CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — After six periods of incredible hockey, the Harvard Crimson worked 60 minutes to emblazon a mark of true credibility on their season’s resume.
Senior Mike Taylor scored shorthanded and even-strength goals and nearly earned a hat trick with an empty-net post to lead the Crimson past Quinnipiac 3-1 on Sunday night. Kyle Richter made 26 saves, including 17 in the third period, for the victory, which advances Harvard to the ECAC Hockey semifinals next Friday in Albany.
The rubber game followed Quinnipiac’s 7-4 win on Saturday night, and Harvard’s 11-0 pummeling on Friday.
“It was good to get kicked in the butt on Saturday,” said Taylor. “A little arrogance crept in and we played poorly following the rout.”
“Ultimately, Harvard capitalized more,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “They played better in the first, I thought we played better in the second, [but] Richter played great.”
Harvard’s Jimmy Fraser had the game’s first quality scoring opportunity, ripping a snap shot off a left-wing rush about three minutes in. Aimed high and to the far side, goaltender Bud Fisher barely got the tip of his trapper on it to send it wide.
Jon Pelle had the second primo look with 12:00 on the clock, but couldn’t put the blade on the biscuit as it slid through Fisher’s crease.
Harvard’s were the sharper skaters in the early going, generating 10 of the contest’s first dozen shots, a perfect reversal of Saturday night’s commencement. Quinnipiac played with a palpable edginess, reduced to questionable techniques in an attempt to slow the hosts.
That said, it was the Crimson who took three of the game’s first four penalties. It was during one of the corresponding penalty kills that the disadvantaged Cantabs pocketed the game’s first goal.
It was Taylor who broke the draw, sweeping in on a shorthanded two-on-one with Fraser. The left wing elected to take the shot from 15 feet out, getting the better of Fisher low to the stick side. It was Taylor’s 12th consecutive game with a point, and his sixth of the series.
For what seemed like the first time all series, the shots matched the score, as the Crimson popped 14 on Fisher to only three by the Bobcats.
“The first period was awful,” said Pecknold. “We had our chances tonight. Richter made some great saves.”
Richter faced a stiffer challenge in the second, as he was forced to make a number of stellar kick saves to maintain the lead. His luck wouldn’t last forever, as Quinnipiac pulled even just past halftime.
Freshman defenseman Zach Hansen put a low-angle shot toward Richter from the goalie’s left, but the puck kicked out at an equally hard angle. Richter slid hard to recover the right post, but Leitch made a true snipe, putting a seeing-eye wrister high from practically on the goal line.
The Crimson stormed back in a hurry, as Doug Rogers banged the go-ahead goal under Fisher’s glove from high on the left-wing point. The marker was Rogers’ second goal of the series and his fifth point therein.
The home whites took the 2-1 lead into the second intermission, having matched the ‘Cats in both goals and shots (seven apiece). Working in QU’s favor was a Paul Dufault interference minor in the waning seconds of the frame, allowing Pecknold to discuss a remaining 1:24 of power play time with his troops during the break.
Working against the Blue and Gold, however, was a perfectly pathetic precedent: the Hamden hockey club was 0-11 this season when trailing after two periods of play.
The break-straddling advantage led to one especially busy moment around the Crimson crease, but Dufault eventually escaped the penalty box without repercussion. Sophomore Chad Morin apparently felt that Quinnipiac hadn’t had a fair chance, and immediately took a hitting-from-behind minor within a minute of his team regaining full strength.
That opportunity also evaporated with the ticking of the clock, but the Bobcats believed they had scored the equalizer with 15 minutes left to play. A frenzied flurry in front of Richter followed an Andrew Meyer shot, and left little hope for the besieged netminder. Yet the Crimson’s Dryden Award candidate somehow picked the rubber from the heaving masses to hold the lead.
“It looked like it bounced off the crossbar, and up into the air, and everyone kind of lost [sight of] it; the goal judge was very confident in the call,” mused Harvard coach Ted Donato.
“The second goal, or non-goal, was huge,” said Pecknold. “[It makes] a convincing argument for the four-ref system; nobody was even near the net.”
Not 30 seconds later, Harvard had a negated goal of its own. Matt McCollem ripped a well-placed shot low to Fisher’s left. No. 33 made an impressive toe save, and McCollem’s rebound bid hit the outside of the post. The puck bounced straight up to shoulder height, where McCollem gloved and dropped it. The release hit Fisher in the back and rolled into the net, but “no goal” was the call on account of the hand-pass rule.
A Mark Agnew deuce for charging resulted in heavy pressure in the visitor’s end halfway through the third, but a half-dozen gutsy blocks held the Crimson unit at bay.
Taylor gave the Ivy a bit of breathing room with 5:15 on the board. Rogers took an initial shot from the right-wing side on a two-on-one, and the negligibly tamed rebound found the two-man tangle of Taylor and QU rearguard Brett Dickinson. Taylor’s lumber lay in the right place to set Bright’s 1,822 to full pitch.
Pecknold pulled Fisher with just over two minutes to go, but the move offered no relief to the hundred-plus Bobcat faithful behind the team’s bench.
Harvard advances to Albany for the seventh time in eight years, seeking to continue an every-other-year title pattern that includes tourney trophies from 2002, 2004 and 2006.
“We did a much better job staying out of the box and limiting their offense,” said Donato. “After the [long losing] stretch in January, I don’t think many people thought we’d play for home ice or a championship.”
The Bobcats fell short of last year’s apogee, where they lost the league title game to Clarkson in only their second year in the league. Harvard is in the hunt for its ninth tournament championship and fourth of the decade.