CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Because of its exam period, Harvard won’t play again until Jan. 31.
That could be a good thing for the Crimson. It might take it until then to forget about what happened Saturday before a sleepy matinee crowd of 2,104 at Bright Hockey Center.
“Gives you something to think about, doesn’t it?” asked Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni after his ECAC-leading team lost to last-place Princeton, 2-1. “Games like this terrify you, because you hope your team will look past their record and not have a letdown. We talked about that last night. We talked about that this morning.
“This is a tough loss, no doubt about it.”
Princeton won for just the third time all season, but is now unbeaten (3-0-1) in its last four trips to Bright, including a strikingly similar 2-1 win exactly one year ago.
And perhaps most importantly, the Tigers will enter their exam break on a positive note after struggling for much of the first half.
“It’s a real big win for this team,” said Princeton coach Len Quesnelle. “This is a great way to go into exams. Our guys will feel really good when they step on the ice again after the break.
“This is a steppingstone for our program.”
Although Princeton got two goals from junior Chris Owen, arguably its biggest performance of the day came from goaltender Trevor Clay, who has been in goal for each of the Tigers’ three victories this season.
Clay made 45 saves, including an eye-popping 22 in the Harvard-dominated first period.
“I felt very good right from the start,” said Clay, who has now made 40-plus saves three times this season. “They had a lot of point shots early, which are better to get started on than breakaways, obviously. I was just very focused on winning. I got settled in, and it carried through.
“This is my biggest win in college,” Clay said. “I was recruited by Harvard, so this is an especially good feeling.”
Clay’s first-period performance proved to be the key to the game. On its first power play, the Crimson sustained possession in the Princeton zone for 1:38.
Later in the period, Dominic Moore swept a rebound from Tim Pettit through Clay’s legs.
But it slipped an inch past the post.
“We had so many scoring chances, but we just didn’t finish,” Mazzoleni said.
Owen put Princeton up 1-0 with 6:34 to go in the first when he put back a rebound of Steve Slaton’s shot from the right point.
It took Harvard more than a period to respond. After failing to score on its first four power-play opportunities, Crimson captain Dominic Moore carried the puck into the zone, moved in between the circles, and wristed the tying goal off the shoulder of Clay.
Princeton’s reply was much quicker. Immediately after the faceoff following Moore’s goal, Tiger center Mike Patton brought the puck in along the right wing and sent a shot toward Harvard freshman goaltender John Daigneau, starting just his third collegiate game.
Daigneau made the save, but the rebound bounced away to his right, where Owen played Johnnie-on-the-Spot and roofed what proved to be the game-winner.
Harvard had two more power plays and numerous scoring chances in the third but couldn’t convert. The Crimson finished the game 1-for-7 on the man advantage.
“They have a great power play — either the first- or second-best in the league,” Clay said. “Thirty seconds feels like two minutes when they’re in there.”
For Harvard, that was small consolation.
“We’re disappointed,” said Moore, who now leads the Crimson with 12 goals. “We outshot and outchanced them.
“But that’s sports.”
Daigneau finished with 27 saves.
“He played well,” Mazzoleni said of Daigneau, who he decided Friday would be the starter. “Thought he made some good saves on the 2-on-1 rushes they had.
“He wasn’t the reason we lost the game.”