BOSTON — In the Beanpot, the on-ice intensity is often directly proportional to the number of people at the FleetCenter.
So, it didn’t come as much of a surprise that Harvard and Northeastern yawned their way through a forgettable first period in Monday night’s consolation game, while many fans eagerly awaiting the evening’s title card between Boston College and Boston University were still fighting their way through traffic on Storrow Drive.
But as the late-game crowd started to file in, the rink started to warm up and both teams found their skating legs. However, it was the work Harvard did before most of the evening’s sellout arrived that helped it to a 4-1 win.
The win was the Crimson’s first over a Hockey East school in 15 games — a winless streak that had gone all the way back to a 4-3 win over BU on Nov. 21, 2000.
“I’m very pleased with the effort tonight,” said Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni, whose team improved to 15-7-1 overall. “The kids played hard, inspired hockey. We came out battling at the beginning, got a flow going, and finished strong.”
Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder was similarly pleased with his team’s effort, even though it dropped its third straight in falling to 9-17-2. “I can’t fault our guys for working,” he said. “We played extremely hard. It just came down to our inability to produce goals.”
That wasn’t a problem for Harvard, thanks to the play of senior captain Dominic Moore and deft playmaker Tom Cavanagh, both of whom scored twice.
“You’re disappointed to be playing in the consolation game, but every game is important now, especially in terms of the rankings,” Moore said. “We lost last week, but there’s no time to get consoled.”
So the Crimson went out and earned some consolation for itself, starting with Moore’s first goal of the day about six minutes into the first. Moore had 53 career goals entering the game, but that was his first in the Beanpot.
“Well, I scored one my freshman year but they took that back on the video replay,” Moore smiled. “So it’s nice to finally break that egg.”
Few grade-A scoring chances followed until Cavanagh swept through the slot and roofed the rebound of a blast from linemate Tim Pettit midway through the second.
“Timmy has such a hard shot that goalies have a hard time handling it,” said Cavanagh, who has played with Pettit for much of the season and was joined by Brendan Bernakevitch on Harvard’s second line four games ago. “We’ve got good chemistry on that line. All three of us work hard.”
Moore’s second of the day was of highlight-reel quality.
With Harvard skating down a man because of a cross-checking call to Ryan Lannon at 15:02 of the second, Moore found himself on a 2-on-1 rush with Tyler Kolarik. He began on the left wing, swept in front, spun around NU defenseman Tim Judy — all while nearly colliding with Kolarik — to stay on his forehand and slip his team-leading 15th goal of the season past NU’s Mike Gilhooly to put Harvard up 3-0.
Northeastern drew the deficit to two on a goal by Trevor Reschny with under a minute to go in the second and nearly cut into the Crimson lead again the third. However, a would-be goal was disallowed because Mike Ryan hopped over the dasher as the extra skater on a delayed penalty call before Gilhooly (35 saves) had made it to the bench.
“That’s the way it’s in the books,” Crowder said of the ruling. “The linesman made the right call.”
NU’s inability to close the gap allowed Cavanagh’s second marker of the day, which came on a breakaway at 9:20 of the third, to wrap up the win for Harvard.
But even more than snapping the Crimson’s five-game Beanpot losing streak, Mazzoleni was happiest about the fact that senior goaltender Ben Weiss made his Harvard debut.
Weiss, a Chestnut Hill, Mass., native, played the final 2:28 and made two stops after freshman John Daigneau (29 saves) got his fourth career start. No. 1 goalie Dov Grumet-Morris had the night off.
“You guys don’t know a lot about this kid, Ben Weiss,” Mazzoleni said to the press corps after the game. “The Beanpot is all about the stories of the people, so I’m going to tell you about him. He’s overcome so much adversity in four years, and to see him get in there, to see the joy on his face. To have him get into the game means more than the victory.
“Benny’s never going to forget this.”
That’s something Weiss attested to himself after the game. “I’m from Boston, and I always wanted to play for Harvard and play in the Beanpot,” he said. “Being able to say I got in there and was a part of this … this is a great day.”