BOSTON — For what was in all intents and purposes a meaningless game, Harvard and Quinnipiac sure did battle.
Senior Alex Fallstrom’s overtime redirection capped an intense 2-1 Harvard victory, handing the No. 1 Bobcats only their second loss since Thanksgiving.
Freshman and top-line center Kyle Criscuolo also scored for the Crimson (9-16-3, 6-3-12 ECAC), winners of two straight and defeated only once in their last seven games (4-1-2).
Junior goaltender Raphael Girard made 33 saves for his seventh victory of the year.
“We really worked hard [and] I thought our effort was there all night,” stated Harvard coach Ted Donato. “All around, I was very proud of the way we played.”
The win was Harvard’s first over a top-ranked opponent since 2004, when the Crimson upended then-No. 1 Boston College 3-1.
“Quinnipiac’s a great team,” Donato said. “It’s nice on our seniors’ final home weekend here to get a win versus the No. 1 team.”
Senior Ben Arnt’s second-period score was all that top-ranked Quinnipiac would get, as the Bobcats (23-5-5, 16-2-3) failed to take advantage of 32 stops by senior goalie Eric Hartzell.
The result also marked Quinnipiac’s first loss all season when leading after two periods (18-1-2).
“Any time you lose in overtime, it’s disappointing,” reflected QU coach Rand Pecknold. “I think we worked hard tonight, but I don’t think we played smart.”
The loss follows last Saturday’s tie against Brown, making the Bobcats winless in consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 6.
“We were fired up to play, but we’ve just kind of lost our way a little bit with some of the details,” Pecknold said of his team’s recent stumble. “I’d say the last eight our nine games, we haven’t played our best hockey. We haven’t been bad, but we’ve been just OK and Hartzell’s bailing us out.”
The game opened with each team generating a quality chance or two, but neither side was especially impressive in the first period. The Bobcats finished with a 10-8 advantage in shots, but the only truly gasp-worthy moment came in the final seconds of the frame when sophomore Matthew Peca rang Girard’s iron on a power-play one-timer.
The Crimson sighed following a close call of their own when senior Luke Greiner pinged Hartzell’s post near the midpoint of the second period. The missed opportunity loomed larger a few minutes later when Arnt broke the draw 15 minutes into the period. The Minnesota center picked up a blocked puck just above the crease and banged the close-range rebound high over Girard’s glove.
Harvard pulled even five minutes into the third period as a neutral-zone turnover led to a clear look for Criscuolo. The New Jersey native took a long look before wristing a laser over Hartzell’s right shoulder for his third goal in two games.
“Their ‘D’ turned it over up the boards,” Criscuolo recalled. “Marshall Everson picked it off in front of their bench. When ‘Marsh’ hit me, it was kind of a two-on-one with me and ‘Hartsy’ [Brian Hart]. I knew their goalie would be thinking I might pass it, so I wanted to pull the puck back and let him know I had the opportunity to pass it if I wanted to. I just tried to go short side [and] luckily, I beat him.”
The rookie nearly added another minutes later, breaking in on a two-on-one with Hart. Criscuolo very nearly dangled and pulled around Hartzell, but the keeper managed to swipe the puck off Criscuolo’s stick before he could complete the move.
Each squad made a final push for the regulation win, drawing cries from each side of the rink’s partisan crowd, but to no avail. Close calls and quality rushes neutralized at both ends of the ice and the game went to extra time.
The overtime session was effectively an extension of the third period, as the teams traded hits and shots with as much vigor as they had exhibited all night. A blow finally landed with just 18.6 seconds remaining when Fallstrom tipped Jim Vesey’s centering feed into the top of the net.
“I didn’t even have to move my stick,” said Fallstrom. “He just put it right there and I tipped it in.”
Harvard plays its final home game of the season tomorrow night against Princeton, while the Bobcats play their last game for two weeks at Dartmouth.