BOSTON, Mass. — There is one thing that everyone at the Bright Hockey Center had in common Friday night, be they media, fans, players, officials, or pretzel vendors.
Nobody saw this coming.
The Crimson tied a league playoff record for margin-of-victory in an 11-0 thrashing of visiting Quinnipiac in front of an incredulous 1,731. Eight different players lit the lamp, including David Watters with a hat trick, as the hosts also set a team record for goals scored in postseason play.
The teams wasted no time in getting down to business, exchanging multiple quality scoring chances within the games opening minutes. Harvards efforts paid early dividends, as senior Mike Taylor drew first blood.
Three minutes in, Taylor picked up a loose puck from ten feet out at the right of Bobcat goalie Bud Fisher. The Crimson captain flipped a low-velocity backhand high and to the far side, where it was inadvertently redirected in off the elevated blade of a preoccupied Andrew Meyer.
It didnt take long for the hosts to flip the switch once more.
A swarming white crush took hold of the Quinnipiac zone, and Alex Biega put a hard shot into Fishers butterflied pads from the right-wing side. Fisher stopped the initial shot, but mistakenly sat still, believing the puck was beneath him. With the biscuit laying lonely in the crease behind Fisher, Dave Watters dove headlong toward the yawning net to poke the puck home at 5:33 of the first.
It was the fastest two-goal start of the season for the Cantabs, who showed little evidence of rust coming out of the bye week.
The score held steady for the remainder of the period, but not for a lack of action. Along with 26 combined shots (14 for Harvard), the teams shared six trips to the box, with four of the infractions falling to the boys in blue.
In the first period, I thought the game was pretty evenly contested, assessed Harvard coach Ted Donato. We got a couple bounces that made a difference, he said.
The second period was played as though the coaches had symbolically torn up the rule books during the first intermission. The Bobcats and Crimson traded powerful blows — of both the legitimate and questionable varieties — as the sides slugged it out for the games crucial third goal.
That feat was accomplished by the Crimson just before the games halfway mark. Steve Rolecek, playing his first game since injuring his shoulder in the Beanpot in early February, took a late-but-perfect feed from David MacDonald in a two-on-one to beat Fisher.
That third goal just opened the floodgates, said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold, who blasted his teams effort in the lopsided affair. Right now, weve got some kids [who are] ready to go on spring break.
Just as it happened 20 minutes prior, the Harvard goal came with a partner and then some.
As 10:51 clicked off the game clock, Taylor whisked a puck from behind the goal line on Fishers right out to the slot. Freshman Matt McCollem was there to meet it, and he one-timed the feed straight through Fishers five-hole.
Five minutes later, Bryan Leitch and Alex Biega took matching roughing minors, but Leitchs frustration got the better of him, as the junior repeatedly pushed and cross-checked Biega in the back with the latter already on his knees. Biegas teammates made Leitch pay for his poor judgment.
Only 20 seconds into Harvards ensuing power play, Watters capitalized with his teams fifth goal, knocking Fisher from the game for the third time in five contests. Freshman Pat McGann didnt fare any better, promptly allowing Harvards sixth goal on a quick release by Doug Rogers.
My goaltending was really bad tonight. It was atrocious, Pecknold stated.
With the touchdown on the board, unusual suspect Pier-Olivier Michaud tacked on the extra point. With mere seconds left before a merciful intermission, Michaud pocketed a nice lead-pass from Watters to send him on a breakaway. The frosh neatly tucked his vulcanized cargo underneath McGanns pads for goal number seven.
The five-goal frame was the most for the Ivy since February 2004, when a similar bombardment in the third period propelled the Crimson over Yale. The Lucky 7 was last achieved in 2006 in a 10-1 thrashing of Dartmouth in the ECAC semifinals.
While the hosts may have decimated the hapless visitors on the scoreboard through 40 minutes, the shots were surprisingly close: 28-25 Crimson. The penalties werent as skewed as one might imagine either, with six minors against the Bobcats to four against Harvard — the white-shirts were an unremarkable 1-4 on the power play through two.
Jon Pelle pumped that percentage up a bit less than two minutes into the third, as the Crimson simply never stopped coming at the embattled Bobcats. The senior winger popped it home with Sami Liimatainen in the box, and the rout got rout-ier.
The Bobcats didnt catch on too quick, as freshman defenseman Zach Hansen was ushered to the bin for holding two minutes later. Junior Jimmy Fraser kept the local locomotive on track, rocking a shot into McGanns pads, which trickled through the unassuming backup. Staying true to form, Harvards stick was the first to the puck, as Watters swooped in for his second uncontested goal of the game, completing his first career hat-trick as well.
The three goals more than doubled his total for the year, as he had only tallied a deuce in 22 previous games.
Its definitely a huge relief to finally score some goals, Watters said.
I thought Dave Watters was superb, praised Donato. He really stepped forward for us in the second half of the season.
With nine already on the board — in case youve lost track — MacDonald preferred an even ten. Michaud created the screen in front of McGann, and MacDonald rifled the shot from the point into the top shelf.
Despite maintaining a well-earned if somewhat ridiculous shutout, Donato elected to replace Kyle Richter with sophomore John Riley at 9:21 of the third. Pecknold soon followed suit, trying option number three in senior Dan Cullen.
Its a shame there was no backup for the backups backup on the QU bench.
Senior Tyler Magura ripped a try on Cullen, which rebounded to Rolecek. The winger made no mistake with the puck, and buried the chance for an 11-0 lead, which was where the scoring finally ended.
The home teams stat-sheet included 13 different point-producing players, and 10 different Crimson finished with multiple points for the night. Tyler Magura, Alex Meintel and Fraser each notched two assists, Biega had three. MacDonald was credited with a goal and an assist, Doug Rogers with a goal and two assists, and Taylor and McCollem each finished with a goal and three helpers. Rolecek welcomed himself back to the lineup with two goals, while clear first-star Watters earned the three goals plus two assists.
Lost in the avalanche was the performance of Richter, who stopped all 27 shots faced in what would in more standard circumstances have been an outstanding performance.
Obviously, it was a strange game, said Donato. It was one of those nights where a lot of stuff we put on net went in. [But] we didnt ever get away, really, from what we were trying to do.
Quinnipiac has another chance to extend its season tomorrow night, while the Crimson aim to make it a clean sweep and begin preparing for the ECAC semifinals in Albany next weekend.
I think if we get some goaltending tomorrow night, and if the kids want it bad enough, we can hang with them. We hung with them this year, said Pecknold.