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Crimson Skid-Busting Win a Team Effort

— After more than two months and 13 games, the Crimson have finally ditched the albatross and just in time for their toughest opponent of the year.

Harvard (5-11-4, 5-6-4 ECAC) defeated Union 3-1 Friday night in front of 2,546 at the Bright Hockey Center for its first win since November 15. Doug Rogers, Pier-Olivier Michaud and Steve Rolecek scored for the hosts, backstopped by Matt Hoyle’s 29 saves. Next up for the Crimson: second-ranked Boston University.

Our guys are excited to get the win, and quite honestly relieved to get in the win column, said Harvard head coach Ted Donato. Nobody wanted to win more than I did tonight, trust me. Those two points go a long way.

Matt Cook scored Union’s lone goal, while sophomore Corey Milan made 22 saves in the loss. Union (12-12-1, 5-8-0) was playing uphill from the start, falling down 2-0 before mustering their goal.

Catch-up hockey is losing hockey, that’s all there is to it, said the Dutchmen’s head coach Nate Leaman.

Rogers opened the action 13 minutes in with the Crimson just coming off a power play. The first-line center got a couple of whacks at Milan’s awkward, bobbled cover following Alex Biega’s feed from the right-wing corner, and eventually popped the puck through.

[Biega] gave me a great pass right on my stick. I’m not going to lie; I kinda fanned on the first one, but it luckily came back to me and I was able to slide it in, said the junior.

Jimmy Fraser nearly doubled the lead moments later with a crossbar-ringing salvo, but the rubber ended up in the netting rather than the net.

I thought we came out real slow, lamented Leaman. I don’t think we had our legs until the middle of the second period.

The up-tempo period took only 22 minutes, featuring a mere dozen whistles, a penalty apiece, and 11 Harvard shots to Union’s eight.

Stephane Boileau nearly drew the Dutchmen even one minute into the second frame, but his surprisingly wide-open bid from the slot ticked high off Hoyle’s shaft and clear of the cage. Mike Biega had his own chance in the other direction a few minutes later, but his right-side rocket deflected off traffic in front and off Milan’s crossbar once more.

The Crimson capitalized a minute later, however, as Michaud tipped Alex Biega’s power-play point shot past the befuddled Union goalkeeper.

Union quickly made a game of it again with 10:45 on the clock and Crimson Michael Del Mauro in the box. Boileau flew into the Harvard zone in a one-on-two, before spinning the puck back to onrushing Luke Cain. The freshman winger tip-passed it across the ice to Cook, who buried the one-timer.

The Schectady skaters took over the game, pouring shots at Hoyle and saturating his zone with garnet sweaters. They had the Crimson on their heels for much of the period’s final dozen minutes, but despite a few brilliantly fortuitous bounces and a 10-8 advantage in shots, the Dutch couldn’t get the final lucky hop, and took to their locker room trailing 2-1 after 40 minutes.

I thought we got away from what we were doing in the first period in the second. We took some penalties but some of the key characters for us that we need to be good for us going forward stepped up and did a good job. Whether you’re talking about Dougie Rogers or Jimmy Fraser or Matt Hoyle, we’ve got a lot of guys that I thought played well tonight.

The third period featured prolonged stretches of attrition hockey, as the teams grappled for territorial advantage. Each squad had its moments, but despite another nine shots on net, Union couldn’t erase Harvard’s lead. Rolecek put the game on ice with 43 seconds to play, diving headfirst to swipe a clearing lob into Union’s abandoned cage. The Dutchmen finished with 30 overall shots to the hosts’ 25.

The Crimson have two days to figure out the Terriers before Monday’s Beanpot opener, while Union continues up the road to Dartmouth for a Saturday night tilt.

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