NEW HAVEN, Conn. — It was the halfway point of a thrilling first period in the Yale-Harvard rivalry when Jeff Hristovski’s beautiful goal broke a scoreless tie and sent a sellout Ingalls Rink into oblivion.
But it was only six seconds later that an unassisted score by Harvard’s Dave Watters off the subsequent faceoff sent the same crowd into a deafening silence.
Such is the frustration of cheering for the Yale Bulldogs this season. The team has reserved its finest hockey for its biggest games — Wisconsin, Boston College, Harvard — only to suffer devastating losses each time.
Against Wisconsin, Yale lost in a shootout, although the game was recorded as a tie. The BC game was a defensive brawl in which the Eagles notched a goal and then held on during an agonizing third period as Yale failed to earn the equalizer.
And Saturday, against archrival Harvard (12-5-2), Yale (3-17-1) entered the third period tied 3-3 in a fantastic game, only to give up two power-play goals and fall 5-3.
“We work so hard to get a lead, and the next shift they drop the puck and all of the sudden the game is tied,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor, describing the stomach punch that happened not once, but twice in the first period as Yale scored twice, only to have the Cantabs respond within a minute each time.
“It was huge to respond to those goals,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “Dave Watters’ goal, especially, was able to neutralize the crowd a little and it lifted up our guys. We didn’t allow them to play with a lead for very long.”
The first two periods had all the makings of a knock-down, drag-out contest. It took Yale only two shots on two power plays to score two goals, as Hristovski and junior Joe Zappala each netted the puck for the Bulldogs. But Watters answered Hristovski, and Jon Pelle took just :43 to tie the game after Zappala’s score.
Just like Friday evening, when Yale dropped a 5-3 game to Brown after giving up four power-play goals, the Bulldogs were hampered by penalties, taking 10 to Harvard’s seven in a closely-officiated game. Four goals again came on the Harvard power play, and the fact that Yale scored all three of its goals on the man advantage was no consolation.
“In 120 minutes of hockey this weekend we gave up one five-on-five goal, and that was off the center ice faceoff tonight,” Taylor said. “I think the whole team is upset with itself. If games are going to be called [tightly], then our responsibility as players is to adhere to the rules and the way they are going to call the games.”
Harvard, for its part, summoned the composure to even the score twice and then fight off a Yale comeback attempt. The score chronology was the same as the Brown-Yale game the night before: 1-0 and 2-1 Yale leads that turned into ties, a 3-2 lead for the visitors that was evened up by Yale, and then the eventual go-ahead goal and a 5-3 outcome for both Brown and Harvard.
“We knew Yale was gonna come out strong, and a Harvard-Yale game that’s on TV — it doesn’t get any better than that,” said the Crimson’s Andrew Lederman, who finished the game with assists on Harvard’s second, third, and fourth goals. “But we stayed really composed throughout.”
After Pelle quieted the Ingalls crowd for the second time with his first-period goal, captain Noah Welch gave Harvard the 3-2 lead at 7:07 of the second period with a slapshot from the point on the power play. The Bulldogs answered with a pretty score from Christian Jensen to keep the game tied at 3 during the second intermission.
But a roughing penalty on Brad Mills at 6:21 of the third gave the Crimson the power play that would result in the go-ahead goal, when Tom Cavanagh converted a setup from Pelle and Lederman. Five minutes later, a Yale team that Taylor described as “disjointed” was whistled for its second too-many-men minor of the game, leading to Dylan Reese’s goal that gave Harvard the lead it would not relinquish.
The loss overshadowed the excellent play of Yale’s Hristovski, Page, and Zappala, who teamed up to earn points on both of Yale’s first-period goals. In addition, Hristovski and Page also earned helpers on Jensen’s goal to finish with three points apiece.
Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris finished the game with 18 saves, while Yale’s Matt Modelski stopped 29 shots.
“I give Yale a lot of credit,” Donato said. “They played very well over this recent stretch and they probably have deserved better results than they’ve gotten.”
The Bulldogs travel to Clarkson and St. Lawrence next weekend in hopes of achieving those better results, while Harvard faces off against Union and Dartmouth.