BOSTON — In what had been a series of inches, Harvard won by a country mile in the quarterfinal rubber match against Yale as the third-seed Crimson blew the doors off their Ivy rivals with six straight goals – including four in the second period – to eliminate the Bulldogs by an 8-2 score.
Following two tense tilts that required a combined three overtimes to settle, Harvard’s top line of Marshall Everson, Alex Killorn and Alex Fallstrom combined for four goals and six assists. Killorn led the charge with career goals 49 and 50 and two assists to boot, Everson tallied three helpers and a goal and Fallstrom added a goal and an assist to his numbers.
“Over the last two games of the series, that line was great,” assessed victorious coach Ted Donato. “Friday night I thought they were okay, but we challenged them on Saturday, and they were great last night. Tonight, they looked a little bit fresher than the Yale group, and really [Yale] had no answer for them.”
Junior center David Valek scored a hat trick and senior winger Daniel Moriarty potted his first goal of the year to go with a helper as well. Sophomore Raphael Girard stopped 39 of 41 for the Crimson (12-9-11). The win advances the Cambridge club to the ECAC championship weekend for the first time since 2008 and hopes to lift the Whitelaw Cup for the first time since the spring of ’06.
“Last night’s game, I think both teams just left it on the ice,” said Donato. “It was physical, it was up and down. I think both teams were tired, but I think being at home, we had worked really hard this year to get the home ice and the bye. I think it paid off for us [and] that’s ultimately where it pays off for you – in that third game at home.
“This is a great group of guys. They’re fun to work with, they’ve really stayed together, and I think we belong in Atlantic City. We’re excited, and we’re not just happy to be there. We feel we can really make a run at the league championship.”
Senior Chad Ziegler and junior Antoine Laganiere lit the lamp for the embattled Bulldogs (16-16-3), while all three goalies – juniors Nick Maricic and Jeff Malcolm and freshman Connor Wilson – shared culpability for allowing eight goals on 41 shots.
“You know what, I’m really proud of my guys,” said Yale coach Keith Allain. “This was our sixth hard game in nine days and we had more than a handful of guys were injured to the point that they wouldn’t have played if this was a regular-season game and I’m just grateful for the effort they gave us all year long, but over the last couple weeks particularly. We just simply ran out of gas tonight.”
Yale took a quick lead barely four minutes into the action as Ziegler victimized Girard with a slippery backhand that beat the confused goalie low to the stick side.
Harvard climbed back into the game with a couple of solid shifts in a row. Junior winger Luke Greiner picked Big Blue’s pocket well inside Yale’s defensive zone, forcing Maricic to make a stellar kick-stop with the outside edge of his right pad. The goalie was called upon for two more critical saves within the minute, but couldn’t match Killorn’s one-man magic at 6:49 of the period. The Montreal-born pivot scored his 49th career goal all on his own, dipping and dancing around the defense from the left-wing circle before slipping the backhand shot through Maricic’s legs.
Play was sloppily brutal all period, though there was no shortage of shots as the hosts amassed a season-high-tying 17, the visitors 13.
The Crimson caught Maricic in another rare misplay just 35 seconds into the second stanza, as the goalie committed to a risky poke-check outside the crease, but didn’t come up with the puck. Fallstrom found it instead and swung hard around the net for an easy wraparound tuck.
Then Elis left a lonely puck laying in the crease behind Girard a few minutes later following a flurry in front, but white sweaters pounced to bail out their goalie before the Blue could knock home the equalizer.
Harvard doubled its lead at halftime on a controversial non-call by the officials. The hosts appeared to ice the puck, and indeed Yale beat Crimson freshman Tommy O’Regan to the puck behind Yale’s net. O’Regan stole the puck and returned it to Valek, who picked the high blocker corner to beat Maricic.
Director of officiating Paul Stewart later explained to the media that under the current hybrid icing rule, the officials can not call a play icing or clean until the closest skater to the puck passes the defensive-zone faceoff dots.
“It was the spark that lit the fire, that’s for sure,” said a still-seething Allain afterward. “‘It was a judgment call,’” is what he said he was told by the officials.
The Crimson piled on two and a half minutes later when Killorn outraced backchecking Elis to the puck before calmly sticking a deke around Maricic’s left skate. Everson fluffed Harvard’s cushion five minutes later with a rebound goal off a Killorn bid.
“It really is our last chance,” said Killorn of his senior class. “The energy was great. It was one of those games where everything was going our way and the puck kept finding its way into the back of the net. We played them at their building and they beat us 7-1 [on February 18] and I don’t think anyone on our team forgot about that. It’s something that kind of fed us.”
The teams combined for another 28 shots in the period, bringing the two-period totals to 33 for Harvard, 25 for Yale. Only the Crimson managed to find the twine in the middle frame, however, and enjoyed a huge 5-1 lead entering the final stanza.
Allain switched Malcolm for Maricic to start the third, hoping to jump-start the beleaguered Bulldogs, but the move did nothing to stanch the bleeding. Malcolm stopped the first two shots he faced, but a dash of poor marking did him in 1:50 into the third when Valek banked a low-angle try off the diving ‘keeper for Harvard’s sixth goal of the night.
Yale scored a small measure of redemption halfway through the third, capitalizing on a Colin Blackwell major for hitting from behind to end Harvard’s scoring streak. Laganiere rifled the puck home on the Elis’ 39th shot of the evening. The Crimson got the goal back with 4:50 to go when Moriarty beat Malcolm through traffic. At that point, Allain elected to give rookie Wilson some mop-up time to close out Yale’s season.
The Crimson draw league arch-rival Cornell on Friday, while top-seed Union will tangle with four-seed Colgate at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The victors will meet in the title game on Saturday night, proceeding a consolation match between the losers.