BOSTON — What had once been the tail of Harvard’s eight-game winless skid has suddenly become the front end of a four-game unbeaten run following Saturday’s 3-1 win over Brown.
The victory completed a four-point weekend for the suddenly streaking Crimson, who are now alone in fourth place in the ECAC with only one month to go in the regular season.
Senior forward Eric Kroshus scored his sixth goal of the year and added an assist, while classmate Alex Killorn potted the game-winner and junior defenseman Danny Biega iced Bruno with an empty-net heave.
Rookie Steve Michalek stopped 24 of 25 shots for Harvard (6-6-8, 5-4-6 ECAC), who are above .500 in league play for the first time since November of last season. The power play was shut out for only the second time this season (a 2-0 loss to Union at Fenway Park being the other instance) and the squad was blanked for 44 minutes, but the Crimson finally took advantage of turnovers and offensive-slot dominance to down tenacious Brown.
“I don’t think it was our most energized effort for 60 minutes, but I give Brown a lot of credit (for that),” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “I think in order to have the type of success we want coming down the stretch, we’re going to have to win some games like [this].”
Senior Jarred Smith scored the visitors’ lone goal and classmate Mike Clemente made 19 saves for Brown (8-10-3, 5-7-2), now losers of two straight and three of four.
“We were great for two periods and then were absolutely hideous in the third,” lamented Brown coach Brendan Whittet. “We got what we deserved; we weren’t very good.”
Each team succeeded in making it to the first intermission in better shape than it had the previous evening, though Brown likely hoped for better than the scoreless draw as it took to its dressing room. The Bears doubled up their hosts in shots, 10-5, and kept Michalek plenty busy otherwise with a clear advantage in time-of-possession.
Bruno ultimately earned a goal early in the second period, as junior Francis Drolet nabbed the puck off a Harvard stick on Michalek’s endboards. The Quebecois pivot-man zipped around the net and fed a pass across the crease, but it bounded off a Crimson skate and onto the blade of Smith for the easy put-back.
The second period played out much as the first from that point on, with Harvard struggling to generate productive shifts or any momentum at all. Each team took two minor penalties and eight shots on net, but Harvard’s national-best power play failed to secure the equalizer before the second horn.
Kroshus, who played a superb weekend of hockey, finally broke Clemente’s force field in the game’s 45th minute by potting a perfect cross-crease pass from David Valek. The Crimson couldn’t maintain the momentum though, as sophomore Dan Ford was dismissed for a breakaway-saving hold a minute later.
“Right before the faceoff, our captain – Ryan Grimshaw – came up to us and called a rim faceoff play,” described Kroshus. “So right off the draw, I sprinted over to where I was supposed to be. He rimmed the puck around, I chipped it forward to David Valek, stepped up and skated towards the net, (Grimshaw) wrapped it around and I was just in the right place at the right time. I had the open net to shoot it in.”
After killing that penalty and most of one more, Killorn was hauled down by senior captain Jack Maclellan on a breakaway. While some on the home bench cried for a penalty shot, Maclellan was given a two-minute hooking minor instead to bring play to four-on-four.
Killorn helped his supporters forget the controversial decision, hammering a high-slot wrister off Clemente’s blocker-side post and into the netting with 7:40 to play.
Initially ruled a power-play goal, that assessment of the top-line center’s 14th goal of the year was reversed upon review. The goal gave Killorn his team-leading 26th point, extended his goal-scoring streak to three games (four goals) and point streak to five games (5-3—8).
“We had opportunities, we had power plays where we didn’t even attempt shots,” sighed Whittet. “We just got out-played in the third. It’s inexcusable.”
Biega sent the crowd home happy with a 170-foot empty-net loft, finding the back of the net from Harvard’s own right-wing dot.
Brown returns home to host Clarkson and St. Lawrence next weekend, while Harvard will have to refocus quickly in advance of a rare Tuesday visit from travel partner Dartmouth.