With the red eyes and quiet voice of a senior who has played his last game, Harvard captain Dominic Moore answered reporters’ questions after the Crimson bowed out of the NCAA tournament with a 6-4 loss to Boston University on Friday afternoon.
“You can go now, Dominic,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni.
Moore took one last sip of his water, left the podium, and slowly walked to the exit of the press conference room.
Mazzoleni had yet to be asked about Moore’s play. Instead of waiting for the inevitable question, he gave a preemptive answer.
“Let me just say something for a minute,” Mazzoleni started. “I thought Dominic Moore was exceptional tonight, and I’m not just saying that because he’s in this room right now.
“He was the best player on the ice tonight, hands down.”
Considering he was talking about a game between two teams with 26 NHL draft picks between them, Mazzoleni’s statement was strong. It was also very difficult to argue with.
When the Crimson fell behind, 6-3, after BU’s three-goal barrage to open the third, Moore rallied his team with a blistering slapper that beat Terrier goaltender Sean Fields and gave Harvard hope with a little more than 12 minutes remaining.
“Even when we were down, 6-3, I wasn’t out there thinking we were going to lose,” Moore said. “No one was giving up. I knew it was only a matter of time before we came back.”
Three minutes later, Moore made a tremendous play at neutral ice to gain possession and come into the BU zone on a breakaway — shorthanded, mind you — but pushed his bid inches wide.
Goal or no goal, win or lose, that play was indicative of the type of energy Moore gave the Crimson throughout the game — and his career.
Until recently, Harvard’s hockey annals seemed to stop at 1994, the year of the Crimson’s last Frozen Four appearance. The program, it seemed, went into hibernation after that.
Moore is a big reason it has awakened.
As a sophomore, he was the leading scorer on the 2000-2001 team, which had the program’s first winning record since 1994. He was arguably Harvard’s best all-around player last season, when the Crimson made it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since — you guessed it — 1994.
This year, though, was Moore’s finest. He finished with 24 goals and 51 points, becoming Harvard’s first 20-goal, 50-point man in nearly a decade.
Moore finished his career with 147 career points, 11th most in school history. No player above him on that list graduated after 1991.
Friday’s game moved Moore into a tie with Lane MacDonald, captain of the Crimson’s 1989 national championship team, for the second-most games played in Harvard history with 128.
And entering the NCAAs, Moore had 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in his last 12 games, the most points of anyone in the nation during that stretch and the most productive span of his career. He ended his career on a 13-game point-scoring streak.
For Moore, though, his career ended at least two games too soon.
“Our goal was to make the Frozen Four, and that didn’t happen, so we’re obviously very disappointed about that,” he said. “But I’ve never played with a better bunch of people — let alone players — in my life. I owe a big ‘thank you’ to every guy on our team.”
But the team, Mazzoleni said, is even more in debt.
“He’s someone we’re really going to miss in this program,” he said. “You can see the type of winner he is by the way he finished his career.”
Those were the last words Moore heard before he walked out of the press conference with his head bowed — half in disappointment, half in humility — and away from college hockey.