BOSTON — It was a storyline made for television: two proud, talented teams, each on a run of disappointing results, entered the rink. Only one would leave triumphant.
Before the lenses of the NBC Sports Network and the eyes of the 3,095 fans in attendance, the Harvard Crimson and Yale Bulldogs matched wits and blows in a thrilling 4-3 Harvard victory. Senior center Alex Killorn scored twice, including the game-winning goal only 79 seconds before the end of regulation. His production was supplemented by junior Marshall Everson’s goal and assist and fellow third-year Luke Greiner’s first-period strike. Freshman right wing Colin Blackwell notched two assists, as did junior defender Danny Biega, as Harvard (5-6-8, 4-4-6 ECAC) snapped an eight-game winless slide (0-3-5). Rookie goaltender Steve Michalek made 36 saves for his fifth career win.
“We’ve played in a lot of tight games,” exhaled Crimson coach Ted Donato, whose team logged seven ties in its last 11 games prior to Friday night. “It’s nice to have somebody step up and make a play.”
Seniors Brian O’Neill and Nick Jaskowiak and sophomore Gus Young scored for Yale (8-10-2, 5-7-1), which lost for the fourth straight time, despite holding a 2-1 lead late in the second period. Junior Jeff Malcolm stopped 31 of 35 shots, but was put in tough positions frequently by his error-prone defense and the speed of the Crimson forwards.
“We’ve got to play better,” said a terse Yale coach Keith Allain after the game. “Every goal they scored was the result of a mistake we made.
“If you’re a competitor, you never forget…” games like this, he concluded.
Yale had better pressure through a half-dozen shifts, but Harvard made the best shot as Greiner ripped Malcolm’s goose-egg just 3:40 into the action. The second-line center took a silky feed from senior winger Eric Kroshus on a three-on-one break, slapping the one-timer between the goalie’s legs to the delight of the capacity crowd.
Jaskowiak drew the Blue even with under five minutes to play in the stanza, threading a long shot from the right-wing point through a mess of bodies in front of Michalek. Sophomore wing Kenny Agostino nicked a lazy Harvard breakout pass just 13 seconds later and found center Andrew Miller, who promptly enabled O’Neill to wire it over Michalek’s glove for a shocking 2-1 Yale lead.
The period concluded with a series of goalmouth scrambles and extracurricular jawing — and often more, but the Bulldogs’ edge remained intact as the sides took to their respective locker rooms.
Deuces were wild at the onset of the middle frame, as Killorn knotted the game at two apiece just prior to the tilt’s 22nd minute. The Crimson’s leading scorer opened the throttle to burst wide around the Yale defense and catch Malcolm by surprise with a nifty wraparound tuck. The goal was Killorn’s 12th in 19 games; the point, his 24th.
Yale made three consecutive trips to the bin against the nation’s top power play, but the Crimson were unable to improve their lot before the second buzzer. The teams finished 40 minutes of action the same way they started: all even.
The Crimson finally secured a power-play goal at 9:38 of the third after Jaskowiak tripped Kroshus on Malcolm’s doorstep. Junior blueliner Danny Biega teed up from the high slot, only to have his shot ricochet off a defenseman’s skate to rookie winger Colin Blackwell, stationed low to Malcolm’s right. Blackwell immediately tapped the puck back across the crease to Everson, who snapped it into the yawning goal. The goal marked Everson’s seventh point from Harvard’s last 10 goals.
“It’s interesting, because we’ve been very good on the power play numbers-wise,” mused Donato, “but we haven’t been able to score, necessarily, when we’ve needed it. Tonight I think it was the opposite: I didn’t think we were that good in the first two periods, but I also think that a good power play scores at big times in the game, and that goal was a huge goal for us.”
Before the Blue began strangling their sticks in earnest, Young potted his second of the year from way out on the left-wing point. The defenseman from nearby Dedham, Mass., applied some industrial-quality torque to a rising wrister that eluded Michalek’s glove and snuck just beneath the crossbar.
The Crimson upped the ante barely two and a half minutes later, as Killorn bolted in alone on Malcolm with 1:19 to play. A 10-foot wrister was knocked down but lay uncovered, whereupon Killorn and a hard-charging Blackwell converged to swat at the loose biscuit. With a Yale defenseman complicating Malcolm’s already perilous position, Killorn’s backhand swipe connected and propelled the rubber through the goalie’s legs and electrified the Crimson faithful.
“I had a play early in the period, it was like the exact same play, a two-on-one,” explained Killorn, “and I ended up shooting it high. I didn’t want to do that again, and I figured the defense was playing (the situation) well, so if I didn’t shoot it he would’ve slid and blocked the shot or the pass. So I just got a shot off and there was a lot going on. I just got my stick on it, and it went right through his legs.”
“Losing the lead in the third period was a little bit frustrating, disappointing,” said Donato, “but our guys have played in a lot of close games and we were able to bounce back.”
The sixth skater failed to balance the books for the Blue, who fell despite a 39-35 shot advantage. Yale continues on to play at Dartmouth on Saturday — the Big Green were 6-2 victors over Brown Friday night — while Harvard hosts Brown.