CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — After 22 penalties, two lead changes, and over 61 minutes of hockey, Friday night’s game between Clarkson and Harvard came down to one of the ECAC’s leading goal-scorers standing in anticipation near his blue line, a goaltender performing his ritual slapping of the goalposts, and a lonely puck at center ice.
A penalty shot. In overtime.
“Been a long time since I saw that,” said Clarkson coach Fred Parker.
It came at 1:31 of the extra session, when Clarkson winger Matt Syroczynski pushed the net off its moorings during a mad rush for a rebound in front of goalie Mike Walsh. Referee Dan Murphy skated toward the scorer’s booth with hands crossed above his head.
“It was the right call,” Parker said.
Moments later, the 1,989 at Bright Hockey Center rose to their feet as Harvard captain Dominic Moore addressed the puck and took off to his right. As he neared the hash marks, Moore quickly shifted left, drawing Walsh to his right post.
Then Moore tried to shift direction one more time.
“He made the right move,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. “He had him.”
But Moore’s feet moved a little too quickly for his hands, and he lost control of the puck. Walsh poked it away. Everyone sat down.
“That was a fraction of an inch from being a great goal,” Moore said.
About three minutes later, the teams headed in after a 3-3 tie that felt much better on one side of the ice than the other.
Clarkson (12-18-2, 9-10-2 ECAC) clinched home-ice in the first round of the ECAC playoffs, which begin next weekend, and showed character in coming back from an early 2-0 deficit.
“For the most part we were competing hard, and that’s something we haven’t been doing very well,” Parker said. “I thought we showed pretty good for playing against one of the best teams in the league. It was really good for us to hang on and get a point on the road.”
Meanwhile, Harvard (18-8-2, 16-4-1) missed out on a win at a time of the season when it can hardly afford to if it hopes to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“I didn’t think this was one of our better efforts,” Mazzoleni said. “Give them credit — they played the type of game they wanted to — but we just didn’t have it tonight. I didn’t think we had it all week in practice, and I told our guys that.
“I can’t remember giving up 45 shots in our building since I’ve been here.”
But they did Friday night.
“I thought we were sloppy at times tonight, both mentally and positionally, especially in the defensive zone,” Moore said. “It was just one of those games. It was tough to find our rhythm.”
The Crimson seemed comfortable for much of the first period, though, and took a 2-0 lead on a pair of power-play goals. Harvard junior Tim Pettit one-timed a feed from Brett Nowak past Walsh at 4:38, and Kenny Smith walked in from the point to hammer in a rebound about six minutes later.
But the Golden Knights proved that it doesn’t take much time to turn a hockey game around. With just under two minutes left in the period, Chris Blight came down the right wing on a 2-on-1 with Chris Brekelmans and beat Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris. It was Blight’s first goal since Jan. 18.
About 40 seconds after that, Clarkson’s Randy Jones, who entered the weekend as the top-scoring defenseman in the ECAC, surprised everyone at the rink — including Grumet-Morris — with a point shot for his 11th goal of the season.
“I couldn’t see it,” Parker said when asked about the goal. “All I saw was the puck go from the corner of the rink to the corner of the net. So, I don’t know. But there’s only one guy on our team who can score that goal, and that’s Randy Jones.
“That was crucial for our confidence,” Parker said of the two goals. “We got some chances on the opening power play, they went up 2-0, but then — bang, bang — we came back. I thought that was the most crucial part of the game.”
For Harvard, it was a frustrating way to go into the dressing room.
“I thought that was reflective of the way our defense played all night,” Mazzoleni said. “We had no defensive edge.”
Clarkson took its first lead of the game at 10:03 on a 5-on-3 power play goal by Kevin O’Flaherty. The period ended with the Golden Knights up 3-2 — bad news for a Harvard team that was 0-6 this season when trailing entering the third.
But the Crimson was able to prevent this game from becoming another statistic, thanks to Pettit’s second goal of the game and ECAC-leading 37th point of the season.
The scoring play was short but productive. Tom Cavanagh drew an offensive zone faceoff back to Pettit, who immediately put the puck on net. Walsh never saw it.
“That was definitely good timing,” said Pettit, who now has 99 career points. “Our line had been out there for awhile, so we were dragging a little. That was a good way to get us off the ice.”
Both Grumet-Morris and Walsh finished with 42 saves.
Harvard, assured of a second-place finish in the ECAC, has a bye week to look forward to after Saturday night’s game with St. Lawrence. Clarkson travels to Brown.