BOSTON — It was hard to say whether the Harvard Crimson faced a tougher opponent when they looked across the ice at No. 16 Boston University tonight or when they looked in the mirror at themselves.
BU played their most solid all-around game in several weeks, scoring a short-handed goal and a power-play goal while skunking the Crimson on five man-advantages. Meanwhile, Harvard gave up two costly goals on a pair of brutal turnovers, turning a potentially close game into a decisive 5-2 win for the Terriers in front of 5,864 at Agganis Arena.
BU co-captain Chris Connolly led the way with two goals, including the first short-handed goal that Harvard has yielded all season. Michael Biega notched two assists in losing effort for the Crimson. After winning two of their first three games this season, Harvard has now lost 11 of their last 12 games.
“I thought BU was the better team tonight,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “I would’ve liked to make them work harder for their goals. As a team, this was a game where we really beat ourselves.
“What was more disappointing was not that we make mistakes because I think those happen. Maybe today they were a little more obvious. I think because we’ve lost too many games, our response to those mistakes probably hurt us more or just as much as the mistakes. It’s something we have to get over.”
Meanwhile, BU coach Jack Parker found many reasons to be satisfied with the victory. For one thing, it was the first time that the Terriers won without falling behind since October 29.
“I was pleased from the get-go with how we played,” Parker said. “I thought we were pretty thorough. I’ve seen Harvard play on film a few times. I saw them lose to [No. 1] Yale, and I was thinking, ‘This is the best three-win team I’ve seen in a long time.’ They can skate and they were playing hard. I thought we had to come up with a pretty good game tonight to get by these guys, because they’re hungry for a win, obviously.
“I was very, very pleased with just about everybody in the lineup playing pretty sharp tonight… All in all, it was a big win outside of the league for us.”
BU almost fell behind early yet again tonight when Danny Biego hit a post at the 5:25 mark of the first period before Terriers goalie Kieran Millan covered it. Less than three minutes later, BU freshman Matt Nieto set up Alex Chiasson for a great chance, only to have Crimson goalie Kyle Richter make the first of many great saves on the night.
The Terriers took the lead on a pretty power-play goal at 11:41. Adam Clendening threaded a pass from the left point through a seam in the Harvard defense, finding Connolly for the one-timer in the right-wing circle.
BU made it 2-0 less than two minutes into the second period, just after killing off Harvard’s first power play. On an absolute blitz of the net, BU raced in for an initial shot that was thwarted by Richter. Sean Escobedo crashed the net for a pair of rebound bids before Wade Megan finally popped it in over the beleaguered netminder.
Just over two minutes later, Harvard got that one back when Biega’s pass from the left-wing boards hit Marshall Everson at the far post for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it goal.
BU made it 3-1 on a short-handed goal at 11:29. Connolly anticipated a pass between two men at the point and raced the other way, deciding well in advance that he would shoot instead of deke. The shot beat Richter high on the glove side. It looked like a great individual effort by the BU co-captain, but he credited linemate Joe Pereira with pressuring the defenseman who coughed up the puck.
Connolly could have had his first collegiate hat trick late in the period when Pereira teed him up beautifully, only to have Connolly shoot it right into Richter.
Another horrific turnover led to BU’s fourth goal — a real backbreaker just 23 seconds into the third period. Alex Killorn took the puck out from behind his own net, only to lose the handle, leaving Pereira all alone with Richter for the easy goal.
At 8:04, sophomore Justin Courtnall scored his first collegiate goal on a backhanded wrapup. Courtnall admitted that it was a relief to finally light the lamp in his 35th collegiate game. Freshman Patrick MacGregor assisted on the goal for his first collegiate point.
MacGregor was only in the lineup because the coaching staff opted to suspend Max Nicastro for one game after the sophomore shoved the net at an official in frustration after the team gave up a goal in their previous game. Playing just his second collegiate game, MacGregor ended up getting plenty of ice time. Ryan Ruikka had to sit down with an injury, and Garrett Noonan got booted early in the third period with a five-minute major for contact to the head elbowing. MacGregor looked much more comfortable than he had in his first game a few months ago.
Ryan Grimshaw rounded out the scoring midway through the period by tapping in a rebound to make it 5-2. Third-string goalie Adam Kraus mopped up in the Terriers net, playing for the first time this season.
BU (10-5-6) next faces Merrimack on Tuesday in a game that was rescheduled due to last Wednesday’s snowstorm. Harvard (3-12-0) plays at Northeastern on Wednesday.