In its regular-season finale, Harvard gave the Bright Hockey Center faithful reason to hope its season is more than a month from concluding with a 5-0 shutout of St. Lawrence (10-19-5, 7-12-3 ECAC).
The Crimson (19-8-2, 17-4-1) imparted that hope not long after the drop of the puck when captain Dominic Moore began the night’s scoring, taking an outlet pass from linemate Charlie Johnson and skating quickly up center ice. Moore was flanked by a St. Lawrence defender, but only for the first few strides.
Using his speed to pull ahead, Moore was alone on a breakaway, and he quickly slipped the puck past Saint goaltender Kevin Ackley.
The game went back and forth for a couple of minutes, and both sides had a try with the man advantage. Neither team was successful and the score stood at 1-0 until Crimson forward Brett Nowak made a beautiful deke down low in the St. Lawrence zone, freeing himself from his man and throwing the puck on net.
Ackley made the initial stop, but Nowak and linemates Dennis Packard and Rob Flynn crashed the net and Flynn wielded the lucky stick, poking the puck home amid the scrum of bodies in and around the crease.
That goal was symbolic of the type of effort that Harvard lacked in its loss to Clarkson Friday night, a fact Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni noted.
“We had a desire to get to the loose pucks and we won the [individual] battles tonight,” Mazzoleni said. “I thought our kids responded very well to the challenge put forward to them.”
For his part, St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh knew his team was in trouble by the way Harvard’s offense began the game.
“You can’t spot a team like [Harvard] a couple of goals like we did early on,” Marsh said. ?They put us away early.”
The Crimson added its third tally of the game at 10:19 of the first, again turning success in an individual battle into tangible results on the scoreboard.
Johnson worked the puck out from along the boards behind the Saints’ net, and used his speed to gain separation. With a second to glance around, he found Moore near the top of the circle. Moore received the pass and quickly shifted it over to Kenny Turano, who sat unmarked in the middle of the zone. Turano’s blast beat Ackley stick side to put Harvard up 3-0 after one period.
“They are great on the rush, and their speed killed us down low,” Marsh said.
Harvard added a goal in the second and another in the third, one coming off hard work along the boards and the other a strong rush at the net.
Offense was not the only story of the game; it was complemented by the play of backup netminder John Daigneau, who stopped 28 shots in 52 minutes of work, combining with senior Ben Weiss in pitching the shutout. His performance left Mazzoleni impressed:
“Daigneau played very steady in there. He had good command of the position and controlled his rebounds well. He played well out of the net. He played very solidly.”
Daigneau’s task was made easier by the defensive effort Harvard displayed, an effort lacking a night earlier when the team surrendered 45 shots to Clarkson. The Crimson’s focus did not go unnoticed; as the horn sounded to end the first, St. Lawrence had managed only eight shots on the Harvard net. On the penalty kill the Crimson were similarly committed, stuffing all six Saint opportunities.
“We couldn’t get much going [on offense],” Marsh said. “We had some chances in the second and third, but they were kinda few and far between.”
St. Lawrence did play better after the first, outshooting Harvard in the second period and putting pressure on Daigneau, and later Weiss, with two strong, patient power plays in the third.
But in the end, the Crimson was the better team, dominating all facets of the game, and the scoreboard.
“They look like a championship-caliber team at this point,” Marsh said.
Regardless of appearances, Harvard has a bye week and four wins to go before it can confirm Marsh’s compliments. The Saints have an even longer road, which begins next Friday in Hamilton, N.Y., against the Colgate Raiders.