CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — After falling to Brown on Friday in the latest chapter of college hockey’s oldest rivalry, Harvard hoped to hand its most storied adversary its first ECAC loss of the season.
The Crimson have not won a league game since a 4-2 win over St. Lawrence on November 12. As Harvard searched for its first Ivy League victory, Yale has been sitting atop the national rankings for five consecutive weeks.
Unfortunately for the Crimson, it was business as usual for the top-seeded Bulldogs, who emerged from the Ivy weekend unscathed with a 4-2 victory over Harvard.
“The way that we wore them down in the third period is pretty typical of what we like to do,” Yale coach Keith Allain said.
The Crimson’s Achilles heel was its inability to stay out of the penalty box. Harvard amassed 17 penalty minutes, including a five-minute major for boarding, which far surpasses its eighth-ranked average of 10.7 minutes per game and accounted for two of Yale’s goals. Prior to tonight, the Crimson had allowed opponents two or fewer power plays in five of its last nine games.
“They have pretty good speed and skill,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “They’re tough enough to play five-on-five. We took too many penalties to give ourselves a chance to win the game.”
Harvard’s first misstep — center Alex Killorn’s roughing penalty at 19:56 — came with just four seconds remaining in the opening frame after a period where the Crimson skated toe-to-toe with its league rival.
Although Yale failed to capitalize on the power play, the Bulldogs’ offensive juggernaut came to life just a minute later. Crimson netminder Ryan Carroll failed to contain a rebound from Yale winger Josh Balch’s slap shot from the point, giving fellow winger Kenny Agostino room to muscle it across the crease at 2:57 and pick up his fourth goal in three games.
“We knew [Agostino] was a good player when we recruited him,” Allain said. “Our lineup is a hard lineup to crack, so with the minutes he’s getting, to be able to produce the way he is doing is just terrific.”
Harvard found itself back in the penalty box just fifteen seconds later, as blueliner Danny Biega fell prey to a tripping penalty at 3:12 in the second period. The Bulldogs wasted no time taking advantage of its second man advantage, lighting the lamp at 3:45. Forward Chris Cahill caught Carroll hugging the right side and ripped a high shot from the top of the faceoff circle that just caught the inside left post.
“It was a neutral zone re-group,” Cahill said. “The [defense] were caught in a change on the right side and I just kind of came down the left wing. The goalie was favoring the short side post and I just tried to put it up and over him.”
Harvard answered back midway through the contest and sliced Yale’s lead in half. At 9:17, winger Conor Morrison directed the puck across the slot to Biega, who launched a shot past Bulldogs goaltender Ryan Rondeau blocker side.
Yale reminded everyone why it sits atop the rankings in the final frame, tallying a pair of insurance goals to round out a comfortable 4-1 lead.
“As the game wore on, our inability to stay out of the penalty box opened up their skill,” Donato said. “In the third period, they took the game over.”
Off a touch from Bulldogs winger Charles Brockett, linemate Brendon Mason slipped the puck past Carroll through traffic at 4:53 in the third period. Less than three minutes later, Yale winger Broc Little set up Chad Ziegler with a pass to the slot that Ziegler one-timed to put the Bulldogs ahead 4-1.
The combination of a Yale center Andrew Miller’s elbowing penalty at 18:55 and Harvard’s decision to pull Carroll in the final minute of play led to a rare two-man advantage for the Crimson. Biega, the lone bright spot on an otherwise lifeless Harvard squad, turned a pass from Killorn into a redemption goal that snuck past Rondeau glove side at 19:23.
Biega’s two-goal effort comprised all of Harvard’s offense on Saturday night, just one day after brother Michael’s natural hat trick accounted for all three Crimson tallies in the 4-3 loss to Brown.
Although a victory against the Terriers will not aid in its quest to emerge from the ECAC cellar, Harvard looks to rebound next week against cross-town foe No. 14 Boston University.