BOSTON — Alongside the Charles River Friday night, the sixth and seventh-ranked teams in ECAC Hockey battled for a little separation. The Harvard Crimson, enjoying a late-season resurgence, kept themselves in the hunt for a first-round bye with a skin-of-their-teeth 2-1 win over free-falling Quinnipiac.
Brothers Michael and Alex Biega scored for the Crimson (8-14-6, 8-7-6 ECAC), and sophomore Ryan Carroll came up big with 27 stops. Andrew Meyer scored the lone Quinnipiac (15-15-3, 8-10-3) goal, and Bud Fisher suffered the loss despite 23 saves behind his scrappy but depleted team.
I’m happy to get the win, exhaled Harvard head coach Ted Donato. I warned our guys after the game that we caught a little bit of a break in this one, with the mistakes that we made, the penalties we took. To get a win is very important, and we’ll take it, but we’ve also got to realize that we’re going to need to be a lot better to win hockey games at this time of the year.
Daniel Moriarty nearly put the Crimson ahead in the game’s tenth minute, but his feed from behind the net to a wide-open Pier-Olivier Michaud bounced on its recipient, and Michaud couldn’t get the shot off. Sustained pressure forced QU’s Jean-Marc Beaudoin into a tripping minor, and the Cantabs held their ground in the Bobcats’ zone but failed to convert.
Junior center Mike Atkinson intercepted a centering feed at the end of the Harvard power play, and promptly found Beaudoin bursting out of the box. The third-year Bobcat broke in alone on Carroll, but had his shot persuaded wide by the slash of furiously backchecking Chad Morin. The visitors thus earned a couple of man-up minutes of their own, but were likewise denied by Carroll and the Crimson penalty kill.
With two and a half on the board in the first, Harvard center Doug Rogers zipped a cross-slot set-up to junior D-man Alex Biega, but Fisher was up to the task with an impressive lateral move of his own.
An intensely physical period was punctuated by a devastating Nick Coskren hit on Quinnipiac defenseman Sami Liimatainen at the QU halfboards. The third-year blueliner stumbled back to his bench, but recovered enough of his senses to return to the ice in the second period. The sides each claimed seven shots through 20 minutes and took three penalties apiece.
I think the game was physical, which is fine, began Donato, I thought it was at times dirty … both ways. There were a couple shots to the head, there were a lot of borderline hits. I think at this time of the year, both teams on any given night should be able to have a good, hard, physical game without all the chippiness.
Despite missing star Brandon Wong to injury and top scorers David Marshall, Eric Lampe and Zach Hansen to one-game disqualifications, QU claimed the game’s first lead. An attritional eight minutes of play to start the second period finally gave way to the game’s first goal at 8:49, as senior point-man Meyer whistled a deceptive blue-line wristshot over Carroll’s glove.
I thought we played a pretty good road game with Lampe, Marsh’, Hansen and Wong all out of the lineup, thought Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold. That’s four of our probably top-eight players.
The Bobcats handed the Crimson a man-advantage a minute later, and while the Cantabs couldn’t convert, they did generate enough momentum to break even with eight minutes to go in the frame. Winger Michael Biega took Ryan Grimshaw’s pass and throttled it high over Fisher’s glove from the right-wing slot.
Harvard took a late lead before the intermission, much to Pecknold’s consternation. Senior captain Brian McCafferty skated in hard to dig the puck out of the left-wing corner, then flipped it back to Alex Biega on the point. Biega crushed it through Fisher with 28 seconds to the horn.
Harvard skated to the locker room with a 2-1 lead, but not after the Bobcats had buzzed Carroll’s cage in a last-second frenzy that resulted in a few gasps, as well as a donnybrook and a Scott Zurevinski boarding minor. Harvard registered 13 shots in the second to Quinnipiac’s 12 in the unpolished period.
I think we’re probably a little bit fortunate, we didn’t play our best hockey and I think certainly got away from some of the details that have given us a little bit of success recently, said Donato.
Harvard lamented another near-goal in the game’s 44th minute, as Moriarty slipped another perfect pass to Chris Huxley from behind Fisher’s net. The second-year Huxley took the pass from his left and cracked it across Fisher’s face to the right post, but QU’s fourth-year ‘keeper made a superb split-save, snaring the puck from two inches above his left pad with the trapper.
Harvard’s Michael Del Mauro took a vicious shot at Liimatainen at 10:42 of the third, hitting the prone Bobcat face-first into the QU endboards. Liimatainen skated off without help, but Del Mauro’s poor judgment cost his team five minutes, and himself the remainder of the game with a major and a game misconduct.
The locals effectively cleared the puck a number of times in the penalty’s first three minutes, and while fifth-year senior Matt Sorteberg put a scare into the Bright Center crowd with a resonating ring of Carroll’s iron just inside the six-minute mark, the Crimson ultimately killed the major with only a single whistle’s interruption.
I wasn’t expecting to score a lot of goals tonight, stated Pecknold, but I was hoping to get a couple bounces, and it just didn’t happen.
The Bobcats appeared to score the game-tying goal with only 1.6 seconds remaining, but referee John Murphy – standing directly to the left of the goal – vehemently waved it off, declaring the puck was kicked in.
I saw the puck come over, and it looked like he was just trying to gather it in his feet, and it went off his foot and went in, said Carroll.
Pecknold was incensed, but he had no recourse as the officials on the ice concurred with Murphy’s initial call.
Give credit to Harvard, they played well. We tried to hang in there and squeak out a point, it just didn’t happen, said Pecknold.
Realistically, I felt that we dodged a bullet, said Donato.
Quinnipiac heads northward to wrap up their regular season at Dartmouth Saturday night, while Harvard hosts Princeton in a last-ditch effort to pull out a first-round bye. Ironically, Harvard will be pulling hard for the Bobcats as the Crimson hold the tiebreaker with Dartmouth, two points ahead.