BOSTON — As the precipitation outside vacillated between snow and slush, so too did two Ivy League rivals fight it out in a hot-and-cold ECAC Hockey matchup.
Freshman Louis Leblanc scored two goals for the second game in a row, leading the Harvard Crimson past hard-luck Dartmouth 4-1 in front of 2,305 at Harvard’s Bright Hockey Center. Junior wingers Michael Biega and Matt McCollem also scored for the Crimson (4-10-2; 4-5-2 in ECAC Hockey), who have won consecutive games for the first time this season. Ryan Carroll did the job in net, stopping 37 shots for his second win of the campaign.
We’re happy to win the game; we did a lot of good things, stated Harvard head coach Ted Donato. Regardless of the records, I think both teams feel like there’s a lot of good hockey ahead for both these programs.
Junior blue-liner Evan Stephens scored the lone goal for Dartmouth (4-13-0; 2-7-0 ECAC), while Jody O’Neill and James Mello combined for 25 saves.
It’s a funny stretch we’re in, lamented Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet. We’ve played really hard and really well, but we make a couple mistakes and they end up in the back of our net. I thought our guys played really hard and really well we battled right to the end, but that’s kind of the way it’s gone for us.
Leblanc opened the scoring at 4:26 of the first, following an ugly cross-ice rebound of an Alex Killorn shot. The red-hot rookie roofed the puck on the backhand over O’Neill’s blocker for his team-leading seventh goal of the season, and third in his last two games.
Dartmouth got a much-needed opportunity to even the score when junior Matt Reber took an indirect feed up the boards to spring him on a 50-foot breakaway. The slick-sticked Reber danced the puck back and forth as he swept in on Carroll, but the netminder was perfectly patient in kicking the backhand bid wide to the right.
The period ended with the Crimson in front by the goal, though Dartmouth held the edge in shots, 15-12.
Reber redeemed himself nearly six minutes into the second frame, helping to knot the game on a two-on-one with defenseman Stephens. Busting down the right-wing lane, Reber dished a beauty backhand over to Stephens in the slot. The Big Green’s high-scoring blue liner coolly assessed his options before lancing his shot high into the net over Carroll’s glove.
The Crimson regained the lead with seven minutes to go in the second, as Harvard’s crack-shot Quebecois came through again. Leblanc bolted up-ice with the puck, outracing two Green defenders before ripping a wrist shot far-side over O’Neill’s blocker. His second goal of the night also made Leblanc the first Crimson to score multiple goals in consecutive games since Dominic Moore scored five goals in two games in February, 2003.
A couple of weeks ago, we got back together, said Leblanc of his line with fellow Montreal natives Biega and Killorn. We know each other, we’re all skilled guys who like to work hard, and we’re just moving the puck right now.
Harvard struck again barely a minute and a half later, as McCollem notched his first goal of the season. In mirror fashion to the shot just struck by Leblanc, local product McCollem blew one by the goalie’s glove from the left-wing dot. Gaudet had seen enough, pulling O’Neill for the third time this year in favor of classmate and Granite State native Mello.
Dartmouth really battled and made us work, praised Donato of his opponent’s mid-game tenacity. I thought in the second period, after they scored, they really started to take over the momentum, but Leblanc’s second goal really turned the tide. After that I thought we did the things we needed to do to keep the lead, and extend the lead.
The Green once again held a decided advantage in shots in the second period, doubling up the hosts 12-6 for a 27-18 two-period tally.
The third period featured five penalties and a lot of hard-fought battles, but little change on the scoreboard. Gaudet elected to pull Mello with 3:03 still on the clock and the draw in the Harvard zone, but the move resulted in little offensive pressure and a lot of extra stress. Michael Biega chipped in his fifth of the season from Killorn with 2:06 on the clock to ice the game.
We’ve played really solid hockey, and just come up short, said Gaudet. We’ve just got to keep on battling.
Harvard returns to action Friday as the Crimson take to the road against league-leading Union. Dartmouth will also see the Dutchmen this weekend, but first for the beleaguered Big Green will be the Engineers of Rensselaer on Friday evening.