CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — So this is what the Colgate coaching staff had in mind when they recruited Tyler Burton.
The talented rookie scored twice to lead his Raiders (14-5-0, 6-1-0 ECACHL) to a 3-1 win over the Harvard Crimson (9-5-2, 6-4-1) before a sellout crowd of 2,776 at the Bright Hockey Center. With the win, Colgate moves into a third-place tie with Union in conference play, one point behind the Crimson.
“He’s a heck of a player,” said Raiders’ coach Don Vaughan. “He played so well last week too. He just never quits.”
The win also snapped Harvard’s 4-0-1 streak over Colgate at home.
“We knew coming in that Harvard had played some good games,” said Vaughan. “We were disappointed about our game against Northeastern (a 5-1 loss in Denver). It was on our minds all week.
“Playing Harvard was exactly the motivation we needed. There was a lot of passion and motivation on the bench. We wanted to play an up-tempo game and we did.”
Although the Crimson jumped out to an 8-2 shot advantage after five minutes, it did not muster another over the final 15 minutes of the period. Instead, it was Colgate that went on the offensive, outshooting the Crimson 12-0 the rest of the period.
“But for a couple that went wide,” said Vaughan, “we could still be playing.”
Harvard coach Ted Donato saw it a little differently.
“I thought, in general, that the game was sloppy,” he said, “especially in the first period. They forced us to be sloppy. They played very well.
“We knew coming in that we needed to play our best to win.”
The Raiders opened the scoring at 11:54, just 41 seconds after going on the power play. Senior tri-captain Adam Mitchell ripped a blast from the right point that was stopped by Harvard’s Dov Grumet-Morris. But when the senior netminder couldn’t corral the rebound, the Raiders’ Jon Smyth took a shot at the rubber before rookie Tyler Burton finally converted. It was his seventh tally of the season.
Colgate senior Steve Silverthorn turned in the period’s best defensive play at 14:40 when the puck found Harvard’s Dan Murphy alone in front of the net. Silverthorn calmly poked the puck off Murphy’s stick and denied him of what was the Crimson’s best scoring opportunity of the stanza.
“He backstopped us all night,” said Vaughan. “He’s done it all year. I think he’s one of the best goaltenders in the country.”
After playing a fairly uneventful second period, the action heated up with five minutes left in the frame. Colgate junior defenseman Kyle Wilson had two opportunities turned aside by Grumet-Morris – once after a nifty move by Wilson turned a Harvard defenseman inside-out and again when he ripped a quick shot from the top of the right circle.
And as special teams became a factor again late in the middle period, it was the Raiders who capitalized. With Crimson rookie Dave Watters off for a hit-from-behind, Colgate blueliner Joey Mormina ripped his third of the season by an out-of-position Grumet-Morris at 18:16.
Mormina’s opportunity unfolded when Mitchell’s shot from the left circle hit Harvard defenseman Ryan Lannon on the forearm and kicked up into the air. It landed in the high slot and slid right to Mormina. All the while, most players, including Grumet-Morris were searching for the puck.
“It’s easy to look for an excuse,” said Donato. “As a team, we made plenty of mistakes. We did too many things poorly to rely on excuses.
“One, we took some dumb penalties. Two, we didn’t execute on the power play. Three, we didn’t do a good job of making them play in their own zone. We did not stop them.”
When Burton was whistled for tripping at 3:46 of the third period, it presented the Crimson with a golden opportunity to jump back in the game. Sophomore Ryan Maki did not disappoint the Harvard faithful as he one-timed a wonderful cross-crease pass through traffic from junior Dan Murphy – who was in the right corner – that bounced in off the inside of Silverthorn’s pad and just across the goal line.
It was Maki’s second of the season and energized what had been a stagnant Crimson offense.
Burton, however, would make up for his penalty and slam the door on any thoughts Harvard had of a comeback just under three minutes later. He and speedy linemate Zac Tataryn – both of whom were zipping around the ice all evening – teamed up for the power play tally at 8:04.
Tataryn skated along the boards from the left corner to behind the Crimson net, but not before dishing a quick centering pass out to Burton at the bottom of the left circle. The puck hit Harvard defenseman Dylan Reese’s stick and landed on the blade of Burton. His quick shot eluded Grumet-Morris for the freshman’s second goal of the night and eighth on the season.
“They have a lot of energy,” said Vaughan about Burton, Tataryn and senior Tony Masotto – a diminutive line with nary a player over 5-feet-9-inches. “That line does it for us. Zac has wheels.”
“This is the best team I’ve ever played on,” said Burton. “It’s a great group of guys. We have great leadership.”
Colgate finished the night 2-5 with the extra-man, while the Crimson were 1-6. Grumet-Morris made 26 saves and Silverthorn stopped 27, including 11 in the final period. The Raiders travel down I-95 to faceoff against Brown on Saturday. Harvard, meanwhile, plays host to Cornell.
“It’s tough to suffer our first loss at home,” said Donato after his club had rattled off seven straight victories at the Bright. “We’ll be chomping at the bit for tomorrow.”