BURLINGTON, Vt. — Harvard spoiled an emotional evening for four Vermont Catamounts, who played their final regular season game at Gutterson Fieldhouse, Saturday. Harvard scored the first three goals of the game, then held on to win 5-2
In the first period, Harvard (18-8-1, 16-4-0 ECAC) came out firing on all cylinders. One of the most skilled teams in the ECAC put two early goals past Vermont senior goaltender Shawn Conschafter — one on the power play and the other shorthanded. The Crimson took five penalties in the first, although being shorthanded didn’t seem to phase their offense.
Six minutes into the contest, Rob Fried broke over the offensive blue line and put a shot on Conschafter which he stopped, but Aaron Kim stuck the rebound in low to the stick side. Noah Welch also assisted on Kim’s fourth of the year and the Crimson’s sixth shorthanded goal of the year.
Harvard then showed off the potency of its power play during a 5-on-3 advantage. Defenseman Thomas Hajek had broken his stick with the Crimson putting the pressure on. Harvard worked the puck around the perimeter where Tim Pettit had his shot stopped, but again Conschafter gave up a rebound which Brett Nowak put in the five-hole.
Vermont (11-16-3, 8-23-0) had opportunities to climb back into the game, but Dov Grumet-Morris was up to the task. The Catamounts’ best chance came off the stick of sophomore Scott Mifsud. He stole the puck at center and skated in alone. Vermont had another great chance later in the period. Gerard Miller found John Longo in front of the net on a 3-on-1 with Jeff Miles but Grumet-Morris made a diving save on Longo to keep Vermont scoreless.
“We didn’t do anything in the first 20 minutes,” said a somber Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan. “They’re a pretty talented team up front. I thought we may have had the edge in play in the final 40 minutes, but not as much as they had in the first 20.”
After an early Harvard goal to get the second period started, the Cats seemed to get their legs under them — rattling off two quick markers in succession.
Harvard tallied its lone goal of the period on a great individual effort by Tom Cavanagh, when he stole the puck in the attacking zone and fired a nifty backhand shot over the glove of Conschafter, unassisted at 2:09.
The rest of the period belonged to Vermont as Harvard took yet another penalty. On the ensuing power play, Grumet-Morris stood tall, making every save he had to, except one. Mifsud took a shot from the point which went wide and caromed off the back glass right onto the stick of Longo. His shot was partially stopped by Grumet-Morris who went into a two-pad stack but he didn’t get enough.
With the energy supplied by the first Vermont goal still in the air, Miles was sent in alone with a pass from Longo. The team leader in goals and points potted his 17th on a rocket from forty feet out at 10:55.
The third period opened with Mifsud getting hauled down from behind as he bore in on Grumet-Morris. As a result, Mifsud was awarded a penalty shot, the first for Vermont, since J.F. Caudron buried a chance at Massachusetts in late November, 1999. Mifsud came in on Grumet-Morris who gave the winger space between his legs. Grumet-Morris quickly shut the door and Mifsud came up empty.
Vermont pulled Conschafter for the extra skater with 1:55 remaining, but to no avail. Harvard added two empty netters one minute apart, by Dominic Moore and Pettit, to account for the final score. Grumet-Morris stopped 33 shots to earn his 15th win and Conschafter made 31 saves on 34 Harvard shots faced.