CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — In a fast and physical game during which the action on the ice was occasionally overshadowed by questionable officiating, the Harvard Crimson (6-5-1) defeated the Massachusetts Minutemen (9-4-3) by a score of 5-3.
Harvard was playing its second consecutive game against a Top 10 opponent after dropping a 3-2 decision to Boston College on Wednesday, and the Crimson’s start against the No. 8 Minutemen seemed to spell trouble.
At 0:00 of the first — in other words, before the first puck had dropped — the Crimson were down one man, penalized for a violation of game protocol, namely exiting the locker rooms too late.
“I didn’t get my team out from what [referee Matthew Smith] told me at the beginning of the game, and that’s why we got whacked there,” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said.
That wasn’t the end of the questionable calls, but it did enable the Minutemen to start the game on the power play. Still, it didn’t take too long for Harvard to overcome that ignominious start.
With the Crimson’s Tyler Kolarik and UMass Kevin Jarman slapped with matching minors at 6:33 of the first, Harvard’s Charlie Johnson put his team up 1-0 on a nifty shot that beat UMass netminder Gabe Winer.
Skating four-on-four, Harvard defenseman Ryan Lannon cleared the puck out of his end. The puck traveled through the neutral zone and into the UMass end, with the Crimson’s Brendan Bernakevitch in hot pursuit. Winer came out of his net and skated to the puck, gathered it in, and pivoted to his left to clear the puck away from Bernakevitch. Unfortunately for Winer, Johnson was skating hard into the zone as well. He stopped the puck in the right faceoff circle and gathered it in as Winer rushed to get back into position in front of the net.
“I tried to shoot as quick as I could because I knew the [defense] was going to hit me,” Johnson said. “I managed to find the corner.”
Harvard wasn’t done with the scoring, as Kolarik added a goal at 9:50 of the first on a hard shot from just above the right faceoff circle. In total, the Crimson fired 18 shots at Winer in the first, the same number the team had all game against BC on Wednesday.
“We came out with a lot of focus,” Mazzoleni said.
“How can you win hockey games when you don’t shoot?” he later asked. “We’ve got to shoot the puck and we’ve got to get to the net, and we did that.”
For his part, UMass coach Don Cahoon felt that his team started the night off slowly.
“[Harvard] clearly came out with a mindset, and did a good job … and we certainly didn’t measure up to that,” he said, “We were unorganized all night.”
“We gave ourselves a chance by battling back,” he added.
And in battling back, the Minutemen showed why they are so highly regarded in the polls, turning a 3-0 deficit near the start of the second into a deadlocked game by early in the third.
If Harvard dominated the shot chart after the first, then UMass held sway in the second, sending 12 shots at Crimson netminder Dov Grumet-Morris. Two of those shots found the back of the net, one a power-play goal by Marvin Degon and the other a quick shot from the left faceoff circle off the stick of Nick Kuiper that whistled by Grumet-Morris.
The second period ended with Harvard leading 3-2, but UMass evened things up at 5:39 of the third, thanks to the stick of forward Stephen Werner. Werner was sitting on the doorstep when Greg Mauldin fired a shot in from the point, and Werner redirected the puck past Grumet-Morris to climax the UMass comeback.
The score stayed tied for the next seven minutes until Harvard’s Ryan Maki was whistled off for holding, giving the Minutemen another power play.
Special teams proved decisive on the game-winning goal — just not in the expected manner.
With Harvard on the penalty kill, Kolarik and Mandes broke out of the zone after the puck was cleared for a two-on-one break. With Kolarik on the right, Mandes on the left with the puck, and Minutemen defender Marvin Degon in between, Degon played the angle perfectly, forcing Mandes into a far shot from beyond the left circle.
UMass goalie Tim Warner — in for Winer early on in the second — had a clear view of the shot and gloved the puck, but it appeared to slap off the heel of his glove, bounce out, land behind him, and trickle into the back of the net, giving Harvard a 4-3 lead.
The Crimson added an empty-net goal from Tom Cavanagh with two ticks left on the clock to secure the upset and end a two-game losing streak.
“I thought we outworked them,” Mazzoleni said. “There wasn’t one guy out there that didn’t play hard, and we haven’t had that the whole damn year.”