SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Union would love to have Friday’s first period against Harvard back.
If the Dutchmen could replay it, they would have more passion and compete harder. Maybe then they would have generated more than one shot on goal and not have fallen behind by two goals.
That lackluster first period would prove costly to the Dutchmen. A late rally against Crimson goalie Kyle Richter fell short, and Harvard hung on for a 3-2 ECAC Hockey win at Messa Rink.
The loss, Union’s first one at home in league play this season, keeps the team in fifth place. The Dutchmen (7-5-3 ECACH, 12-10-4 overall) are two points behind fourth place Cornell for the final ECACH tournament first-round bye berth. They are three points behind Princeton and Quinnipiac for second, and six in back of league-leading Clarkson.
The Dutchmen looked discombobulated in the opening period. Harvard (7-7-2, 9-10-3) had more passion, and more speed.
“We came out flat,” Dutchmen captain Matt Cook said. “They outcompeted us in our barn in the opening period. It’s inexcusable for us to do that in our rink.”
The Crimson scored on the first and last shots of the period. Alex Biega beat goalie Justin Mrazek with a drive from the right-point 3:24 into the game. Matt McCollem forced Brendan Milnamow to turn the puck over at the Harvard blue line. He skated in on Mrazek and flipped a backhander over him with 1:03 left, Harvard’s fifth shot of the period.
Meanwhile, the Dutchmen had one shot on Richter. It was a Josh Coyle dump in from the Crimson blue line midway through the period.
“We came out in the first period, and really got outworked there,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “You’ve got to give them credit. I thought they played great defensively, and didn’t let us penetrate them too much there and made us work for our opportunities.”
Leaman replaced Mrazek with Corey Milan to start the second. He didn’t blame Mrazek for the goals.
“I was just trying to spark the team,” Leaman said. “We didn’t have any jump that first period.”
Milan shut out the Crimson in the second, and the Dutchmen were getting some scoring chances against Richter. Still, they had nothing to show for it, much like the last time they faced Richter. He made 27 saves in a 4-0 win Nov. 10 at
Paul Dufault’s power-play goal with 5:07 left in the game seemed to seal Union’s fate. But Sam Bowles caught Richter looking the wrong way, and banked the puck off of his right pad from along the goal line and into the net with 3:21 left. That ended Richter’s shutout streak against the Dutchmen at 128 minutes, 57 seconds.
The Dutchmen got a power play when Jack Christian ran into Milan with 3:14 to go. Milan was pulled for an extra attacker. The Dutchmen didn’t score on the power play, but they kept pressing until Cook scored with 18.7 seconds left.
“Give Union a lot of credit, they battled right to the end,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “They made it very interesting.”
Union had one final chance in the final 7.1 seconds. But the tying goal eluded the Dutchmen. It left them lamenting about the poor opening period.
“In that first period, we came out a little soft, and didn’t really want to work for those opportunities,” Leaman said. “Because of that, it cost us two points tonight.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for the The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.