BOSTON — With his team in the offensive doldrums, Terrier coach Jack Parker responded with what superficially may have appeared to be a counterintuitive move.
He benched his top scorer.
With Kenny Roche (five goals and five assists in nine games) designated as a healthy scratch, the Terriers still beat Harvard 2-1 behind yet another strong performance from netminder John Curry (22 saves) as well as the first career goal by defenseman Tom Morrow in addition to Chris Higgins having a great night with a goal and an assist in front of 5,878 at Agganis Arena.
Freshman blueliner Alex Biega had the lone goal and an impressive night in a losing effort for the Crimson.
Although the outcome was not all that different from BU’s 1-0 win over Providence on Friday, Parker was much happier with his team Tuesday.
“This was a low-scoring, one-goal win for us tonight,” Parker said. “Against Providence it was a low-scoring, one-goal win. And it was like night and day as far as effort was concerned. So foot speed and willingness to use that is really important to us, and we did that tonight and we didn’t against Providence . I think it will help [Roche] and help everybody else to see that this is the way we’ve got to play.”
Although Harvard lost its third game in a row and is now five games below .500, coach Ted Donato found some solace in his team’s play.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” Donato said. “Our guys worked very hard. That’s a very good BU team, and when you play good teams like that the smallest of details need to be watched. On the second goal we lost the guy on the faceoff, and we didn’t have great coverage in front of the net. All in all, I’m frustrated by the result but encouraged by our performance and our effort and our intensity.”
At 3:10 of the first period, Curry pulled off what turned out to be his best save of the night, thwarting Mike Taylor.
“I had to take away the floor because I knew I didn’t want the wraparound,” Curry said. “So I put my paddle down and once I did that I realized I left the top shelf open for him. So I brought my glove around and made sure he didn’t have an angle at the top of the net, and I was able to get it.”
After that, the big story early on tonight was Tom Morrow. Playing in his 110th collegiate game, the lanky defenseman scored his first goal on his 51st career shot. Jason Lawrence brought the puck in on the right-wing side and tried to slip it to linemate Higgins, but the puck was behind. Higgins got a piece of it, but the puck glided beyond him toward the blue line.
“I was just following the play up the ice, trying to catch up a little bit.” Morrow said. “I just skated right into it. The defenseman had a nice screen, so I decided to take a shot around him. I don’t think the goalie saw it. It went right around his glove, over his pad.”
Parker mentioned that he referred to Morrow as an “offensive defenseman” in the post-game meeting and was met with a befuddled expression by the Minnesota native.
“He’s not known for that, that’s for sure,” Parker said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence. I thought sooner or later it would come, but it was getting later. I’m really happy for him. He’s a great kid; he’s playing hard. Whether or not he’s scoring goals for us, he’s having a great year for us. He’s been one of our most consistent defensemen.”
“Honestly, I thought sooner or later it might come, but I didn’t think it was going to be a nice play,” Morrow said. “I thought it was going to be one of those ones that bounced off three people or that was a garbage goal in front. I didn’t think it would be a nicer goal.”
With Roche out, BU’s first line of Higgins, Lawrence, and Matt Gilroy provided what offensive spark there was for the Terriers, particularly in the first period when they had two or three chances. Still, Harvard survived a five-minute major with just a couple of threats.
Early in the second period, Harvard winger Jon Pelle had half the net to shoot at on a power-play rebound but shot wide on the rare scoring chance. Lawrence countered minutes later with a nice move leading to a chance on the backhand, only to have Harvard goalie Justin Tobe make the save.
In what was otherwise a game with meager grade ‘A’ scoring chances, the two teams managed to score two of the game’s three goals in a 22-second span halfway through the game. At 9:24 , Higgins won an offensive-end faceoff and slipped the puck to Gilroy , who returned it to his centerman. The sophomore drove to the net and scored on the backhander.
Yet Harvard countered at 9:46 when a “bad read,” according to Parker, set up a two-on-one for the visitors. Right winger Ryan Maki crossed to Biega racing to the far post behind the defender for the conversion.
There were only two other chances for the rest of the period. Bryan Ewing redirected an Eric Gryba shot just wide at 13:30, and Pelle had two good whacks near the crease at 16:43 , but that was about it.
The third period had even less to speak of in the way of chances. Harvard outshot BU 11-6 but never seriously threatened to tie the game.
“I thought we played extremely well tonight,” Parker said. “Even the third period when they had the puck in our zone a lot more than they did in the first two periods, they didn’t get a lot of grade ‘A’ shots. In fact, they only got one grade ‘A’ shot. So I was really pleased with how we defended and how we skated. And especially with how we moved the puck on the power play; I thought we had some real good chances there. Their power play is a real good power play, and we did a good job of killing it.”
“BU did a good job of killing penalties,” agreed Donato. “They pressured us in a lot of situations, but to me we just didn’t execute. We had all sorts of bouncing passes and just didn’t connect. We had plays that were open, but BU did a good job blocking shots and sealing off the front of the net. But to me we did a very poor job of executing plays that were wide open.”
BU (4-2-4) hosts No. 17 Yale in another non-conference game on Saturday, while Harvard (2-7-0) receives a visit from another newly-ranked squad, No. 20 Quinnipiac.