CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — College hockey’s oldest active rivalry recommenced Sunday afternoon as the Harvard Crimson (6-2-0, 5-2-0 ECACHL) hosted the Brown Bears (2-4-0, 2-4-0) at the Bright Hockey Center. The game was close the whole way through, but the play of Harvard’s special teams and strong goaltending from senior John Daigneau were enough to lift the Crimson to a 2-0 victory.
Harvard received the game’s first power play at 2:24 of the first, the result of a high-sticking penalty whistled against Brown forward Seth Seidman. The Crimson power play has been extraordinarily efficient this season — entering the game the team had converted on more than 30 percent of its chances with the man-advantage — and Sunday was no exception.
Harvard’s top power-play unit pressured the Bears, passing the puck well around the perimeter, firing shots through screens on Brown goaltender Adam D’Alba, and crashing the net for loose pucks.
Even after the power play had expired, the Crimson kept control of the puck in the Bears’ zone. Forward Ryan Maki gathered a missed shot along the low boards, turned and directed a quick pass to Dave Watters, who was perched atop the crease to D’Alba’s left. Watters blasted the point-blank shot into the back of the net. That score came six seconds after the power play had expired, and it gave the Crimson a 1-0 lead.
Harvard expanded on that lead later in the first when Brown defenseman Pete LeCain was whistled off for hooking. Again the Crimson was patient on the power play, passing effectively, moving well without the puck, and sustaining pressure on the Bears.
With the man advantage winding down, forward Charlie Johnson took a pass from Jon Pelle at the point and fired a hard slapshot on net. Dan Murphy, who has been enjoying a breakout season for the Crimson, was in front of the net screening D’Alba; Murphy managed to get his stick on the puck and redirected the shot from Johnson through D’Alba’s legs to give Harvard a 2-0 lead.
“I thought Adam played really solid,” said Brown coach Roger Grillo. “Both goals were tough; they were tough goals for a goaltender — one was a rebound goal and one was a tip-in.
“We had our chances, we just couldn’t get the puck in the net, that was the difference in the game,” Grillo continued. “They capitalized on two of their chances — we were 0-for-6 on our power play, they were 1-for-7, almost 2-for-7 — that was the difference.”
The best chances for the Bears came in between the two Harvard goals when Watters was whistled off for hooking at 7:47 of the first and was joined in the box less than a minute later by linemate Tyler Magura.
Brown sustained pressure on the Crimson for the 56 seconds of 5-on-4 play after the Watters penalty, and the Bears turned up the intensity for their 5-on-3 advantage. They fired eight of their 12 first-period shots during that exchange, but the Harvard penalty killers and Daigneau managed to turn aside every puck.
“We had a great chance [on the 5-on-3],” Grillo said. “I thought we had some good chances — I thought we had some great chances on our power plays — we just couldn’t finish them off.”
“I thought our penalty kill really stepped up tonight,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “[Killing off the 5-on-3] was really big. We had pretty much controlled the play in the first period, and we didn’t want to allow them the opportunity to cut the lead.”
“It was definitely a big momentum boost to kill off both those penalties,” agreed Daigneau, who recorded his first career shutout. “It was a big confidence boost.”
That was all the Crimson needed to record its 100th all-time win against its oldest rival. That win also moved Harvard into a tie with St. Lawrence atop the ECACHL standings.
Later this week Brown will have to enjoy Thanksgiving on the road as the team will be in the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a post-Turkey Day pair at St. Cloud State. Harvard will next be in action Tuesday night when the Crimson plays host to crosstown rival No. 18 Boston University.