ITHACA, N.Y. — After a few dozen flying fish, 77 minutes of penalties, and four Crimson goals, Harvard emerged victorious over Cornell, 4-3, on Saturday evening, clinching this year’s Ivy League title. The win was Harvard’s first at Lynah Rink since 1999 and came on senior night in Ithaca.
“Cornell has always been, obviously, our nemesis, and they’ve always kind of had our number,” said Harvard Captain Peter Hafner. “We really wanted so badly to win at this place, especially our seniors.”
“I really believe that we deserved to win,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “I thought we carried the play most of the night.”
After the ritual pre-game fish throwing from the Cornell student section, The Red seemed to be the team in control in the first period of play. Fourteen minutes in, Cornell forward Raymond Sawada anticipated a Harvard pass and skated in behind the Crimson net to knock down and intercept the puck. As Sawada controlled the puck, Chris Abbott skated in towards the left post and Sawada hit him with a pass, which Abbott lifted above Daigneau’s right blocker side to record the period’s only goal.
Though The Big Red began the second period with an impressive five on three penalty kill, the Crimson remained the aggressor for most of the period, recording 16 shots to Cornell’s five.
“For some of our group, its such an electric environment that we just got to settle down a little bit. Once they score and the crowd goes crazy, and its such a pumped up environment, we just had to settle down and really use our speed to our advantage,” said Donato.
Harvard tied the score at one apiece six and a half minutes into the period. From above the left side circle, Harvard defenseman Jack Christian took a low hard shot, keeping the puck on the ice for Steve Mandes to redirect the puck past McKee with his back turned to the goal.
Less than two minutes later, Harvard took the lead on a goal by sophomore Alex Meintel. Scoring off a face off in the right side circle, Paul Dufault won the puck and found Meintel who skated in and beat McKee for the go-ahead goal, his fourth of the season.
Trying to salvage their poor period of play, The Big Red equalized with four minutes remaining in the second period. Senior Daniel Pegoraro won a faceoff to linemate Cam Abbott in the Crimson zone. Abbott found a streaking Topher Scott, who shot low to beat Daigneau through the five hole.
With the men in black and white dishing out 45 minutes of penalties in the third period, the heated rivalry was at an emotional boiling point. The game tied at two apiece, Cam Abbott hit Hafner from behind and into the boards. Hafner, briefly left the game with a cut on his head. Abbott was ejected from the game and freshman Evan Barlow served the five minute major.
“I thought the turning point was obviously in the third, the five minute major for hitting from behind,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “Cam got what he deserved.”
“We knew we weren’t leaving here without some blood spent,” said Donato.
A little more than a minute after the penalty, Harvard capitalized on the power play, when Jon Pelle collected a rebound behind the Cornell net and curled back in front to shot past McKee’s glove side. Dan Murphy and Dylan Rease assisted on the score.
After scoring the go-ahead goal, Pelle skated over towards a Cornell student section and taunted the crowd in celebration. “I’ve always wanted to get a goal here, so it felt pretty good,” said Pelle. “I don’t know if I should have gone to the section that I did, maybe I should have mellowed out a little bit. My emotions got the best of me there.”
Peter Hafner returned to the game, and his impact shined immediately. On a two-on-one Crimson rush, Charlie Johnson made a nice move that tripped up Cornell defenseman Jared Seminoff. With Seminoff down, Johnson passed to Hafner, who banged in the game-winner.
“Charlie made a nice play,” said Hafner, still bleeding after the game. “I just tried to jam it as hard as I could. I certainly wasn’t picking a corner.”
With less than two minutes to play and goaltender Dave McKee pulled from net, Cornell made things interesting. Byron Bitz scored off Daniel Pegoraro’s rebound and pulled The Red within one. Three misconduct penalties, one roughing penalty, and one charging penalty ensued in a frantic final minute and a half of play. Cornell had a few good opportunities, where the puck was loose in the Crimson crease, but goaltender John Daigneau met the challenge.
“I almost had a heart attack,” said Pelle. “At the end of the day, I was proud of our seniors. I wanted so badly for them to be Ivy league champions and finally get a win here at Lynah.”