CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard needs a cure for the post-Thanksgiving hangover.
Dartmouth (5-3-1, 4-2-1 ECAC) exploited the Crimson’s sluggish defense for the second consecutive year, besting its travel partner, 8-2, for the first time since the Big Green trounced Harvard (2-5-0, 2-5-0 ECAC), 6-2, on November 29, 2009.
“Obviously it was a frustrating game,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “We got outplayed pretty much in every facet of the game. I thought that there were some stretches in the first half where we battled and created chances for ourselves, but we pretty much got outworked, out-hustled, out-coached, and outplayed all night.”
Wingers Eric Robinson and Nick Walsh spearheaded the Big Green’s offensive onslaught, combining for a total of eight points and five of its eight goals on the night. Robinson, a rookie who had been sidelined with a pre-season injury, picked up two assists and a goal, including the eventual game-winner, in his first official collegiate game.
Skating behind the net and up to the goalie’s left circle, Robinson surprised everyone, including Crimson goaltender Kyle Richter, by taking a backhand from the hash marks that slid across and caught the far side of the net at 3:49 in the second period.
“In the second period, to get that third goal, I thought was a huge goal for us,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “It was one of those plays, an NHL shot, making something out of nothing. There wasn’t much room on that short side and he put it up there.”
Seconds after Robinson’s goal, Richter, who entered tonight’s game with a .939 save percentage and 2.06 goals-against average, was lifted from the game in favor of Harvard netminder Ryan Carroll.
Carroll had little luck against Walsh, who was responsible for the bulk of Dartmouth’s offense. He put up three late-game goals, two of which bookended the final frame, and his first collegiate hat trick. It was Walsh’s second goal, however, that broke the Crimson’s back.
After Harvard survived just over one and a half minutes on the wrong side of a five-on-three, Walsh and Robinson teamed up for Dartmouth’s fourth goal at 4:45 in the middle frame. Robinson took a high shot on Carroll from the left side that redirected to Walsh on the doorstep of the crease and put the Big Green up 4-2. Although Dartmouth proved not to need the two-goal cushion, Walsh’s goal destroyed the Crimson’s momentum and dispelled all hope of late-game heroics.
After Walsh’s goal, the proverbial wheels came off and Harvard found itself scrambling to keep pace. The Crimson managed to stave off Dartmouth’s offense for about half of the third period, but succumbed in the last half of the period by giving up three unanswered goals.
“In the first half of the game, when the game was in the balance, we did a good job killing penalties,” Donato said. “But I think it wore our guys down. We were tired. I give a lot of credit to Dartmouth; they knocked us off the puck and we weren’t able to get it back.”
At 11:15, center Doug Jones put the Big Green up 6-2 when he cycled the puck out from behind the net in time for Matt Lindblad’s blistering one-timer past Carroll on a power play, Dartmouth’s first successful man advantage on the night after eight prior chances.
Harvard fared no better after lifting Carroll in favor of rookie netminder Raphael Girard. Less than four minutes later, winger Dustin Walsh took a pass from Lindblad and roofed it over Girard’s right shoulder, making it 7-2 at 15:04 in the third period. Dartmouth sealed the score at 8-2 when Nick Walsh launched a wrist shot from the left circle past Girard at 8:35 in the final frame.
With 25 saves on the night, Big Green netminder James Mello, who entered tonight leading Division I with a .968 save percentage and a 0.99 goals-against average, went virtually untested.
“They got some nice shots and made a couple of cross-crease plays, and scored on a couple of power-play goals,” Mello said. “But we have six goalies on the ice at times because everyone is diving around and blocking shots, which makes my life a lot easier.”
Although arguably the Crimson’s worst loss to the Big Green in nearly a decade, special teams provided Harvard with a few isolated bright spots. Prior to tonight’s game, the Crimson had scored just one goal on the man-advantage all season. Harvard tripled its power-play production tonight with two power-play goals.
Winger Marshall Everson found a way to solve Dartmouth’s defense at 14:36 in the first period when he redirected winger Conor Morrison’s shot from the point past Big Green netminder James Mello. Morrison one-timed his own power-play goal off of a pass from center Alex Killorn at 10:22 in the second period.
“I thought we were okay killing the penalties,” Gaudet said. “We had a chance to clear one and it came back at us for their second power-play goal. Their first one was just a great play.”
In addition, Harvard’s penalty kill continued to demonstrate why it leads the nation, staving off Dartmouth’s man-advantage unit eight times before succumbing to two quick power-play goals in the final frame.
“Harvard has a really good power play and they move the puck around very well,” Gaudet said. “I thought we were very fortunate after the first to have a one-goal lead.”
With the loss, the Crimson continues to hover in the basement of the ECAC and looks to rebound against the Big Green tomorrow at Dartmouth.