CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — History was made at the Bright Hockey Center tonight, but this particular record was one Harvard could have done without.
Riding a three-game win streak, the Crimson (4-3-1, 3-3-1 ECAC) was shut out for the first time in its history against the Golden Knights (6-4-3, 3-3-1), losing 3-0. Harvard’s defeat came a night after it shut out Clarkson’s North Country rival St. Lawrence, and Clarkson managed to rebound from a 4-1 loss to Brown to have what Knights’ coach George Roll called his team’s “best game of the season.”
Coinciding with the Knights’ best game was the outstanding performance of goaltender Dustin Traylen, who stopped all 31 Harvard shots.
“I thought our goaltender played very well tonight,” Roll said. “He made some key saves, especially early on during the five-on-three in the first period. He gave us some momentum.”
That five-on-three advantage came with just over four minutes gone by in the first period. Clarkson’s Mike Nagai was whistled off for holding at 4:04, and he was followed not 30 seconds thereafter by Chris Brekelmans, cited for roughing.
Faced with two Harvard power plays and a penalty kill down two men for more than one and a half minutes, Clarkson survived an early test and kept the score knotted at one.
That helped set the tone.
“[A five-on-three situation] definitely builds momentum either way … they were able to stop it and that’s a momentum builder for them,” Crimson captain Kenny Smith said.
“It wasn’t a decisive factor in the game,” he continued.
Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni might not agree about a situation early in the opening period being decisive, but he did think that his team’s failures on the power play were the primary cause of the historic shutout.
“It’s very difficult to score when you don’t capitalize on the power play,” he said. “We had a five-on-three situation in the first. We had numerous opportunities thereafter, and we didn’t finish.
“You’re not going to win many games when you don’t score a goal.”
Roll saw the opposite side of the same coin, crediting his penalty killing for stymieing Harvard’s special teams.
“I don’t know how many power plays they had, but I really thought our penalty kill did a great job,” he said.
In contrast to the Crimson’s power-play problems, Clarkson scored the game’s first goal on the man-advantage.
With Harvard defenseman Noah Welch whistled off for obstruction at 11:04 of the first, the Knights set up in the offensive end and stopped an attempted clear by defenseman Ryan Lannon. After some speedy puck movement around the zone, Mac Faulkner found a wide-open Chris Blight, who one-timed the puck past sliding Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris, beating him up high on his stick side.
That goal gave Clarkson a 1-0 lead — all it would need. The Knights got their second goal, again the result of a failed Crimson clear, off the stick of Jay Latulippe in the second, and Latulippe added an empty-netter at 19:46 of the third to ice the game.
But given the play of Traylen, and the futility of Harvard’s power play, the Blight goal was all the Knights would need.
“It comes down to your goaltender … [Traylen] made some unbelievable saves,” Roll said.
Clarkson will look to begin a winning streak next weekend against Hockey East opponents UNH and UMass-Lowell at Cheel Arena, while Harvard faces the tough prospect of trying to rebound at Colgate and Cornell.