BOSTON — It wasn’t quick, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty, but Harvard finally eked out its first win of the season with a penalty-packed 4-2 decision over Colgate.
Freshmen Patrick McNally and Colin Blackwell each scored their first collegiate goals in the victory, with McNally adding two assists to his ledger as well. Seniors Rence Coassin and Alex Killorn lit the lamp as well for the Crimson (1-2-1, 1-2-1 ECAC), who made the most of 30 saves by rookie Steve Michalek.
The team scored two power-play goals for the second time in two nights (two-for-seven on the advantage), and converted on the PP for the fourth time in four games.
“We’re excited to get our first win; I thought our guys really battled, and under some tough circumstances early on,” praised Harvard coach Ted Donato. “I thought a lot of guys stepped up and made some plays to allow us to not only stay in the game, but ultimately to win the game.”
Junior Robbie Bourdon scored the game’s first goal, and senior Austin Smith buried his 10th of the year for Colgate (6-4-1, 2-2-0). Sophomore Eric Mihalik stopped 29 of 33 shots in the loss.
“We had our opportunities,” said Raiders coach Don Vaughan. “We competed hard, we had our opportunities to score; I thought their goalie played very well.”
Bourdon and the Raiders benefited from a juicy rebound seven and a half minutes into the action. Freshman Spiro Goulakos popped a mid-range slap shot low off Mihalik’s pads from straight on, but the rebound careened over to Bourdon low to the goalie’s left. The winger made no mistake with a yawning net and a flat puck, potting his fourth of the year.
That was all she wrote for the first 20 minutes of play, as Colgate outshot Harvard, 14-9.
In the second period’s opening minute, Colgate senior Matt Firman went knee-to-knee with Crimson center Alex Killorn at the Raiders’ blue line. The incidental hit sent Killorn to the hallway and Firman to the box. Marshall Everson was sprung on a breakaway in front of the Harvard bench moments later during a Colgate line change, but his backhand deke didn’t fool Mihalik
The Crimson did beat the sophomore two minutes later with both sides at full strength. Coassin earned his first of the year by wiring a wrister through a forest of legs and ultimately over Mihalik’s blocker.
The momentum swing didn’t last long however, as junior defenseman Danny Biega was dismissed from the game for boarding Chris Wagner against the Harvard half-boards. With senior winger Eric Kroshus already in the Crimson penalty box for a tripping minor incurred 22 seconds earlier, the Raiders power-play unit went to work, smelling blood in the water.
Colgate proceeded to hold the puck in the offensive zone for the next 53 seconds before Smith sneaked a squeaker through Michalek’s pads after a great initial stop.
McNally made up for his minor with his goal at 16:32 of the period, baffling Mihalik with another screened shot to tie the game at two. Killorn kept the Crimson rolling 1:19 later, handcuffing the goalie with a wrister that wiggled through the left armpit and into the cage. The strike gave Harvard its first lead of the game — also its first lead of the season.
“Eric would like to have the third one back, I’m sure,” mused Vaughan.
At the second intermission, the teams had amassed nine penalties apiece and 53 combined minutes in infractions (24 for Colgate, 29 against Harvard). The hosts put more rubber on net than their guests in the second act by a 14-6 count.
“The second period was a crazy period,” said Vaughan. “Any time you take two five-minute majors in a period, it’s not good. That was obviously a big part of the game tonight: just a couple of really bad decisions. Tough to kill off 17 minutes of penalties in a period.”
“It was simply one of the craziest periods I’ve ever been involved with,” agreed Donato, “as a player or a coach. I’ve been involved in all sorts of craziness, whether it’s in the American League with bench-clearing brawls and goalie stuff and whatever, but it just seemed like the second period was about one year long.
“It was one of the most exhausting games that I’ve been a part of.”
Blackwell doubled the difference in the 53rd minute, crushing a wide-open shot by Mihalik’s blocker from the goalie’s left circle. The puck dented the far elbow of the goal, then bounced off Mihalik’s back and rolled into the net.
The energetic rookie broke in on Mihalik with Killorn on a short-handed two-on-one just seconds later, but Blackwell’s centering feed had a little too much mustard, and the center couldn’t tip it home. Junior classmates Marshall Everson and Luke Greiner engineered a similar opportunity with eight minutes to go in regulation, with similar results.
The Raiders couldn’t bust Harvard’s prevent defense, getting precious few late-game opportunities as the clock bled to zero.
The Raiders return home next weekend to host Quinnipiac and Princeton, while Harvard hits the North Country to tangle with Clarkson and St. Lawrence.