CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Harvard Crimson (5-2-0, 4-2-0 ECACHL) controlled little more than 20 minutes of play against its Ivy League rival the Yale Bulldogs (0-5-0, 0-5-0) tonight. Unfortunately for Yale, two of those twenty minutes came at the beginning of the overtime period of a 3-3 game. In that two minute span Harvard fired shots on net, worked the puck along the boards, sustained pressure on the Yale defense, and eventually got the game-winning goal off the stick of junior forward Ryan Maki.
“In the overtime, they just got it down our end and we just couldn’t get it out,” said Yale coach Tim Taylor. “We tried to keep it on the perimeter but they just kept keeping the play alive.”
“Going into the overtime we just tried to regroup,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “We just tried to play in their zone, grind away a little bit, and get a lot of pucks on the net.”
The Crimson certainly did all that Donato asked; even though the overtime period lasted only 1:48, for almost every one of those seconds the Crimson’s forwards were moving the puck along the boards, trying to find teammates cutting towards the net, or following up shots and looking for rebounds.
Seconds before the game-winning goal, Maki had been unable to one-time a shot on net following a nice pass by linemate Kevin Du. His misfire sent the puck into the corner, where Du and fellow forward Mike Taylor fought off Yale defenders along the boards. Du was able to gain control of the puck and get separation from his defender, skate behind the net, and feed a pass out in front to the waiting Maki. Perched just to the left of goaltender Alec Richards’s crease, Maki one-timed the pass straight into the net to give Harvard the overtime victory.
“Kevin Du made a great pass, and Ryan Maki found a weak spot to get open,” said Donato.
“Du made a real nice play to me for the goal,” Maki agreed. “I was just there, he did most of the work.”
Du also assisted on Harvard’s first goal of the game, a score which was in some senses very similar to the overtime tally. Yale’s Joe Zappala was sent to the box for contact to the head-roughing, and Harvard’s power play set to work.
The Crimson entered the game with the nation’s best power play, converting on 33% of its opportunities (13-for-39, despite going 1-12 with the man advantage in a 5-2 loss to Quinnipiac). Harvard showed its skill by passing effectively, rotating, following shots on net, and sustaining pressure on Yale’s defense and Richards. The power play expired and the teams returned to full strength, and still the Crimson kept the puck in Yale’s end, eventually getting a hard shot from forward Dan Murphy atop the crease that flashed by Richards’ right side. The score at 6:53 of the first period gave Harvard a 1-0 lead.
The Crimson controlled the play throughout the first, firing fifteen shots on net. In the second period, though, Yale began to assert itself and matched Harvard’s tempo. Taylor’s team tied the score at 1-1 on a shorthanded two-on-one breakaway, the result of a Harvard turnover at the blue line. Forwards Jeff Hristovski and Christian Jensen transitioned quickly and executed the break perfectly; Hristovski held the puck and drew the defender over, then passed to Jensen at the last moment, and Jensen fired a hard shot that Harvard goaltender John Daigneau couldn’t slide across in time to stop.
Over the next two periods the game continued to be a back-and-forth affair. Harvard regained the lead shortly after Jensen’s goal on a short-range shot from Paul Dufault. Yale replied a minute later when Hristovski, skating hard down the ice on Daigneau’s left, blasted a sharp, odd-angle shot that caught the goaltender off-guard.
Harvard captain Peter Hafner again put Harvard on top, 3-2, with his first goal of the season at 16:40 of the second, but Hristovski again answered; his second goal of the game came at 13:35 of the third period and tied the score at 3-3.
“[Jeff] Hristovski had a terrific hockey game,” said Taylor. “He played like a senior should play against Harvard.”
“All our seniors played hard-Jensen, Zappala, Jackson, Craig,” Taylor continued. “They all played their hearts out.”
Despite a number of scoring chances for Yale over the last seven minutes of the third, the score remained tied at three until the overtime period began. It was at that point that Harvard asserted itself and really took over the game for the final two minutes, until Maki one-timed the game-winning goal past Richards at 1:48 of overtime.
“It was our first road game, and I think we played pretty well,” said Taylor. “We were outplayed in the first period, and then I think we got used to the tempo.
“This is a team that could use something good to happen to it, and I thought it was going to be tonight,” he added. “We’re not an 0-5 hockey club, but that’s where we find ourselves.”
The Bulldogs can attempt to break into the win column tomorrow night when they skate into Hanover, N.H. to face Dartmouth. The Harvard Crimson will next be in action on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. when it will host the Brown Bears in the re-currence of college hockey’s oldest active rivalry; that game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.