CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Tom Cavanagh scored twice and Ryan Maki added a goal and an assist to lead the Harvard Crimson to a 4-1 victory over the first-place Union Dutchmen in front of 1,879 fans at the Bright Hockey Center.
“It was a great game,” said Union coach Nate Leaman. “It was one of the best college hockey games played this year. The difference was that we hit two posts and they didn’t. They buried their chances.
“I’m not one bit upset with our team’s performance.”
In a game which started 10 minutes late because the arena’s fire alarm went off and the fire department cleared the building, Harvard (6-3-1, 4-3-1 ECACHL) plodded through a slow start before scoring the contest’s first goal.
“We survived a very average first period for us,” admitted Crimson coach Ted Donato. “We weren’t flat, we just were not pursuing the puck aggressively. Sometimes it is more about not getting the puck in the right position on the ice to be aggressive.”
Once Harvard settled down, though, it didn’t take long for Cavanagh to make his presence felt.
“He is extremely underrated,” said Donato, “which is fine. We hope he keeps it up.”
With the puck deep in the Union (7-7-1, 6-1-0) zone, senior Andrew Lederman skated behind the net and made an excellent centering pass to his classmate. The Crimson’s leading scorer one-timed a shot by Dutchmen netminder Kris Mayotte for his fifth goal of the season.
“I thought we came out a little slow,” said Cavanagh, “but we stuck it out and got the lead, which was important. We played better as the game progressed.”
Harvard extended its lead in the second period with a pair of goals from its sophomore class. At 7:57, Maki got into the act scoring his first of the season by flipping the puck over Mayotte from the right faceoff circle. It was a reward for his strong play all evening, as well as that of his linemates, Kevin Du and Steve Mandes.
“That line was excellent all night for us,” said Donato. “It was good to see them get a goal.”
The trio that sparked many an offensive opportunity last year was reunited last weekend and combined for five points in Friday’s victory.
“It took us a few games to get the ball rolling,” explained Maki. “Last weekend, we struggled offensively, but played well defensively.”
Leaman, the former assistant coach at Harvard, agreed.
“I’ll say one thing. Noah Welch is an All-American. He’s a credit to our league. He was on the ice for 30 minutes.
“They have six NHL draft picks on defense and because of that, they made it tough for us to get to the net.”
Harvard made it 3-0 at 16:44 when Maki eluded Union skaters and dished the puck across to defenseman Dylan Reese. The sophomore’s shot from the high slot beat Mayotte low to his left.
Union, however, jumped back into the game early in the third period on excellent forechecking by its fourth line.
When rookie Casey Ftorek — son of former NHL player and coach Robbie Ftorek — knocked a Crimson defenseman to the ice, it allowed Scott Brady to pick up the loose puck and swing around the net for a wraparound chance. His shot was blocked by Harvard’s Dov Grumet-Morris, but the rebound came out to freshman Sam Bowles, who stuffed it into the net for his first collegiate goal at 2:57.
The Dutchmen hit the post just under a minute later, which was as close as they’d get the rest of the night.
“I thought after that first goal,” Leaman explained, “we had a chance. Then we hit the post.”
“They played well,” said Donato. “I have a lot of respect for Union. We knew it was going to be a very dangerous game for us.
“I told the guys that we want to be where they are, at the top of the league.”
Cavanagh rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter at 18:50 to seal the Crimson’s victory.
“I thought it was like a playoff game,” said Leaman. “It came down to bounces. The good thing is, if we win at Brown, we’re seven-and-one [in the ECAC before the break].
“We have a good hockey team … That team has to come back into our building. I’m sure our players will be looking forward to that.”
Harvard was 0-1 on the power play, while Union was 0-3. Grumet-Morris finished the night with 32 stops to Mayotte’s 26.