SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Union goalie Kris Mayotte did everything in his power to help the team end its winless skid.
But a 47-save performance against Harvard on Friday wasn’t enough to prevent another third-period collapse by the Dutchmen.
Tim Pettit’s goal with 1:01 left capped a furious three-goal comeback that gave the Crimson a 3-2 ECAC hockey win over the Dutchmen at Frank L. Messa Rink at Achilles Center.
The Dutchmen (7-8-3, 2-4-1 ECAC), who were outshot, 50-30, had their winless skid extended to seven games (0-6-1). It was the second straight game that they blew a third-period lead. In last Sunday’s Badger Showdown consolation game against Massachusetts-Lowell, Union took a 3-0 lead and had a 3-1 advantage entering the third. But the River Hawks scored four times in the third to win 5-3.
The slump started Nov. 21-22 against Minnesota-Duluth. In those games, the Dutchmen wasted 2-0 leads. They tied the first game and lost the second.
Power-play goals by Matt Vagvolgyi and Olivier Bouchard gave Union a 2-0 lead against Harvard.
“It doesn’t make a difference if you make 50 saves or two saves, all you just want is to watch the team win,” Mayotte said. “That’s why you play the game. Right now, we’re just not getting the breaks, and that is what’s frustrating.”
Union coach Nate Leaman, who was facing his former Harvard boss, Mark Mazzoleni, believed his team played well despite the meltdown.
“It’s a disappointing loss,” Leaman said. “I thought, for the third game in a row, the guys played extremely hard. They deserve a better fate. They’re laying it on the line, and that’s something I’ve asked them to do from the start. I’m proud of the way we’re playing hard.
“But we have to be a little tighter down the stretch.”
Bouchard’s goal at 4:37 of the third period gave Union a 2-0 lead, Harvard (7-7-2, 5-5-1) sprang to life. The Crimson spent the majority of the rest of the period in the Dutchmen zone. Not only did the Crimson outshoot the Dutchmen, 23-6, in the period, but they dominated the faceoffs, winning 25 of 39 draws.
Two of those wins led to goals, including the clincher.
On the first goal, Charlie Johnson won a faceoff in Union left circle. He sent it to Rob Flynn, who passed it to Peter Hafner at the left point. Hafner’s wrist shot beat Mayotte.
Tom Cavanagh tied it at 11:47 with a shot from the right circle.
“We just kept coming,” Mazzoleni said. “What I was proud of was, one, no sense of panic, and two, no one tried to do it by themselves.”
Pettit’s winner came after Union had called a timeout. Cavanagh won a faceoff in Union’s right circle. The Crimson eventually worked the puck to the net.
“I was hanging out backdoor, hoping for some sort of rebound, or for Tommy Cavanagh to slip it across,” said Pettit, who was to the right of the net. “The puck bounced up in the air. I don’t think [Mayotte] saw it right away. Luckily, it landed right when I swung my stick.”
Mayotte didn’t see the initial shot very well.
“I went down and took up as much space as I could,” Mayotte said. “It hit my the cuff of my glove. I had no clue where it went. All of a sudden, [Pettit] came from behind the net, and the puck dropped right to his stick and he had an open net.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.