CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — All year long, Cornell head coach Mike Schafer has been preaching physicality and controlled aggression.
Harvard caught wind of it, and beat the visiting Big Red at their own game.
Weathering a usually withering Cornell attack, the Crimson unleashed a 35 shot barrage and benefitted from another solid game in back by sophomore goaltender Kyle Richter to win 2-1 Friday night. The victory upped Harvards record to 4-1-0 and added a fourth game to the teams current win streak.
Cornells three-game winning streak died on the Bright Center ice, along with the collective voice of a conspicuously Big Red crowd of 2,915.
Harvard struck first only three and a half minutes into the tilt. Sophomore blueliner Alex Biega unloaded from the right-wing point, and Big Red goalie Ben Scrivens coughed up a terminal rebound to the far side. Senior winger Jon Pelle swooped in to score his second goal of the season, and his team-leading fifth point in five games.
In the seventh minute, Pelle produced another chance with a tricky release. Slipping into the slot, he abruptly put on the brakes and spun counter-clockwise to evade defenders. He whipped a shot toward Scrivens, who was caught leaning to the right, but the second-year netminder kicked out the bid with a panicky toe save.
The first eight minutes were penalty-free, but as the clock hit 11:59, Harvards Chad Morin was dismissed for a hit from behind. Cornell made quick work of its first power play opportunity.
Sophomore forward Blake Gallagher popped a little looping shot over a baffled Richter from the leftwing doorstep in the midst of a scramble, and just like that, the game was even again.
Harvard generated the next scoring opportunity, as freshman standout Chris Huxley laid into a blast from the right-wing point. The puck literally bounced within a mess of bodies in and around Scrivens crease, and the official blew a slightly premature whistle just as the puck came to rest atop the Cornell net.
Alex Biega and younger brother Michael nearly ran a successful tip drill across Scrivens face with four minutes to play, but the Michaels redirection was just a touch too soft to find the corner.
Harvards second penalty of the match nearly led to Cornells second goal. With Tyler Magura just returning from a holding minor, Cornell senior captain Raymond Sawada lifted a shot over Richters glove from the middle of the slot.
The second period was less eventful, but after trailing 13-7 in shots after the first frame, Cornell rebounded with a 12-8 shot advantage in the second 20 minutes.
The Red once again went to work on the power play around the six minute mark, but were only to be stymied once more by the stellar play of Richter. While Jimmy Fraser served out his interference minor, Richter stoned sophomore Colin Greening on two successive shots with both a solid initial save, and a spectacular stop on the rebound attempt while sitting flat on his behind.
Cornell played physically throughout the entire contest, but Harvard was equal to the challenge, and beat the visitors in terms of puck possession and team defense. As the game reached its midpoint, the crowd swelled to full partisan volume as the outnumbered Harvard faithful rose to challenge the Ithacan interlopers.
With one second left, Richter polished off a busy period with a right-shoulder save on Topher Scotts shot from ten feet out. Harvard has yet to allow a second period goal in five NCAA games this season.
While the second period may reasonably be assessed as Cornells in retrospect, the third was Harvards through and through.
They played the way they wanted to, observed Harvard assistant coach Sean McCann of Cornells second period. But the third period was the absolute opposite, he said.
Two and a half minutes in, the Crimson blew a heavy shot high off Scrivens chest, resulting in two prime rebound opportunities and a massive clamor in front. A minute later, Morin dangled around two Big Red players at the high point and the right wing slot, and released a dragging wrister to Scrivens glove side while drifting against the grain.
Not two minutes after that, Crimson junior Nick Coskren battled hard in the Cornell corners, and was nearly rewarded with a goal as his shot deflected off one of Scrivens defensemen in front, catching the goalie by surprise.
Scrivens surrendered a number of dangerous rebounds throughout the game, and the skaters in front of him didnt help him much with inconsistent puck control and frequently sloppy play.
[Harvard] has six senior forwards on the team; theyre very patient through the zone, said Schafer of Harvards puck-control and penchant for forcing turnovers.
With 12:30 hanging over the ice, Harvard broke the draw as freshman winger Matt McCollem earned much more than the assist with which he was credited.
The local product ” straight out of Somerville, Mass. ” nipped up the lonely puck behind the Cornell goal, and attempted a backhand wraparound to Scrivens right. The goalie rejected the shot, and McCollem was buried in Red for his troubles, but the check that decked him also knocked Scrivens a bit off balance. Defenseman Brian McCafferty snapped the rebounding puck off Scrivens chest and into the net.
I skated down, I was looking for a pass, said McCafferty after the game, but I got the rebound. [When I got to the bench,] I told him [that the goal] was all him, he said. I wish he couldve gotten the goal, considering it wouldve been McCollems first, McCafferty concluded.
Harvard earned the majority of the games remaining chances, including a shorthanded pseudo-break by Alex Meintel at 12:05 of the game. His backhand flip glided over Scrivens glove to the near side, but also topped the crossbar.
Harvard puts its blooming hot streak to the test again on Saturday at home against Colgate. Cornell hopes to rebound at Dartmouth; both games are at 7pm.
Ted Donato skipped the postgame interviews in order to attend his induction into the Massachusetts Italian-American Hall of Fame. Many of the usual Harvard fans ” including the band ” were not in attendance Friday night, having driven down to New Haven, Conn. for Saturdays annual Harvard-Yale football game, where the Ivy League title is on the line.