SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Exactly one year ago tonight, Harvard goaltender Ryan Carroll had one of the best performances of his career, as he made a career-high 47 saves in a 4-1 win at Union. Tonight, Carroll looked as he was on his way to match that performance as he stopped 40 Union shots, but was unable to hold off a late Union attack where the Dutchmen scored two third period goals. Mat Bodie’s goal with 2:17 was the difference as Union pulled out a 2-1 victory at Messa Rink for their first ever season sweep of the Crimson.
“We’re pleased and relieved,” Union coach Nate Leaman said after the game. “We talked about after the game how hard it is to get two points in this league, and the price we had to pay just to get two points in the league tonight.”
Union had the upper hand in the opening period, as they controlled most of the play and outshot their opponent 15-8. However, thanks to some timely goaltending by Carroll and a power-play goal by Michael Biega, the Crimson headed into the locker room with a 1-0 lead after one period of play.
With 19 seconds to go in Brock Matheson’s interference penalty, fellow defenseman Shawn Stuart was assessed a high-sticking penalty, giving the Crimson a five-on-three advantage. Harvard converted on the opportunity, just one second after Matheson’s penalty expired, when Biega fired a shot from the slot area past Union goaltender Keith Kinkaid off of a feed from his younger brother Danny.
“We just kept moving the puck around and I just saw an opportunity to shoot, and I shot it and it went in,” said Michael.
According to Harvard Sports Information Director Casey Hart, this was the first time that a Biega has been the primary assister on a Biega goal, including when Danny, Michael, and older brother Alex (graduated in 2010) played together last season.
The Dutchmen once again held the advantage in the following frame, outshooting the Crimson 19-7. Union had some prime scoring chances to tie the game on three power-play opportunities, including 35 seconds of a five-on-three advantage, but were still unable to solve Carroll.
“[Carroll] was unbelievable, especially in the second period,” said the elder Biega. “He made some unbelievable saves, and if it wasn’t for him, the score probably would’ve been a lot different.”
“Ryan was excellent tonight,” Harvard Coach Ted Donato added. “He not only made all of the saves, but made them look rather easy. I thought his rebound control and his balance were great. He was a calming influence for our team.”
However, Carroll was not able to stymie the Union attack for much longer, as Jeremy Welsh tied the game for the Dutchmen early in the third period.
The goal was initiated on a shot from Nolan Julseth-White from the right point, which deflected off of Daniel Carr. The puck bounced around and landed on the stick of Welsh in the slot, who lifted the puck on the backhand past Carroll.
“I was hanging around the net most of the night and that one just popped right on to my stick and I had time to get it off,” said Welsh. “It was a fortunate bounce.”
It looked as if the game was heading to overtime, but Bodie said otherwise. His fourth goal of the season began when he streaked down the left boards into the Harvard zone and took a shot that was blocked by Carroll. The rebound came to Wayne Simpson, who poked the puck from the right of Carroll to Bodie, who came around to the other side of the net. Bodie corralled the puck and deposited it into the empty Crimson net.
“I was jumping up in the play and the puck just happened to be right there,” said Bodie. “I was curling around the net and it just landed right on my stick and saw the empty net and I just tried to fire it as soon as I could.”
With 1:20 left in regulation, Donato pulled Carroll in favor of an extra attacker in an act of desperation. Harvard applied some good pressure, causing Bodie to take a penalty with 48.7 seconds remaining. This prompted Donato to call a timeout to devise a play for the game-tying goal, but Kinkaid and the Union penalty killers were up to the task, as they killed off the disadvantage and won the game.
“To be quite honest, this is a game you usually lose,” said Leaman. “Last year, we lost this game where we had a lot of great opportunities, a lot of pucks and it didn’t go our way. But, what we talked about as a group was just trying to stay sharp defensively, because you know how hard it is to get one, you didn’t want to give one up.”
“I’m frustrated for the guys,” said Donato. “I think this weekend was our best weekend in quite some time where I thought we looked like a team.”
Next weekend, Harvard returns home when they host Colgate and Cornell, while Union welcomes in Yale and Brown.