NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Saturday’s Game 2 between Harvard and Yale bore little resemblance to Friday’s 4-0 Bulldogs victory, except for the ultimate result.
Yale senior center Jesse Root’s 30-foot wrist shot deflected off classmate Kenny Agostino’s shin pad in the game’s 52nd minute and ricocheted past Harvard goaltender Raphael Girard. The goal capped a determined Bulldogs comeback, sending defending national champion Yale on to the second round with a 2-1 win while ending Harvard’s season.
Sophomore Stu Wilson also scored for the Bulldogs (17-9-5, 10-8-4 ECAC), who won two games in the same weekend for the first time all season. Freshman Alex Lyon made 18 saves for his 14th win of the season. He and Yale have only allowed one goal in their last three games.
“I think every weekend is different; there were some weekends where we felt we deserved to win two and we didn’t for one reason or another,” shrugged Yale coach Keith Allain. “There were other weekends where I felt we were inconsistent and didn’t deserve to win two. I think over the last three weekends we’ve played pretty well, and this is the first time we’ve broken through with two wins.”
Given Harvard’s initial lead, “That was the script [Harvard] had probably hoped to write,” mused Allain. “Their goalie’s making some stops. I was impressed with our guys’ ability to stick with the program: Keep applying pressure, but not taking unnecessary risks, and eventually that paid off.”
Sophomore Brian Hart scored Harvard’s only goal of the series, while senior goaltender Girard did all he could to extend the team’s season with 37 saves on 39 shots. The Crimson (10-17-4, 6-12-4) were eliminated in the first round for the second year in a row, and will miss the NCAA tournament for the eighth straight season. It is the program’s longest NCAA drought since 1959-1968, when only four teams made the field.
“I was proud of our effort; our guys did a lot of things. We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot, like we did last night,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “I think we played a smarter hockey game. I’m proud of the way our guys battled.”
Hart opened the scoring on a power play in the game’s 17th minute, depositing a rebound of Sean Malone’s post-pinger. The shot — a low-angle put-back — marked the only goal of a period in which the Bulldogs outshot their guests, 10-7.
The second period elapsed without further involvement of the goal judges, but Yale upped the pressure. For the second night in a row, the Crimson only generated four shots in the middle frame, while Yale tested Girard with a dozen salvos of its own.
“One thing we talked about during the second period is there’s a reason why the games are 60 minutes long,” Allain said. “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
The Bulldogs finally broke through midway through the third period when Wilson popped a rebound over Girard’s glove on a delayed penalty. The goal came on Yale’s 13th shot of the period; Harvard didn’t register its first SOG of the period until two minutes and three Bulldogs shots later. By that time, it was almost too late: Agostino’s redirection had already lit the lamp behind Girard, and the final score was on the board.
“I think after these past few games, I think Jesse’s just sick of me not finishing chances,” Agostino joked, “so he decided to take it into his own hands and shoot it off me.”
“I think everyone’s pretty frustrated, because we seemed to have a pretty good grip on the game for 50-plus minutes,” Donato lamented. “The penalty is certainly a big play.”
Yale advances to play at either Quinnipiac or Cornell in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals; the outcome of Sunday’s Game 3 between Princeton and Clarkson will determine the pairings. A Clarkson victory will pit Yale against local rival and 2012-13 national championship opponent Quinnipiac; should Princeton win, the Bulldogs will face Cornell.