MINNEAPOLIS — Neither Harvard’s Dov Grumet-Morris nor Northern Michigan’s Tuomas Tarkki deserved to lose Wednesday’s opener at the Dodge Classic holiday tournament.
Officially, neither did.
A sparse early crowd at Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena was treated to a spectacular display of goaltending, as Grumet-Morris and Tarkki matched each other shot for shot, stopping a combined total of 70 to send the Crimson and the Wildcats into a shootout after 65 minutes of scoreless hockey.
After five penalty shots apiece, Andrew Sarauer and Darin Olver had scored for Northern Michigan, and Andrew Lederman and Dan Murphy for Harvard, turning it over to sudden-death.
Olver, the first NMU shooter in the sudden-death round, scored high to Grumet-Morris’ stick side, and when Tarkki made a pad save on Brendan Bernakevitch, Northern Michigan (9-4-4) was on its way to the championship game.
According to Wildcat coach Walt Kyle, sending out Olver first was a nod to the law of averages.
“Darin Olver’s about 0-for-5 in breakaways,” Kyle said. “He was due.”
In accordance with NCAA rules governing in-season tournaments, the result goes into the books as a tie, but it was a sour tie for Harvard and head coach Ted Donato.
“I think everybody wants to play in front of a full house,” said Donato in reference to the championship game. “It’s [Mariucci Arena] such a great venue for college hockey, and a great state for support, and I wanted our kids to have that experience.”
Harvard (9-3-2) was limited in practice this week by illness. Donato described as many as 15 players on antibiotics for a respiratory ailment that swept the team, but refused to use that as an out.
“There’s no excuses,” he said. “They’re [NMU] a very good hockey team.”
Kyle complimented Harvard’s performance as well.
“Harvard’s a good team,” he said. “They’ve beaten BC, BU, Maine — you don’t do that by luck.”
Despite the score, the contest was peppered with scoring chances, especially in the third period and overtime. The best chance in OT was by Northern Michigan’s Alan Swanson, who skated up the middle and rang a wrister off the left post to no avail.
“It wasn’t an 18-17 shot performance, that’s for sure,” said Kyle.
That came after both goalies stepped up their play in the third period. After a trip by Harvard defenseman Dave MacDonald at 3:10, Northern Michigan put together a string of scoring chances, starting with a stuff attempt for Pat Bateman.
Nathan Oystrick followed that up with a short-range wrister after cheating in from the right point, and just after the expiration of the power play, Andrew Contois had another sterling chance, a shot from the left side that trickled through Grumet-Morris (37 saves) but dribbled a foot wide of the right post.
Bernakevitch had the next opportunity for the Crimson, redirecting a centering pass toward Tarkki (33 saves), but the netminder got a pad on it to stave off the chance at the 10-minute mark.
An offensive-zone turnover by Harvard at the 14-minute mark led to three straight odd-man rushes, none successful. Northern Michigan’s Swanson had the best chance, a wrister on a two-on-one that he pushed wide of the net. At the other end, Tarkki preserved the tie with a diving save on a short-angle shot with four minutes left.
That set up a relatively uneventful finish to regulation, and an overtime period that saw only two shots on goal.
The early going was heavy on defense. Northern Michigan controlled play in the opening minutes, and though Harvard’s offense came to life during a power play late in the first period, no goals resulted.
The best chance of the second period came after an infraction against NMU’s Bateman. Harvard’s Tim Hartung took a one-timer from the bottom of the faceoff circle that couldn’t quite get through.
Charlie Johnson of NMU had a wrist shot knocked down at 14:10, followed by a point-blank chance for teammate Andrew Contois that Grumet-Morris stopped.
That sent the game to the third period, and eventually to the shootout, scoreless.
Only five penalties were called, a novelty in a season laden with obstruction whistles. Harvard was 0-for-2 on the power play, NMU 0-for-3.
With the win, Northern Michigan advances to Thursday’s championship against either Merrimack or host Minnesota. The drop of the puck will be at 5:05 or 8:05 p.m. Central time; Minnesota will play the late game regardless of its result Wednesday.
Harvard will play the loser of the Gophers-Warriors contest in the other time slot.