PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Yann Danis he wasn’t. But Brown’s new netminder, Scott Rowan, was good enough, brushing off a shaky first period to salvage a 2-2 tie in the Bears’ season opener against Harvard at Meehan Auditorium.
The result, the Crimson’s best showing against its traditional rival in four years, officially kicked off Harvard hockey’s second Ted Donato era, which began when he was named Mark Mazzoleni’s replacement on July 2.
“I feel like I’ve been through the ringer,” Donato said. “[There was] a little bit of everything in that game. It certainly was not a sleeper for the first night out. But I’m not so sure we could have been any more prepared even if we expected there to be some 20-odd penalties in the game.”
The beneficiary of two Brown (0-0-1) penalties inside the first 64 seconds, the Crimson (0-0-1) pounced on Rowan early. Sitting in the offensive zone with 12 seconds remaining on Harvard’s 5-on-3, Charlie Johnson found Tom Cavanagh perched on the doorstep and found him for the go-ahead one-timer just 2:13 into the contest.
Rowan handed the Crimson a gift second goal just 10 minutes later, fumbling the puck behind the net as Harvard forward Rob Flynn crashed towards him. Flynn flicked a pass to Dan Murphy, wide open in front of the abandoned goal, who roofed his shot to put the Crimson up 2-0.
But a series of late-period penalties — Harvard had six minors in the first, 12 overall — robbed the Crimson of its momentum, and opened a window for Brown to sneak back into the contest.
“It’s a whole different game this year with all the penalties that are being called,” Crimson defenseman Noah Welch said. “Momentum swings back and forth across the ice between the two teams.”
With 1:35 remaining before the first intermission, Cavanagh was sent to the penalty box for roughing, providing the Bears with their second 5-on-3 of the period.
Solid puck movement left goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris prone at his left post, and though he was able to deflect an initial wrist shot from Brown captain Les Haggett, the rebound scooted behind him towards the far post. All three Crimson defenders dropped in a heap on top of the puck, and when one tried to clear the goalmouth, referee Tim Kotyra signaled for a penalty shot with just 53 seconds left on the clock.
“All three of my guys doing exactly what they’re supposed to do see me out on one side and they collapsed down low,” Grumet-Morris said. “I think [Welch] tried to clear it … I think it was the right call to make.”
Grumet-Morris rebuffed Brian Ihnacak’s low glove-side shot with a deft kick save, but the Bears had seized the momentum and would not be held off the scoreboard much longer.
Three more Harvard penalties in the first six minutes of the second put Brown squarely on the attack, and the Bears finally capitalized. Paul Baier whipped a wrist shot from the left circle high on Grumet-Morris’ glove side. The keeper, shielded by collapsing traffic in front, desperately shot his arm up as the red light flashed on, pulling Brown to within one.
“They were able to crash the net and use our defensemen and themselves for screens,” Grumet-Morris said. “They did a very good job on that particular power play so you give them credit.”
The Crimson never quite recovered, instead struggling to connect on its passes or build meaningful offensive pressure in Rowan’s zone. And when opportunities were to be had, Harvard — as in its exhibition against Windsor one week earlier — failed to make its chances count. Of 50 shots, just 24 threatened Rowan, with 15 blocked and 12 sent wide.
“I think we kinda helped him out,” Welch said. “I don’t know how many big saves tonight. I don’t think he made any.”
Brown fared little better, hitting the net with just 27 of its 51 shots. But the Bears converted when it mattered in the third period. Sean Dersch fired a shot from Grumet-Morris’ left, which smacked off the post, then off the goaltender’s pad, before finally settling at the back of the net.
“He made a good play by throwing it to the net, that’s exactly what he’s supposed to do,” Grumet-Morris said. “Obviously that’s my fault and no one else’s.”
Reinvigorated by the prospect of coming away without two points, the Crimson exploded off the faceoff and maintained an up tempo pace for the remainder of the third period and overtime. But neither side was able to convert, though each had its golden opportunity.
With 78 seconds left, the Bears broke out of their zone, and raced 2-on-1 at Grumet-Morris’ net. But defenseman Peter Hafner played the odd-man rush beautifully, taking out the puck and sweeping it aside before it ever reached the net.
Harvard’s came with just over a minute remaining in the overtime session when Welch slid a cross-ice pass towards Rowan’s right post. Freshman Jon Pelle was streaking towards the spot as well and lunged to deflect the puck into the open net but was just a second from converting.
“It just hopped over Pelle’s stick there, the game-winner,” Welch said.