CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Brown and Harvard have had some memorable match-ups over the years, as one would expect from the history present throughout 138 previous meetings of college hockey’s oldest rivalry.
But this game was not one of those memorable contests. Instead, it fell into the same category as the past two season–opening losses to Brown. A season-opening loss to the Bears has become a sort of ignominious tradition of hockey at Harvard.
Playing in the season opener for both schools, the Brown Bears controlled most of the game’s first forty minutes, utilizing a strong defense to limit the No. 9 Crimson to only 11 shots through two periods, and wining by a score of 2-0.
Harvard looked uncertain on both ends of the ice, and Brown took advantage of Harvard’s confusion, showing something that the team has lacked for the past few seasons–a capable offense.
“I think this year, for the first time in a while, we have some balance,” said Brown coach Roger Grillo. “I think we have some guys up front who can move the puck smartly and score some goals.”
That skill up front was particularly evident in the second period, when a combination of a strong Brown attack and more than a few Harvard penalties helped create the two Bears goals.
The scoring started on a Brown rush through the neutral zone, when both defenseman Dave McCulloch and Dylan Reese came up to play the body on Brown’s Mike Meech. Despite their checks on Meech, the puck squirted loose, and was picked up near the center of the left face-off circle by forward Chris Swon. Swon skated through the circle and fired a hard shot past Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris for the game’s first goal.
“I thought we had a lot of good chances [to score],” Grillo said. “I was pleased with our effort and intensity.”
The same could not be said in the locker room across the ice.
“We just had no rhythm, we had no crispness to our game whatsoever,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. “We took some stupid penalties and then we lost our momentum.”
Those penalties lead directly to the second of Brown’s goals. Whistled for too many men on the ice at 16:15 of the second, the Crimson’s all-American defenseman Noah Welch was caught cross-checking 20 ticks later, giving the Bears a full 1:40 with a two-man advantage.
On the ensuing power play, Brown set up in the Harvard zone and started peppering Grumet-Morris with shots. Amidst traffic in front, Grumet-Morris stopped a hard shot from the point. The rebound caromed loose though, and was banged home by centerman Cory Caouette with nearly thirty seconds remaining on the five-on-three.
The Crimson managed to kill off the rest of the penalty, but the damaged was done. Brown had a 2-0 lead, and Harvard had only three shots in the second period on Bears’ goaltender Yann Danis.
“I had to make a few key saves, but that’s my job,” Danis said. “That’s why I’m here, to make the key saves that my team needs.”
While Harvard would exert some pressure on Danis in the third period–he finished with 20 saves–it was far from the pressure Danis normally sees from offensively talented teams like the Crimson.
“[Danis] saw every puck,” Mazzoleni said. “Whenever he saw it, there was no traffic in front.”
“They executed their game plan to a T,” Mazzoleni continued. “You have to give them credit on their team defense, they really shut us down.”