BOSTON — At the press conference following Tuesday’s game, first-year Harvard coach Ted Donato was reminded that this could have been the 700th coaching win for Boston University’s Jack Parker — but that instead, it was Donato’s fourth.
After the laughter subsided, Donato shrugged. “That certainly puts it in perspective.”
Exactly one week after upsetting top-ranked Boston College, Harvard pulled off another win against a ranked crosstown rival, topping BU 2-1 behind a 30-save effort by senior goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris in front of a sellout crowd of 3,806 at Walter Brown Arena. The Crimson (4-2-1) received all of its offense in a 31-second span in the second period, when freshmen Jon Pelle and Mike Taylor scored.
Sean Sullivan scored the lone goal for the No. 11 Terriers (7-4-0), and John Curry stopped 21 of 23 Harvard shots.
It was a character win for the Crimson, as the visitors weathered Terrier pressure in the first period and then survived a controversial five-minute major penalty called on Charlie Johnson late in the opening frame.
“After the first period, we became a little more relentless on the puck and more aggressive on our forecheck,” Donato said. “It’s hard to start any conversation about our wins without talking about Dov Grumet-Morris because he’s been stellar for us all year. It’s nice and reassuring for a coach to know you’re going to get a great effort in the net every night.
“The atmosphere kind of got to everybody, including the coach, a little bit, on the bench,” Donato acknowledged of the team’s first-period struggles. “After the first, we said, let’s relax — we know what we need to do.”
Without the heroics of Grumet-Morris, BU could have been up 3-0 after the first 20 minutes, but subsequently deflated.
“I thought we played pretty well for the most part in the game, but I thought we lost our legs as the game progressed,” Parker said. “We looked weaker; we were getting pushed off of pucks. I thought Harvard did a great job in front of their net, and I thought they did a great job getting it out of their zone.
“After the first, we just couldn’t get after them. I think it was a credit to how hard they played, and they moved the puck pretty good coming out of their zone. When they had any problems at all, they just flipped it into center ice; they didn’t overhandle it at all. Other than that, I thought our goalie and their goalie played really well, hence the low-scoring game. There were a lot of chances.”
The first terrific chance came at 4:45 on an amazing move by Terrier freshman left wing Chris Bourque. Taking the puck at defenseman Dave MacDonald — and giving up eight inches in height in the bargain — Bourque slipped the puck right through his opponent with an amazing move, going in alone on Grumet-Morris, only to glance a shot off the post.
As a former teammate of Ray Bourque, Donato has known Chris since his early childhood. “There were times out there when I wished he was still a seven- or eight year-old because he’s a really talented guy,” Donato said.
Kenny Roche and Bryan Miller had solid scoring chances in the first for BU, but Grumet-Morris was equal to the task with a glove save and shoulder save, respectively.
Referee Scott Zelkin seemed to be hearkening back to yesteryear throughout much of the first period and in the game overall, ignoring several penalties both ways that otherwise would be called this year. That made it all the more surprising when he called Johnson for a five-minute major at 16:09. It looked like a two-minute minor at least, but Donato was visibly incensed.
Fortunately for the Crimson, the Terrier power play didn’t look too impressive all night. Still, BU managed to get a fluky goal during the major as the period waned. Sophomore defenseman Sean Sullivan uncharacteristically carried the puck from his own blue line all the way in on the left wing before flipping the puck at the net from a bad angle. It banked off Grumet-Morris’ left skate and went in.
“I was trying to cheat and check the slot for a one-timer because there was such little time left in the period,” Grumet-Morris said. “It was a lucky bounce, and it went in. It turns out that it didn’t win the game for them, and that’s always nice since it was a bad goal on my part.”
The Terriers had another terrific chance in the first minute of period two, when Ryan Weston went in on the right wing before making a dazzling behind-the-back pass to set up captain Brian McConnell on the doorstep, only to have Grumet-Morris extend his leg to stop the backhander.
With Harvard on one of its two power plays — BU only had three — at 3:12 of the second, Jon Pelle nearly tied the game. A slapshot went off the back boards, and Pelle collected it with Curry at the top of the crease to cut down the angle. Just as Pelle attempted to sweep it home, Curry lunged with his stick for the save.
It was a play that Pelle would’ve liked to have back — and he did, all of eight seconds later.
The joy was short-lived for the Terrier faithful. On a near carbon-copy play, Pelle showed more patience, waiting for Curry to commit before steering his rebound around him for the equalizer.
Just 31 seconds later, Harvard centerman Tom Cavanagh raced in on the right wing before spying freshman left wing Mike Taylor parked on the far post, unmarked.
“Basically, I just watched [Brendan] Bernakevitch and Cavanagh take it down, and I skated as hard as I could to the net and stood there,” Taylor said. “Cav hit me, and I just put it in. It was pretty easy, but exciting though.”
Harvard captain Noah Welch almost made it 3-1 11 minutes later, but his blast glanced off Curry’s arm and hit the post before careening out.
Taylor almost put the game away eight minutes on third on a two-on-one with Peter Hafner, but he couldn’t convert the pass. Brad Zancanaro and Peter MacArthur had chances to stuff the puck in from the side of the net, but Grumet-Morris held the fort, and the game ended 2-1.
“Obviously, it’s a big win for us: crosstown rivals, we’re always in competition with them during regular season and postseason and the Beanpot, as well as in recruiting battles, so it helps our prestige,” Grumet-Morris said about the successive wins over BC and BU. “These teams are the top in Hockey East along with UNH, so it’s good for our league as well.”
“I try to balance it because it’s two hockey games, and it’s early,” Donato said. “But for our guys these are big rivalry games and fun to play.”
BU now heads west to play Denver and Colorado College this weekend, while Harvard visits St. Lawrence and Clarkson.