CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Harvard Crimson scored an early goal and then settled into an aggressive defense that stifled the Clarkson offense for the first two periods, enroute to a 2-1 win on Senior Night.
The Crimson (17-10-2, 13-8-1 ECACHL) received gritty defensive play and strong goaltending from its senior class and got some offensive punch from its talented junior forwards for the team’s third straight win. The victory officially clinched a first round bye in the ECACHL playoffs for the Crimson. With the loss, the Golden Knights (16-15-3, 9-11-2 ECACHL) officially finished eighth in the league and now know that they will host the Princeton Tigers next weekend in Potsdam in a best-of-three series.
Harvard gained momentum from an early goal less than a minute after face-off; senior forward Dan Murphy worked the puck off the side-boards in the Clarkson zone and passed the puck back to Tom Walsh, who was a few strides in from the blue line. Walsh fired a shot on net that was saved by Clarkson netminder David Leggio, but junior center Kevin Du was well-positioned near the net. He gathered the loose puck, and stretched around Leggio to slip the puck across the goal line.
That score came just 38 seconds into the first period, and though Harvard didn’t score again for almost two full periods, the team controlled the tempo of the game and limited Clarkson’s shot opportunities. By the end of the second period, Harvard had sent 28 pucks on net, compared to just 10 shots from Clarkson.
“They’re an awfully good hockey club,” said Clarkson coach George Roll. “They limited our chances, especially in the first 2 periods.”
“We didn’t have a lot of quality chances,” he said. “But Daigneau came up with the quality saves when they needed him.”
The Crimson didn’t appear to really need senior goaltender John Daigneau until the third period. Before that point, though, the Crimson took advantage of a double minor penalty that was assed to Clarkson defender Philippe Paquet at 17:18 of the middle period.
Working the puck around patiently on the power play, forward Jon Pelle sent a shot of net. Amidst traffic in front, Murphy got ahold of the puck and set a shot on net that hit off junior Ryan Maki and trickled into the goal to give Harvard a 2-0 lead.
“[Du and Maki]-they were superb,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato following the game. “They’ve been our best players, almost every night, in all phases, whether its power play, penalty kill, five-on-five.”
“They had a great game tonight,” he continued. “With Tyler Magura going out, those guys maybe had to see a few more minutes on the penalty kill than usual, and they did a great job.”
Come the third period, though, the crucial element of Harvard’s win was not the defense that limited Clarkson to 10 shots over two periods, nor the play around the net of Harvard’s talented forwards. Rather it was the strength of Daigneau in net that helped propel the team to a win; in the third period he made 12 saves including a fantastic pad save on a breakaway bid by Clarkson’s David Cayer.
Clarkson’s only goal came during a power play early in the third period where Zalewski got his stick on the puck amidst a mass of bodies in front of Daigneau and it found the back of the net.
With the score then 2-1 and with more than 15 minutes remaining in the period, Clarkson poured it until the final whistle. While the Golden Knights did not dominate play, they did skate harder in transition, controlled more pucks along the low and side boards, and outshot Crimson in the period. That was not enough to pull out the win, however.
“I was certainly happy with the effort tonight,” said Roll. “Our team has played some pretty good hockey during stretches this year. And even though we lost two this weekend, against two quality opponents, I thought our guys competed at a pretty high level.”
Across the ice in the home team’s locker rooms, Donato was more than happy with the play of his team’s seniors and their accomplishments over the season.
“I think some of our seniors had maybe their best games of the year,” said Donato, singling each one out for praise.
“In the last two weekends of the season, I think our seniors really stepped up,” he said.
“And I think we really accomplished a lot. We got the Ivy League Championship last week, and to get home ice this weekend is vital to our chances for success down the stretch.”