CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard sophomore Kevin Du’s weekend can be summed up in two words: message received.
One night after watching his teammates lose to Colgate from the press box, Du returned to the lineup to score Harvard’s lone goal as the No. 12 Crimson defeated the No. 9 Cornell Big Red, 1-0, snapping a six-game losing streak against their bitter rivals.
“I deserved it,” said a candid Du about being benched. Earlier in the week, his coach, Ted Donato informed him that he would not be playing on Friday.
“I haven’t played consistently,” Du continued. “I have not played to my fullest capabilities on offense. Watching last night was the toughest thing all year. It renewed my hunger for the game.”
Said Donato about his second-year forward, “I thought Du was excellent, whether he scored or not.”
Du’s performance was also nice timing for a club that had lost two in a row and knew that it had a 20-day layoff ahead that would have felt longer had it suffered a home sweep.
“It was a great college hockey game,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “Harvard played very well.”
The teams played to a scoreless first period despite the fact that the Harvard power play had the period’s only three opportunities. The Crimson’s recent struggles with the man advantage continued — a troubling trend given that 20 of the team’s 43 goals this year have come on the power play.
Harvard did have the period’s two best scoring chances, however, but was turned aside each time. The first saw a Cornell defender sweep the puck out of the crease after it had squeezed through the legs of Big Red sophomore netminder David McKee.
The second opportunity came with just over 15 second left in the frame when Harvard defenseman Noah Welch gloved a cross ice pass that had been tipped into the air. In full stride from the right point, he placed the puck on his stick and moved in on McKee from the right circle. The goaltender forced Welch to make the first move, though, before denying the Harvard captain.
“It was real tough to get things going with all the penalties,” said Schafer. “It’s hard to get into a flow.”
On this evening, Cornell would not see its first power play until nearly the five minute mark of the second period.
Just over two minutes before that, however, with the Crimson enjoying another man advantage, McKee denied Welch once again. The defenseman wristed a shot from the left circle with the netminder screened and on his rear, but McKee somehow managed to snare the puck out of the air with his glove.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” said Donato. “We were frustrated in the first two periods.”
Harvard continued to get quality chances as the game wore on and finally converted at 4:54 of the third period. Sophomore Ryan Maki’s shot from the slot was stopped by McKee, but the rebound bounced out to the high slot where Du backhanded it into the net for his third goal of the season.
“It was great work by Maki and [Steve Mandes] in the corner,” Du explained about the effort of his linemates. “I happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
“It was a turnover in the corner,” said Schafer, “and it came right to the net. There was a similar situation at the end of the game for us.
“It was that type of night.”
Indeed, Cornell’s best scoring chance came late in the contest while on the power play. The Big Red rotated the puck and managed to get a shot off from the right side while Harvard netminder Dov Grumet-Morris was occupied at the far post. The senior slid across the crease and just managed to get a piece of the puck with his shoulder.
“I was lucky to get over at the last minute,” he said. “They had the majority of their grade-A chances at the end in the third period while on the power play.”
“It was a good goaltender’s duel,” said Schafer. “Both goalies made huge saves when they needed it.”
Grumet-Morris finished the evening with 27 stops and his seventh career shutout. McKee, meanwhile, made 24 saves of his own.
“Both goaltenders gave their teams a chance to win,” said Donato. “McKee frustrated us for most of the night.”
The Crimson finished the night 0-5 on the power play, while the Big Red were 0-3. Cornell returns to action next weekend when they travel to the Capital Region of New York for games against Union and Rensselaer. Harvard is off until traveling to Princeton on January 28.