Dartmouth senior goaltender Nick Boucher has been a leading force for the Big Green all season. It came as something of a surprise then that his team’s attempted comeback came with Boucher sitting on the bench.
Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet pulled Boucher after Brendan Bernakevitch’s unassisted power-play goal at 7:59 of the second. Boucher faced 16 shots, four of which ignited the red light, before he was replaced by sophomore Dan Yacey.
“It’s just something you do occasionally [to try] and change momentum of the game,” Gaudet said.
Whether Yacey made that much of a difference or the change by Gaudet reinvigorated his team isn’t totally clear. What is clear though, is that the last 30 minutes of the contest were a world away from the first 30.
Dartmouth outshot Harvard for the last period and a half, and managed to add two third-period goals, making the score 4-3 with three minutes and change to go.
“They were starting to get momentum,” Mazzoleni said. “In the third period we might have sat on the lead too much.”
A large part of the Dartmouth momentum was Yacey, and the play of the defense in front of him. Over roughly 31 minutes, he faced only 11 shots, stopping them all.
“Dan [Yacey] went in and did a real nice job,” Gaudet said. “Yacey made some real good saves to let us come back in the game.”
Although Harvard eventually added an empty-net goal to seal the victory, Yacey’s solid play brought his team back into the game against Harvard.
Lost amidst the shuffle in Dartmouth’s penalty shot and narrowly-failed comeback bid was the success of Harvard’s power-play unit. Given only two opportunities with the man up, both coming in the second period, the Crimson cashed in twice.
“Harvard made the most of their opportunities [on the power play],” Gaudet said. “[They’re] a heck of a team. They have a lot of weapons.”
The first opportunity to play 5-on-4 arose when Dartmouth defenseman Brian Van Abel took a penalty for interference at 1:54, and Harvard’s Tim Pettit made the penalty hurt. With the Harvard power-play unit set up in the Dartmouth zone, senior center Brett Nowak made a move towards the goal with the puck. Ignoring the defender draped across his back and the other defenseman sliding across the middle to cut him off, Nowak spotted a wide-open Pettit to Boucher’s right. And from that close, there was no way Pettit would miss.
Harvard’s second power-play goal wasn’t as easy to come by. With the Big Green’s Hugh Jessiman in the bin for charging, winger Brendan Bernakevitch skated the puck into the zone to Boucher’s left. Facing resistance, Bernakevitch took the puck down towards the low boards, but quickly circled back up ice towards the faceoff circle. From there, he wristed a sharp shot by Boucher, for what would become the game-winning goal.
“We’ve been extremely good on the power play,” Mazzoleni said. “We have some guys that have the ability to finish.”
That ability to finish will be put to the test tomorrow against Cornell, which has the ability on defense and the goaltending to stop any team, Harvard included, from finishing.
Upon further review, Cornell goalie Dave LeNeveu has already broken the ECAC tournament record for consecutive scoreless minutes. Standing on 129:10 and counting, LeNeveu broke the mark held by St. Lawrence’s Jeremy Symington in 2001. Symington allowed a late goal in the first-round playoff series, shutout Dartmouth in the semifinals, and allowed a late goal to Cornell in the finals. …
With Harvard and Cornell in the finals, it’s the first repeat matchup since 1974 and 1975, when Boston University defeated Harvard in both years. …
This is the fourth-ever finals matchup between storied rivals Harvard and Cornell. The Big Red won in 1969, 4-2, and in 1996, 2-1. But Harvard won last year’s final, 4-3, in double overtime. …
The player who scored the game-winning goal in last year’s final, Tyler Kolarik, will almost certain remain out of the lineup for tonight’s final with a separated shoulder. Kolarik hurt the shoulder in last Friday’s quarterfinal game against Vermont.