J. Yedon’s one-time chance from the slot.
He also made a chest save to stop Scooter Smith, Colgate’s leading scorer, and kicked out his right pad to stop a rebound attempt, both on a Raiders power play in the second period.
“If you’re mentally sharp, it’s a lot easier to make the easy saves and a lot easier to make the more difficult ones,” Daigneau said. “You’re seeing the puck well, you’re anticipating, you’re moving. Mental sharpness is definitely an advantage.”
His only error appeared unavoidable. Colgate defenseman Joey Mormina sliced through the Harvard defense on the left side and fired a shot off the right post. With Daigneau out of position from the initial shot, Smith tapped in the rebound to cut the lead to 5-1.
Leaving the ice after the game, Daigneau gave a brief wave and took a curtain call with his stick raised.
A four-goal second period gave the Crimson (10-5-1) a lead with which they could cruise. Kolarik started it with his second goal of the game 73 seconds into the period, and Tom Walsh, Dominic Moore and Pettit added to the barrage of goals that offered a reminder of Harvard’s 7-1 victory over the Raiders (7-10-1) on Nov. 23.
On both of his goals, however, Kolarik was the beneficiary of the work of Brett Nowak, the center on his line. His first, at 9 minutes, 40 seconds of the first period, was a tap-in at the right post of a rebound off the end boards. Nowak missed a slap shot wide right, but Colgate starting goalie David Cann couldn’t get back to the post before Kolarik squeezed a sharp-angle shot from just above the goal line between the pipes.
Harvard, which outshot the Raiders 38-26, went up 2-0 just 73 seconds into the second period when, on a 2-on-1 break, Nowak drew the defender to him with a shot fake on the right wing, then gave Kolarik a pass that he one-timed into a vacated net.
After the Crimson gained a 4-0 advantage on Moore’s goal 7:49 into the second period, Colgate coach Don Vaughan called his timeout and replaced Cann with Steve Silverthorn, who played in the Raiders’ 2-1 semifinal loss to host Wisconsin on Sunday.
Colgate has lost three games in a row.
“The only thing we can do about the game tonight is put it out of our memory,” Vaughan said. “We’ve got to get ready to play two very important games next weekend on the road at Clarkson and St. Lawrence, and that has to be the focus this week.”
Daigneau may have been a bit unlucky to have missed a shutout, but he’s been lucky in avoiding the flu bug that has run through the Harvard locker room. Forward Rob Fried was a game-time scratch because of the illness, which also reached Kolarik and Aaron Kim.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to stay out of the way of that,” he said.
The teams are scheduled to meet again — this time, with ECAC points on the line — at Harvard on Feb. 14.