PRINCETON, N.J. — If one were to look at the records of Harvard (11-6-2, 7-4-1 ECACHL) and Princeton (6-13-1, 4-8 ECACHL) entering Friday night, one might have predicted that Harvard would come away with a convincing win.
And despite the fact that the Crimson hadn’t played a game in 20 days while Princeton, a team creating buzz this season with its marked improvement, was coming off a solid victory Tuesday, that’s exactly what happened.
Seven different players scored in Harvard’s 7-0 rout, including three who tallied their first goals of the season. Head coach Ted Donato was pleased to see the productive offense.
“It’s great to see,” he said. “We, to this point, haven’t scored a ton of goals five-on-five. The majority of the goals we scored tonight were five-on-five, so I think that’s a good sign. In order for us to beat teams down the stretch we can’t rely on special teams.”
Princeton was on its heels from the start as Harvard took the lead 37 seconds in. During a goal-mouth scramble, right wing Ryan Maki got the puck to Steve Mandes, who knocked the puck in past a scrambling B.J. Sklapsky.
Then, with under four minutes to go in the first, Harvard subjected the Princeton defense to an offensive frenzy. At one point the puck was trickling behind a fallen Sklapsky towards the open net, but Sklapsky used his stick to hook it away, much to the delight of Tiger fans.
However, Princeton could not clear the zone, and Harvard defenseman Peter Hafner capitalized on a shot from the point that sailed over Sklapsky’s shoulder and shook the back of the net to make it 2-0 at 16:39.
Then with 1:35 left in the first, Maki picked up another assist when he passed the puck from behind the Princeton goal line across the slot to center Kevin Du, who deposited it into a yawning net to go up by 3.
The Mandes-Du-Maki line played strong all night, and Mandes and Du finished with a goal and an assist each. Maki had two assists.
“That line was great for us tonight,” Donato said. “It was nice to see Steve Mandez score. He’s a Philly kid, and he had 20 people here for him tonight. He’s been a very good player for us. A lot of things he does don’t show up on the score sheet. I was happy for him, and his whole line played great. Kevin Du has been outstanding the last two games, and Ryan Maki was also excellent.”
In the second period, Princeton forward Ian McNally was called for high-sticking at 6:36, and it took Harvard just 13 seconds to capitalize on the power play as forward Jon Pelle worked the puck to defenseman Noah Welch, who beat Sklapsky from the point. The Crimson’s fourth goal of the night sent Sklapsky to the bench with less than half the game over. He finished the night with 13 saves on 17 shots.
“We had two chances to freeze the puck and it didn’t happen,” Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky said of the Crimson goals. “You look at the shots from the blue line that went in, [they] can’t go in, but you know what, it’s a team game. We win as a team.”
Freshman Jeff Mansfield took over for Princeton between the pipes, but he fared no better as Harvard scored again 1:41 later. From the neutral zone, defenseman Ryan Lannon sent forward Rob Flynn in on a breakaway. He skated in on Mansfield and beat him glove side to stretch the Crimson lead to 5-0.
“We have a chance to get back tomorrow,” Gadowsky said. “It’s not going to happen without us giving more than we gave today, and it’s not going to happen without us stopping pucks we have to stop. We have to give more. You can talk about the positives and what we’ve done, but we’re coming up short, and tonight, a lot short.”
At 6:59 of the third, defenseman Tom Walsh received a Mike Taylor pass and zipped a shot from the point past Mansfield. Like Hafner and Flynn, Walsh got his first goal of the season.
“It felt great,” Walsh said. “It’s been a long time. I’ve had some chances the first half of the season, so it was just good to get it, start off the second half nice, and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Harvard put an exclamation point on the win with a Dave Watters goal as the final buzzer sounded.
“We knew we had to play very physical and get the puck in their end and just keep it down there,” Walsh said. “We did a great job tonight getting it in. Our forwards really forechecked well. We really just played the body and took it to them. I think tonight was a great game for us, and I think we just have to play like that every night.”
Princeton will finish its six-game homestand Saturday night against Brown while Harvard will travel to New Haven, Conn., to play Yale.
“This was an important game for us, and tomorrow I don’t think we’ll have to twist too many arms to get Harvard kids to play Yale,” Donato said.