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College Hockey:
Girard stops 52 as Harvard ties Yale

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – After most draws, one team leaves feeling fortunate; the other, disappointed. Following the 238th meeting between Harvard and Yale however, each squad departed Ingalls Rink with some residual sourness on the palate.

Harvard weathered early wobbliness to take a 2-0 lead into the third period, but settled for a draw. Freshman centers Alexander Kerfoot and Luke Esposito potted the second-period goals, junior defender Patrick McNally notched two assists, and senior Raphael Girard stopped 52 shots on goal to raise his save percentage to .948, the second-highest in the nation.

“I thought we played pretty well,” said coach Ted Donato. “I thought Girard was sharp all night; their goalie played well … we made a few mistakes in the third, but I don’t think we sat back. I thought we kept plugging, and after they scored the goal to tie it, I thought we had the better of the chances in the third and into overtime.

“Certainly we’re not satisfied, but this compete level is what we’re going to need moving forward.”

Yale outshot the Crimson 54-27, including 20-4 in the third period, yet mustered only one point on the weekend. Junior Matt Killian and senior Kenny Agostino scored in the third period to knot things up, sophomore Matthew Beattie earned his first two collegiate assists, and rookie Alex Lyon made 25 saves in net.

“We were the better hockey team for much of the night,” shrugged coach Keith Allain. “We just couldn’t seem to catch much of a break.”

The Crimson struggled to visit the Bulldogs’ zone for much of the first period, while Yale appeared significantly more involved in the action than it did in Friday night’s 4-1 loss to Dartmouth. Girard held up his end of the bargain while his teammates negotiated the Blue trap, stopping all 16 Bulldogs shots.

Much as the Crimson have ruled the rivalry on the gridiron of late, the Bulldogs entered this game 9-4 versus Harvard over the last five seasons. They may as well have taken the game outside, as the hockey arch-rivals hit as hard and often out of the gate as any football combatants. The teams combined for nine penalties and seven power plays, though those numbers do not do justice to the punishing edginess with which both sides were playing.

Immediately after sustaining a hit-from-behind from Yale freshman John Hayden, Kerfoot put himself in the right position to pocket the power-play tiebreaker nine minutes into the second act. Ten minutes of back-and-forth battling later, Esposito doubled the lead with another right-place, right-time redirection. While the Bulldogs again outshot the Crimson, they found themselves in a 2-0 hole with 20 minutes to play.

Defenseman Killian charged hard on an offensive possession early in the final frame, sneaking a loose puck around and through a baffled Girard to halve Harvard’s advantage. The Bulldogs proceeded to amass a 16-1 shot advantage over the next dozen minutes of play before Agostino found just enough space on a one-on-one break to stop, size up the situation, and lace a low-altitude laser between Girard’s pads.

Allain credited Beattie for his hustle and awareness on the play, backchecking hard to pick up the puck before delivering a tape-to-tape pass to Agostino in the neutral zone.

“Matt did a great job to get the puck to Kenny, and Kenny made a nice shot,” he said.

“Our energy was fantastic, our work ethic was real good,” Allain added. “Our attitude and our character were fantastic. When you’re playing as hard as we were playing when you’re down, it’s easy to say, ‘It just isn’t our night.’ But our guys didn’t do that, and as a result we were able to secure a point.”

Despite stopping 45 of 47 shots to that point, Yale’s two goals both began as arguably unchallenging shots.

“He was solid,” Donato commented on Girard. “I think the second one, Agostino did an excellent job giving off some false information — looking like he was going to pass — and maybe just snuck it through there.”

The sides combined for seven shots on goal in the extra session, but the horn blew without an additional score. The tie ended a two-game losing streak for Harvard, and saved Yale from being swept in a home weekend for the first time since January 2012. Each program now retires for exams and the holidays before resuming the season in late December.

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