CAMBRIDGE, MASS — An offensive outburst from the Harvard Crimson’s potent offense fueled them past the Dartmouth Big Green, 6-1, Saturday night to force a game three in the ECAC Quarterfinal.
The return to form for the Crimson came after a challenging game one by the Big Green, who took the first game 4-1.
“I thought we were a lot more determined on the puck,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “Our sense of urgency was a lot better, much more playoff-like than last night. We were able to execute on special teams, and we were able to move the puck quicker to catch some of our team speed. We did a better job of that tonight than we did last night.”
Harvard opened the scoring and followed up 30 seconds later to garner a quick 2-0 lead midway through the first period. Both goals, the first from Lewis Zerter-Gossage and the second from Benjamin Solin, came through traffic in front.
“We all want to as a group challenge the front of the net,” Donato said. “We knew if we wanted to have some success offensively we’d have to get to the front of the net and take the punishment and make them take some penalties.”
Harvard drew 23 penalty minutes, including a five-minute power play on a cross check by Will Graber. The contact in the slot against Harvard’s Ryan Donato, as he set up in the crease, was severe enough to eject Graber from the game.
Donato’s goal on the five-minute power play pushed the Crimson to six goals, good for 2-for-4 on power-play opportunities on the night. His ability to make a difficult play look effortless was noticed by his teammates in the victory.
“He’s an extremely skilled guy,” Crimson defenseman Adam Fox said. “Ryan played one of his best two-way games today. He was coming back on the puck and competing really hard. You know when you have your best forward doing stuff like that it rubs off on the rest of the team.”
The effort from the junior along with the senior group featuring captains Jake Horton and Eddie Ellis focused on showing the large underclassmen group what was needed to win.
“We knew that we had to be a different team. Yesterday the complacency was kind of incredible,” Ryan Donato said. “It’s do or die. We came out and performed, which is a good thing because we have the senior leadership and guys that stepped up and told the younger guys that our season is going to end actually tomorrow — some of those guys have a tough time understanding that. I’m just glad we got the job done tonight.”
Donato noted the impacts of detail plays in executing the game plan. In refocusing the puck possession game, the Crimson won 39 of 60 faceoffs, including 17 of 19 for Donato.
“When you get into the lulls of the game, you tend to forget some of those things like faceoffs. That’s something we try to harp on is making sure we win every battle and every little game,” the center said. “It’s good that we have those little battles and little victories that add up in the end. Sometimes they don’t show up on the score sheet, but I’m just happy those battles were won.”
For Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet, the lopsided loss reinforced the desperation mindset the team entered the weekend with after playing a three-game series in the first round.
“We’ve got to turn it around and get right back at it, which is good in a way. We did it last week when we played a five o’clock game as the deciding game,” Gaudet said. “At this time of year you’ve just got to get after it. Fatigue is not an option for us; we’ve got to move on.”