CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — On the final night of ECAC regular-season play, the Harvard Crimson met the Big Green of Dartmouth at Bright Hockey Center with playoff positioning hinging on the outcome.
The teams were coming off diametrically different games; Dartmouth had traveled to Brown’s Meehan Auditorium and defeated the always-stingy Bears 3-0. Harvard, on the other hand, had surrendered six goals on 26 shots in a Friday night loss to Vermont.
And with such different results, it may have come as a surprise that the Crimson controlled Saturday’s game, start to finish, ending with a 4-0 win. Certainly it didn’t look as though Harvard was in control of anything when it took two early penalties in a row, creating a five-on-three Dartmouth advantage for 1:39.
But the Crimson, showing defensive skill and goaltending not noticeable against Vermont, killed off Dartmouth’s two-man advantage and then pressed its own advantage.
Crimson forward Charlie Johnson chased the puck into the Big Green’s zone and then made a nifty play, twirling around in a circle with defenders alongside, and found an open Tom Cavanagh.
Cavanagh handled the puck skating down towards the board to the right of Dartmouth goaltender Dan Yacey, and then looped back up towards the left faceoff circle. He made a nifty pass of his own to find Johnson in the right circle, and Johnson in turn found his way onto the scoreboard thanks to a changeup-type shot that fooled Yacey.
“The [defenseman] hit my stick from behind, so I didn’t really put the shot where I wanted it to, but it found the net,” Johnson said.
After finding the net, and now with a 1-0 lead, the Crimson again sent a man to the box, this time defenseman Dave McCulloch. Dartmouth again went on the power play, and Harvard’s quality penalty kill blanked the Big Green once more.
But Dartmouth did have quality scoring chances, both even strength and on the power play. Led by forwards Lee Stempniak and Hugh Jessiman, the team put 17 shots on net in the first frame, including seven shots on three power plays. None managed to find its way past Harvard netminder Dov Grumet-Morris, who celebrated his birthday in high style with the shutout.
“I thought [Dartmouth's power play] did a great job of moving the puck, Dov was just very good in goal,” Mazzoleni said.
All told Grumet-Morris stopped 40 shots for his second shutout of the year and was the key.
“I thought Dov was exceptional,” Mazzoleni said. “He was able to withstand their charge, and then we were able to make our own.
“That’s the type of goaltending you have to have to win. Dov was definitely the difference in the game.”
Grumet-Morris held off similar situations in the middle period, stopping all eight power plays during the game and especially another five-on-three bid midway through the second.
“You lose momentum when you don’t score on a five-on-three,” Mazzoleni said.
And just like in the second period, it was Harvard that seized on the momentum from a successful penalty kill to put points on the board. This time the goal was scored by freshman forward Kevin Du, who was perched outside the crease, and gathered up a rebound that had been shot from the point by Dylan Reese.
This score gave the Crimson a 2-0 lead, and Harvard’s Johnson along with forward Ryan Maki both added goals in the second, making the score 4-0 in favor of Harvard.
That’s how it ended, despite Harvard being outshot 40-27, because of Grumet-Morris’s strong play and the Crimson’s success on the penalty kill.
Despite the loss, Dartmouth will have a first-round bye. Harvard, No. 6 in the ECAC after beginning the season No. 6 in the country, will host Vermont starting next Friday.