CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — All season, Harvard head coach Ted Donato insisted that his fledgling squad was better than its mediocre record. For much of that time, these words seemed more hopeful than realistic.
The last six weeks, however, have proven Donato right.
“I think our level of competitiveness has really been raised since the early part of the season,” Donato said. ”When you lose as much as we have, it’s easy to have the group be fractured. But they didn’t, they stuck together, and they were proud of the way they finished the season. We are very excited heading in to the playoffs.”
Harvard notched its first three-game win streak—and victories in five of its last six games—with a 4-3 win over St. Lawrence. The thriller was made even sweeter with three of the Crimson’s four goals coming from seniors on Senior Night.
“Senior Night is kind of a sentimental night going in to your last home game,” captain Michael Del Mauro said. ”We all took it as just the next game, but we were all really excited to play. Going into playoffs, it was a really big win.”
Senior winger Michael Biega’s one-timer at 3:57 in the third period—which seemed like nothing more than added insurance for Harvard’s two-goal lead—secured the victory and capped off a streak of four unanswered goals in just over an eight minute stretch.
“Conor Morrison made a great play in our zone to get the puck out,” Biega said. ”It led to a two-on-one with me and [Pier-Olivier Michaud]. [Michaud] made a great pass, I just shot the puck and hoped it went in.”
A sluggish Crimson start and early penalty trouble gave the Saints their only lead at 3:34 in the opening frame. With Harvard winger Luke Greiner in the box for boarding, St. Lawrence defenseman Peter Child took a pass from forward Jared Keller at the left point and beat Crimson netminder Ryan Carroll through traffic. The Saints’ first power play goal shattered Harvard’s streak of fifteen scoreless penalty kills.
A rejuvenated Crimson squad took the ice, dominating play at the start of the second stanza. For the first five minutes, Harvard peppered St. Lawrence goaltender David Grilk with shots. The Saints’ lone shot on goal during that time was a clear from well behind its own blue line.
When Harvard finally scored—at 15:40 in the second period—it never looked back, scoring four unanswered goals in just over eight minutes before St. Lawrence touched the twine again.
Biega took the initial shot from the left circle, which ricocheted off the glass behind the net and on to the waiting stick of Michaud. Michaud backhanded the puck across the line for the equalizer.
Nearly 20 seconds later, Harvard center David Valek took the puck down the left side and around Grilk. Valek passed to captain Del Mauro in the slot, who knocked it in through traffic to make it 2-1 at 16:01.
With a third quick goal just twelve seconds into the final frame, it appeared that the Crimson were in the driver’s seat to victory. A St. Lawrence defender tried to gain control of the puck behind his own net, but was stripped by Harvard winger Marshall Everson. Everson took the puck to the slot, and backhanded it until it crossed the line.
What looked like a meaningless fourth goal by Biega ultimately proved to be the difference maker, when St. Lawrence potted two goals in the final frame to come within striking distance.
Saints winger Max Mobley cycled the puck down low and passed across the slot to center Aaron Bogosian, who lit the lamp with a one-timer at 10:57.
But it was St. Lawrence’s second tally of the period—and its second power-play goal in as many chances—that made Harvard thankful for its earlier insurance goals. Saints blueliner George Hughes dropped the puck down to winger Greg Carey at the top of the left faceoff circle, but his initial shot was stoned by Carroll. Keller made a cross-ice pass back to Carey at the circle who sent a wrist shot past Carroll at 17:05 to make it 4-3.
For their efforts, Harvard finished tenth in the ECAC and will be making the long bus ride to North Country next week to face Clarkson, who fell prey to the surging Crimson just yesterday.
“I think one of the silver linings of being as low as we were in the standings was that we weren’t necessarily fighting for home ice or a bye,” Donato said. ”We were really fighting ourselves to really raise our game up to a level that we felt we could enter the end of the season on a roll.”