CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Dov Grumet-Morris made sure history would not repeat itself.
Eight months after Maine’s four-goal, third period comeback bounced Harvard from the 2004 NCAA Tournament, the Crimson netminder led his club to a convincing 4-1 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 2,776 at the Bright Hockey Center.
Grumet-Morris made 39 saves — including 13 in the final 20 minutes — to lead Harvard to its fifth straight victory and ninth in its last 10.
“It’s a very big win,” said Crimson coach Ted Donato, whose team rang up three power play tallies on the night. “The guys really stayed on top of it, stayed aggressive and did a good job.
“I’m not going to lie and say there was no extra motivation, but last year was last year. They’re a great program and we have lots of respect for them. Did we have extra left in the tank in the third period [because of the motivation], I hope so.”
For Maine, the loss snapped its six-game unbeaten streak.
“Harvard outplayed us and outworked us,” said Black Bears’ head coach Tim Whitehead. “They drew penalties because they outworked us. They scored three power play goals and we had one. Three-to-one on the power play, that was the difference.
“There was not a mystery to the game.”
Harvard jumped on Maine early in the contest. Exactly one minute after Crimson senior Brendan Bernakevitch’s shot from the right circle rang off the post, rookie Jon Pelle notched his fifth of the season at 4:06.
Planted in front of Maine netminder Jimmy Howard, Harvard junior Charlie Johnson’s rebound of Pelle’s original shot was stopped by the goaltender. When the puck fell to the ice, three Harvard sticks began chopping away and the disc eventually found its way up and over Howard’s shoulder and into the net. Pelle was credited with wielding the stick that lifted the puck.
The Crimson maintained territorial control in the period, thanks in no small part to two power play opportunities, but Howard made solid saves to keep the score 1-0. At the other end, Grumet-Morris made 12 stops of his own.
Harvard connected on its third man-advantage of the game at 5:56 of the second period when sophomore Kevin Du tipped defenseman Tom Walsh’s point shot out of the air. It was Du’s second of the season.
“The second unit has done a great job,” said Donato about the combination that includes Du, Walsh and defenseman Dylan Reese, who had the second assist. “They’ve helped us win the last three games. They battled hard.”
The Crimson, who entered the game with a 23.1 percent success rate on the power play, connected again on their fourth advantage of the evening. Senior Andrew Lederman continued his strong play when he took Pelle’s pass from the left circle and whistled a shot from the blueline through two screens and Howard. The goal, at 16:02, was Lederman’s fourth of the season after having scored just once in his previous three years.
“We got pucks to the net,” said Donato. “The guys … got into position to get goals.”
“We’ve been having trouble scoring five-on-five,” said Johnson. “[On the power play,] we’re getting guys to the net and getting our shots through. Our puck movement could improve, but we’re getting good screens, good tips and rebounds.”
Whitehead, meanwhile, thought his club made matters worse for Howard while shorthanded.
“We didn’t help our goalie at all,” the coach explained. “Sometimes we screened our own goalie. [Harvard] did a great job of wristing the puck in on the power play and getting to the rebounds, we didn’t. They had three shots on one goal and no one cleared the puck.”
The Black Bears, on the other hand, struggled all evening with the man-advantage, going 1-8. They were 0-7 until the final two minutes of the contest.
“All night, we were taking ourselves out of the power play by taking stupid penalties,” explained Maine junior Jon Jankus. “I took one too.
“You take away the three power play goals and it’s a 1-1 game.”
Leading 3-0 as the third period opened, the memories of the Black Bears’ comeback in April popped to the surface. It didn’t help Harvard that Maine jumped on the power play just 37 seconds into the frame and received another man-advantage at 4:45. Each time, however, Grumet-Morris was there to shut the door.
The netminder also came up big while the Black Bears were shorthanded, turning aside back-to-back breakaways — one by defenseman Steve Mullin at 6:50 and another by Michel Leveille at 7:05.
Harvard’s Johnson scored his third of the year, finishing up a beautiful sequence. Du and Dan Murphy skated in 2-on-1 with Murphy dishing the puck to Du coming down the middle. The sophomore quickly fired the puck back to Murphy, who was stoned by Howard as the goalie kicked out his left skate at the last minute. Unfortunately for Maine, Johnson was untouched as he crashed the net to bury the rebound at 12:39.
“Howard is one of the best goalies in the country,” said Grumet-Morris, “and he made the save of the night on our eventual fourth goal.”
Black Bears’ rookie Keenan Hopson tallied his third of the season at 18:52, while on the power play, to end the Crimson netminder’s shutout bid and to round out the scoring.
“When he was tested,” said Whitehead, “I thought Grumet-Morris was great.”
“In my mind, it was a bit of a game within a game,” Donato remarked about the two netminders. “Dov’s played so well this year and it’s no secret that Howard is one of the best in the country.”
Grumet-Morris would have nothing to do with the in-game rivalry talk.
“Our defense was a huge key to the game,” he said. “They did a good job of clearing traffic.”
Howard, whose team will skate in the Florida College Classic December 28-29, finished the night with 24 stops. Harvard, 3-7 on the man-advantage, returns to action against on December 22 at the Dodge Holiday Classic in Minnesota.