Something about Boston College visiting crosstown rival Harvard makes always-frigid Bright Hockey Center a little bit warmer, the fans a little louder, and the teams a little better.
“They’ve all been nail-biters here, huh?” asked BC coach Jerry York after watching his team tie the Crimson in overtime, 2-2, before a boisterous sellout of 2,776. “That’s the great thing about playing here. The last four years, all these games have been like this.
“I thought you saw two very, very good teams out there battling it out,” continued York, whose team is now 9-3-2. “That was an entertaining game. You had a number of outstanding players out there.”
Harvard (9-3-1) never led in the game, with BC taking leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before the Crimson rallied to tie each time, with both of its goals coming in the second period.
Neither team scored in the third period or overtime, though Harvard captain Dominic Moore missed the net by mere inches on an open 10-footer from the slot with 1:40 to go in the extra session.
“I thought it was a very good college game,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. “You saw two good teams that matched up very well.
“We had our chances, they had their chances. We did some things well, and we didn’t do some things well. A tie’s a tie, you know? It’s kissing your sister.” The game was defined by the marquee centers on each team: Moore and BC’s Ben Eaves.
“Ben was very good tonight,” York said. “He’s an outstanding player. Those were some great match-ups with those centers like Moore and [Brett] Nowak.”
Eaves’s goal broke a 1-1 tie at 6:36 of the second period, with Crimson defenseman — and adept penalty killer — Noah Welch in the sin bin for roughing. Eaves was set up beautifully on the play by defenseman Andrew Alberts, who worked the puck from the point to Eaves, who walked in from the blue line and smoked a one-timer past Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris.
“We’ve been trying to work the one-timers off our flanks,” said Eaves, whose 18 points tie him with Ryan Shannon for the team lead. “I was fortunate to get a good pass and tee it up.”
The 5-foot-8 Eaves certainly enjoyed the extra breathing room he had on that power play, given that Mazzoleni tried to match his line with towering defensemen Welch (6-4) and Peter Hafner (6-5).
“There wasn’t a lot of space on the ice,” Eaves said. “I know Noah, and he and [Hafner] were trying to take away time and space out there. I give a lot of credit to them.”
Moore tied it up for good later in the period on the Crimson’s first power play of the night, which came when BC junior Justin Dziama went off for hooking at 14:50.
After being denied on a point-blank shot just moments before, Welch took a pass from junior Tim Pettit at the right point and slapped it goalward. Before the puck reached the crease, though, Moore slipped his stick in its path and redirected it past BC goaltender Matti Kaltiainen to tie the game at 15:52.
“Welchie got it at the far point and he saw me waiting with my stick on the doorstep,” Moore said. “He made a great play to get it to me. I just hit it and it went in.”
After only scattered scoring chances throughout the third, both teams had opportunities to win it during the final minute of regulation. BC defenseman J.D. Forrest swept a backhander just wide of an open Harvard net with 30 seconds to go, and Kaltiainen made a tough save through a screen on Crimson junior Rob Fried’s shot as time expired.
“Both teams were close on their chances,” Moore said.
Scoring chances, however, weren’t abundant early, but BC was able to take a 1-0 lead with just 22 seconds left in the first period when junior Tony Voce put away a great feed from the right corner by Dave Spina. Harvard came back at 3:16 of the second, when junior Tyler Kolarik stormed into the slot and backhanded Tom Cavanagh’s rebound into an open BC net.
Grumet-Morris finished with 38 saves for Harvard, while Kaltiainen, who was seeing his first action since the Eagles’ 5-4 overtime loss to Dartmouth Nov. 26, made 28.
With the tie, Harvard extended its unbeaten steak to five games going into a showdown with No. 2 Maine at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Sunday. BC, meanwhile, is now on its exam break and will return to action Dec. 27 against Bowling Green at the Dodge Holiday Classic in Minneapolis.
NOTEBOOK: BC was playing its first game since Patrick Eaves, Ben Eaves’s brother, sustained a neck injury in the Eagles’ 2-2 tie with Maine last Saturday. “We definitely miss him, on and off the ice,” Ben Eaves said. “We’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of fight. We’re pulling for him, and we’re pulling for everyone else in the locker room, too.” … BC assistant coach Ron Rolston, a former Harvard assistant, made his first appearance at Bright behind the opposing bench since leaving in May. “Having been in the process of recruiting kids [at Harvard], being with that staff for three years, and watching that team grow over three years, it’s tough to come back,” Rolston said after the game.