CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard was looking for goals any way it could get them — on a rebound, or maybe even off a skate — in hopes of snapping a two-game skid Saturday night.
The Crimson scored both ways against Colgate — twice on hard-earned rebounds, once more off a skate — to grind out an important, but not necessarily pretty, 3-1 win at Bright Hockey Center before a sparse gathering of 1,317 fans who braved the bitter New England cold spell — and ignored the Patriots-Titans game — to get their college hockey fix.
“Anyone that has seen our team play this year knows we’re not the team we were last year, the way we score goals,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni, whose team improved to 8-9-2 (6-7-1 ECAC). “We have to score workmanlike goals. We don’t have anyone that can break down the wing and do what Dom [Moore] and Brett [Nowak] did. Those guys aren’t here.
“We’re going to have to score goals and manufacture goals in a different manner, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Our team realizes who they are, and what they have to do to be successful. Now they have to continue to understand how hard they have to play.”
Harvard earned its fifth straight win against the Raiders, who came in unbeaten in their last three (2-0-1) and off an impressive 3-1 win over No. 15 Brown on Friday night.
“It’s the matchup,” shrugged Colgate interim head coach Stan Moore, whose club stands 9-8-3 overall, 4-4-0 in the league. “Every once in a while, the matchup of one team over the other plays a factor.
“I think we feel pretty comfortable playing Brown. We like our chances against them. And we know the challenge of playing a Harvard team. Maybe there’s something Harvard has about playing Colgate, and the respect factor they have. But the last five games, they’ve been very confident they were going to beat us, and they have.”
The Raiders did not register a shot on net until 9:53 into the first period, but made their first one count. Defenseman Justin Spencer chipped the puck over the stick of Harvard defenseman Ryan Lannon and out of the zone, where sophomore Jon Smyth picked it up. He took it on a 1-on-1 from there, teed it up at the top of the right circle, and beat Crimson sophomore John Daigneau just inside the far post.
The goal was Smyth’s 12th of the season. He has 20 points on the year, after finishing last season with three. “We’re not displeased with that,” Moore said with a grin.
Smyth had two other golden chances, hitting the crossbar a minute into the second, and being turned aside by Daigneau on a 2-on-1 later that period. But aside from that, it was a quiet evening between the pipes for Daigneau, who finished with 17 saves in his third appearance of the season and first game action since Nov. 14.
“There were some spots where they didn’t have a lot of shots on goal,” said Daigneau, who Mazzoleni announced as Saturday’s starter after Dov Grumet-Morris allowed five goals on 22 shots in Friday’s loss to Cornell. “I definitely got more comfortable as the game went along, got into the swing of things, got a little sweat going and whatnot.”
His teammates were sweating it out on the other end, as well, and their grunt work ruled the day.
Rob Flynn gave Harvard a 1-0 lead when he crashed the net to slap in Kevin Du’s rebound at 2:48. “It bounced right to me,” Flynn said. “I had a wide-open net.”
After Smyth’s goal evened it, Harvard moved back in front midway through the second, when Dennis Packard chased down Brendan Bernakevitch’s rebound behind the net, turned up the right wing, wheeled and beat Steve Silverthorn to the far corner.
The Crimson put it away with 1:07 remaining. Following a wild scramble in front of the Crimson goal, Lannon sprung Bernakevitch and Rob Fried on a 2-on-1. Bernakevitch worked it deep on the right wing before throwing it back in front for Fried, who took a swing at it, then knocked it in off his skate.
The goal sent Harvard into its belated exam break with a win for the first time in Mazzoleni’s five years. Last season, the Crimson dropped a 2-1 game to Princeton, with Daigneau in net.
“We’re all glad to end on a positive note,” Daigneau said. “It puts you in a good mood.”
“It was a hard-earned victory — one that was badly needed,” said Mazzoleni, whose team next plays Jan. 31 at Brown. “It’s a nice feeling to win when your team plays hard. It was a very well-deserved victory.
“It was a step forward for our team, but that’s all that is. A step. We have a long way to go.”
Colgate, tied for sixth place in the ECAC by winning percentage, hosts Rensselaer and Union next weekend.