CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A sellout crowd at the Bright Hockey Center witnessed another in a long list of memorable clashes between the Harvard Crimson (2-2-0, 2-2-0 ECACHL) and the Big Red of Cornell (4-1-0, 3-0-0). Tonight’s back-and-forth affair was fast and physical throughout; the outcome wasn’t decided until the Big Red managed to rally and score two goals in the last five minutes, pulling out a 4-3 win over its archrivals.
Cornell, the No. 3 team in the nation, fell behind early after a goal by the Crimson’s Paul Dufault. Dufault’s first goal of the season was largely the result of a great individual effort behind the net by Harvard’s Nick Coskren, who worked his way through Cornell’s tight defensive coverage, slipped around the net, and dropped the puck on Cornell netminder David McKee. Dufault was well positioned to tap in the loose puck after McKee’s initial save, and Harvard had a lead at 2:12 of the first.
Cornell responded a few minutes later on the power play when Crimson forward Ryan Maki was sent to the box for hitting from behind. The Big Red set up in the Harvard zone and patiently worked the puck around; Cornell captain Matt Moulson found forward Topher Scott low and to the left of Harvard netminder John Daigneau and passed the puck to Scott. Scott, in turn, quickly passed it on to Ryan O’Byrne at the point, and O’Byrne’s quick, hard shot found the back of the net.
Cornell’s patient power play again took advantage of Crimson miscues when Moulson beat a well-screened Daigneau at 14:29 of the first, giving Cornell a 2-1 lead. That advantage would last until mid-way through the second period, when Harvard gained a power play following an interference call on Mitch Carefoot.
The best scoring chance on the ensuing power play came, however, during a short-handed two-on-one rush into the Harvard end. Daigneau slid across the crease to follow a crossing pass, then pulled back and managed to thrust his legs upward to come up with an impressive save on a point-blank shot that Daniel Pegoraro tried to fire into the top of the net.
“That was an incredible save by John against a short-handed effort,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “And we came right down and scored; I thought it really changed the momentum of the game in our favor.”
The Crimson’s power play tally-a Dan Murphy deflection off a shot from the point by Tom Walsh-knotted the score at 2-2, a tie that lasted until Cornell was assessed a bench minor for having too many men on the ice at 8:14 of the final period. Harvard took full advantage of that bench blunder, taking the lead on a pretty power play goal by Charlie Johnson at 8:43 of the third.
“[Kevin] Du won the face-off back to me pretty direct,” Johnson said. “They were pressing high to the boards pretty much all game, so we were trying to work it from high-to-low. [
"Jon] Pelle passed down beside the net to Du, and Du just waited a sec and I cut down from the backside,” Johnson continued. “He found me across the crease there, and I tried to get it up as high as I could; McKee got across the crease pretty well, but I was able to beat him high over his shoulder.”
Johnson’s goal gave Harvard a 3-2 lead and the momentum was clearly flowing in Harvard’s direction. Over the next few minutes as Cornell attempted to rally, the Big Red’s players were frustrated by Harvard’s aggressive forecheck and committed a number of turnovers.
“Harvard put a lot of pressure on us,” said Moulson. “Obviously, they are a very skilled team. And we had some bad turnovers there in the third.”
“They got that third goal and we knew we’d have to battle hard to get a goal,” he added. “Luckily we got a good shot from Doug to tie it up.”
‘Doug’ is sophomore defenseman Doug Krantz, and the shot that Moulson referenced was a hard wrister from beyond the right face-off circle that beat Daigneau and tied the game at three with just over five minutes still on the clock.
“That was a great shot by Doug Krantz to obviously tie the game,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “It was a big play by Doug, a big shot by him, and that turned the game.”
From that point the momentum swung back into Cornell’s favor, and the Big Red kept pressing the Crimson. Less than three minutes later forward Cam Abbott fired a hard shot on net from beyond the right face-off circle; Daigneau made the initial save on the puck but couldn’t control the rebound, and Scott swooped in on the puck and put home the easy game-winning goal.
“Something we were practicing all week was going to the net off rebounds and Cam put it down on net and Toph got the rebound,” Moulson said.
“Luckily it went right off the goalie’s pad and onto my stick,” said Scott. “It was just being in the right place at the right time.”
Like his captain, Schafer saw practice and of repetition in the game-winning goal, not luck.
“Something we’ve been preaching to our guys was to shoot the puck and be around the net,” he said. “That’s the sign of a team that will score goals, and Topher did exactly that.”
The Big Red hung onto their 4-3 lead, enduring a late Crimson power play during the last two minutes, to come out with a hard-fought win.
“I thought Harvard protected the lead very well,” said Schafer. “We were turning the puck over to them. Harvard’s got great team speed, and if you turn the puck over to them they’re going to make you pay.”
“It almost cost us,” he said. “I think we got out of here with one tonight.”