Ever since January of 1993, the winning formula for a road sweep of Clarkson and St. Lawrence had eluded Harvard.
The Crimson, though, found it this weekend. Strangely enough, it included taking penalties.
Harvard (4-1-0, 4-1-0 ECAC) scored five times with a man in the box during the two games, including twice in a 2-1 defeat of Clarkson on Saturday night. With the win, the Crimson extended its winning streak to four games and maintained a first-place tie with travel partner Brown.
“This is a big accomplishment,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni, when asked about the sweep. “Both of these teams had played very well at home. I thought our guys played with very good focus.”
The Golden Knights, meanwhile, fell to 2-4-1 (2-2-1). The loss was their first since the start of an investigation into a Nov. 2 incident between former coach Mark Morris and junior Zach Schwan that resulted in Morris’s firing on Friday.
“The game was a little sloppy at times, but there were some good plays made by both teams,” said Clarkson interim coach Fred Parker, now 2-1-1 since taking over. “If anything, it was very exciting.
“I thought our team worked really hard, and they never gave up. We were still creating chances at the end. We looked a lot better in this set of back-to-back games than we had in other ones.”
Clarkson was dominant during stretches of the game, including the early part of the first period. That changed, though, at 9:31, when Harvard junior Tim Pettit scored a shorthanded goal on an off angle that somehow dropped into the cage behind Clarkson goaltender Dustin Traylen.
The goal gave Pettit his fifth point of the weekend and team-leading eighth of the season.
“We need Tim Pettit,” Mazzoleni said. “The guys that get a lot of ice time for you have to deliver, and over the last few weeks the guys that play the majority of our key situations have delivered very well for us.”
And while the Crimson controlled play throughout the rest of the first period and part of the second, Clarkson slowly swung momentum back its way and drew even at 11:13 of the middle frame, when sophomore defenseman Randy Jones put a bouncing puck past Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris.
The Golden Knights seemed to rally around the goal, but all it took for Harvard to regain the lead was another man-down situation.
With Pettit and Clarkson junior Jean Desrochers off for coincidental unsportsmanlike conduct minors, Harvard sophomore Kenny Smith sprung Crimson captain Dominic Moore with an outlet pass through the neutral zone. Moore then found junior forward Dennis Packard, who sent a wrister toward Traylen as he moved into the slot.
Packard’s shot wasn’t the most impressive of the night, but it had enough juice on it to beat Traylen (27 saves) to his glove side and give the Crimson a huge boost — and a 2-1 lead — with just 12 seconds left in the second.
Clarkson, though, nearly wrested victory from Harvard’s grasp in the third. The Golden Knights power play was impressive at times — even though it ended the game 0-for-6 — and Clarkson could have walked away with a weekend sweep of its own, were it not for clutch saves by Grumet-Morris.
“This league is controlled by the goaltenders,” Parker said. “Tonight, theirs played really well, and they got two fluky ones on us — but they counted.”
After the game, Mazzoleni praised the play of his defense and Grumet-Morris, who finished with 26 saves on the night and 64 on the weekend.
“Dov played very well, and I thought we played well around our own net,” he said. “We limited second-chance scoring opportunities, and he made some big saves for us.”
Now, the Crimson’s attention — and, to a large extent, that of the ECAC — turns to next Friday’s game at Cornell, the first installment in the heated rivalry between the two schools since Harvard’s dramatic double-overtime victory over the Big Red gave it the ECAC title last March.
“From all the things I’ve heard,” Parker said, “the ECAC goes through [Harvard] and Cornell.”
Harvard’s 4-1-0 record is its first since the 1999-2000 season — Mazzoleni’s first with the team. The Crimson, though, has not won five of its first six games since the 1988-89 season.
That year, the Crimson went onto win the national championship.
USCHO arena reporters Eli Alper, Tim Jackson, and Tim McDonald contributed to this report.