CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — At this point, there aren’t many secrets between Harvard and Cornell. They’ve played ice hockey against one another since 1909, with 11 of the 117 meetings coming in the last four seasons, including Friday night’s renewal at Bright Hockey Center.
So, somewhere in Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni’s office, there’s probably a scouting report (as if he needs it) that reads something like this: Cornell … Pretty big, pretty tough, good power play, good penalty kill, good goaltending … Don’t let them score early … And don’t take penalties.
As a wise cartoon character once said, knowing is half the battle. But only half. And Friday night, once again, Cornell played big and tough, took a 3-0 lead, and scored on two of four power plays before withstanding a late charge from Harvard to win, 5-3, before a raucous sellout of 2,776.
“Our guys know [Cornell's] game,” said Mazzoleni, whose team is 2-6-1 in its last nine and 7-9-2 overall. “Their game hasn’t changed … We knew going in what type of team Cornell had, how hard they compete. We knew we’d have to match their effort and intensity for 60 minutes, and we didn’t do it.
When Matt Moulson, who recorded his second career hat trick and also had an assist, scored at 5:35 of the second for a 4-1 lead, it looked like the Big Red would run the Crimson out of its own building on CSTV’s Game of the Week.
But Harvard rallied with goals from defensemen Kenny Smith and Tom Walsh — the latter was disallowed by referee Tim Kotyra before he reversed himself — before Moulson completed his hatter at 9:02 of the third, keeping Cornell’s unbeaten streak alive at six (4-0-2).
“For anyone who asks what’s going on in our season, that’s a clear illustration of it,” Mazzoleni said. “I was extremely proud of the way we played in the second and third period, but the bottom line is, you don’t win a game on two periods of effort.
“We got beat by a better club, and a more determined club … They’re a tremendous example in our league. They’ve set the tone in our league right now.”
The game was reminiscent of the Cornell-Harvard clash here almost a year ago, when the Big Red took a 3-0 lead in the first nine minutes before holding on for a 4-3 win.
“Just like last year,” remarked Cornell coach Mike Schafer, whose ninth-ranked Big Red is 7-2-5 overall, unbeaten in the ECAC (5-0-2), and 8-2-1 in its last 11 against Harvard. “A rollercoaster game.”
Moulson gave Cornell a 1-0 lead midway through the first period on an off-angle, throw-’er-at-the-net job from the right circle that beat Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris short-side. A little more than five minutes later, Moulson assisted on Cornell’s second goal, which Shane Hynes deflected over Grumet-Morris’s glove for the first of his two goals.
Harvard finished the first period with only four shots on goal.
The second didn’t begin much better for the hosts, as Cornell went up 3-0 about two minutes into the period on Hynes’s second power-play goal. Harvard pulled to within 3-1 on Tim Pettit’s goal at 4:54 on a nice feed from Tyler Kolarik, but the Big Red answered in less than a minute — and in backbreaking fashion.
Alone at neutral ice, Smith got himself tangled up with linesman Chip McDonald as he went to play the puck in front of the Cornell bench, then lost his stick between McDonald’s legs. The puck squired out toward Harvard’s net, but Smith skated forward.
“I lost all sight of the puck,” Smith said. “By the time I figured out where it was, they were on a breakaway.”
Harvard was changing, so when Byron Bitz gathered the puck at the Harvard blue line, he had top-line pals Moulson and Ryan Vesce with him. A bona fide 3-on-0. Grumet-Morris made a spectacular save on Bitz’s initial shot, but Vesce tipped it to Moulson, who batted it off the crossbar and in.
“When we came off, [Bitz] said, ‘Thank God you scored that goal,’” Moulson said. “He would’ve killed me if I didn’t.”
Those goals always seem to hurt more in retrospect and, wouldn’t you know it, this one was the game-winner.
And it was the game-winner because the Crimson rallied with two unanswered goals. Smith scored from the point with 1:24 left in the second period, and Walsh’s blast from the high slot made it 4-3 at 4:21 of the third.
Walsh’s shot rang the inside post, and popped back out so quickly that Kotyra thought it hadn’t gone in and signaled a washout — not a goal — as the Crimson celebrated and Big Red stood by.
But after conferring with his linesmen, Kotyra reversed his call and the goal stood. (CSTV replays were not used in the review, but replays showed the puck did, in fact, go in.)
“Weird game, weird goal, weird call,” Schafer said.
Either way, it was quite a time for Walsh’s first goal of the season. Suddenly, Harvard had its building back.
But Moulson completed his hatter with 10:58 left for the final margin of victory. The goal came after the Big Red sustained pressure in Harvard’s zone for more than a minute and had several scoring chances, including a 2-on-0 try by Moulson.
“That’s their game: get over the puck in the O-zone and wear you down,” Mazzoleni said. “And that’s what they did.”
“Once they got down, they pressured really hard,” Moulson said. “They’re a great team. We can’t take anything for granted with these guys.”
David McKee had 24 saves for Cornell. Grumet-Morris finished with 17.
“Dov made some big saves,” Mazzoleni said afterward, “but [sophomore] John Daigneau is going to be in goal tomorrow.”
Harvard’s much-talked-about change in ticket policy, aimed at protecting its home fan base, accomplished its goal: Crimson fans weren’t outnumbered in their own barn — but they didn’t exactly own the place, either. Last year, Cornell dominated the crowd on the order of a 60/40 in numbers, and about 90/10 in noise. This year, the crowd was more of an even split, though the Big Red’s Traveling Faithful held sway in decibels. “It felt like a neutral-site game,” Vesce said. “We love playing here because of the support we get.”
Harvard defenseman Blair Barlow left the game with 9:13 left in the first period after being hit by Cornell winger Greg Hornby and did not return. Mazzoleni said after the game that, with five regulars now injured, he is prepared to skate five defensemen Saturday against Colgate.
Owen Bochner contributed to this report.