PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The high-powered Harvard Crimson offense pulled off an overtime 3-2 win, lifting the Crimson to the ECAC semifinals and ending Brown’s season with two quick home playoff losses. In a spirited battle facing elimination, Brown, backstopped by senior goaltender Yann Danis, had a two-goal lead, but the Crimson battled back to send it to overtime.
The win was Harvard’s fifth in a row. They have now been to the ECAC Final Four for the past four years, and swept Brown in a similar quarterfinal series to this one in 2002. Tom Cavanaugh, Harvard’s leading scorer put the final touch on the game at 7:35 of the overtime with a rebound goal of a shot on Danis, who made 39 saves. Danis made many saves, some of the awesome variety, and at times got a little lucky, but in the end the Crimson just got too many point-black opportunities.
“It felt great to finally get that goal,” Cavanaugh said. “We really did not want to have to come back out here again tonight and have to play this team again. We have had some close games this year with Brown. This was just another one of them.”
The line of Cavanaugh, Tim Pettit, and Charlie Johnson accounted for two of the three goals, and was creating in the Brown end all night. Pettit scored arguably the turnaround goal of the game, which started a comeback for the Crimson from a 2-0 deficit.
“I think the big thing that hurt us is we could not contain their big line,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “Pettit, Johnson, Cavanaugh — that line just killed us. You have to give them credit.”
Brown senior forward Shane Mudryk had a valiant last effort, scoring his first two goals of the season, to put Brown up 2-0. Mudryk had a good game last night, and clearly did not want his career to end quite yet. His first goal came in the middle of the first frame with Brown’s fourth line, but most effective line of the night, cashing in on a rush. Mudryk opted to shoot on an odd-man rush and beat Dov Grumet-Morris with a low snap shot just inside the post to make it 1-0.
Harvard put on the pressure on Danis several times, including one shorthanded opportunity when Tyler Kolarik got three shorthanded rebound shots on him. The Bears had a number of chances to make it a two-goal lead later in the first when Harvard took a string of three penalties in a row. But Grumet-Morris was sharp again tonight, stopping 32 shots, many of them quality rebounds.
Danis put on a show early in the second period, stopping repeated great chances from Kolarik, Cavanaugh, and Pettit. Mudryk rewarded Danis with another mid-period goal to make it 2-0. This time, Mudryk found himself in the right place for a rebound with a wide-open net to flip it in.
But the seemingly comfortable two-goal lead did not last long at all. Just as soon as Game 3 was becoming a probability, Pettit and Johnson came flying in a rush. Johnson threw a pass to the net for Pettit, who redirected of Danis’ shoulder and barely in to make it 2-1.
“The biggest turning point was our first goal,” said Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni. “They went up 2-0, and they are a good defensive team. To get that one really gave us an energy boost and did not let them play their tight defensive game.
“I thought we were tenacious tonight. With Danis, you have to get people in his face, and in the way, the shooting lane. We had to own the scoring lanes of the net to beat him.”
It was only a matter of time before a good passing play culminated in a Harvard goal to tie it up. Tyler Kolarik one-timed one in to make it 2-2 on a power-play exchange with defenseman Noah Welch. Kolarik had a goal last night and is a notoriously good playoff performer, with 22 points in 17 career games.
Brown had a number of quality chances in the third but were stymied by Grumet-Morris, who held Brown to just two scores in both nights of this best-of-three series.
Mudryk came in again with numbers looking to give Brown the lead but passed off to Mike Meech, who got off a good shot that was handled by Grumet-Morris. Pettit scored an apparent game-ending goal early in overtime that was missed by the officials. The Crimson celebrated and after Brown reluctantly took the puck up ice, the officials whistled for a timeout to talk it over. Still, they waived off the goal.
“I saw his [Danis'] head go down after the shot,” Pettit said. “That’s usually a sign of a goal. Fortunately enough it did not make a difference and we were able to get that goal.”
Cavanaugh’s walk-off goal came after a failed clearing attempt by the Bears left the puck on freshman defender Dylan Reese’s stick, on the point. Reese, who had an assist last night, fired a shot on Danis that was stopped. Cavanaugh jumped on the rebound, stuffing it home to finish of the Bears 3-2 for the second time in three years.
In 2002, Danis made 66 saves in the second game of a two game Harvard sweep. For Brown, this loss seems nothing like that two-game sweep.
“I’m proud of this team and what we did this year,” Grillo said of his team, which was nationally ranked (as high as No. 11) for much of the season. “That being said, I am disappointed in our performance this past month. We had our chances and did not play our game.”