It was Halloween in Boston, and the Harvard Crimson came dressed to play. Dartmouth wore a look of consternation . . . and the referees were spot-on imitations of riverboat calliopes.
In a game interrupted by 22 minor penalties, it was the Crimson who weathered the storm with a 4-1 opening-night victory. Second year center Pier-Olivier Michaud tallied a goal and two assists, classmate Michael Biega earned one of each, and junior Doug Rogers added two helpers as well.
â€œI’m pretty happy with the effort,â€ said Harvard head coach Ted Donato. â€œFrom the net out, our guys stayed with it.â€
Apart from the sin bin queue-up, the match also featured two brand new goaltenders in Harvard’s Matt Hoyle and Dartmouth’s Jody O’Neill. Hoyle finished the game with 30 saves, while O’Neill looked generally solid as well with 28 stops.
â€œAfter the first five minutes, he didn’t look like a freshman anymore,â€ praised Donato of his newest netminder.
The game began slowly, as each side settled its nerves and its strategies. Harvard had better puck possession early, but could not generate any quality scoring chances despite a handful of forays into O’Neill’s slot. Dartmouth interrupted the Crimson plays with sporadic sprints at the Harvard cage, but to no avail.
The home side scored the first Ivy goal of the season with 7:52 on the clock. With big-time acquisition Alex Killorn and fellow winger Biega buried in front of O’Neill, Michaud swept in from the right side to pop in the lost and lonely puck.
â€œI thought Michaud was exceptional. He was excellent â€¦ excellent killing penalties, a great trigger-man on the power play,â€ gushed Donato.
However, Dartmouth struck back in similar fashion less than three minutes later. With Harvard senior Steve Rolecek off for a slash, sophomore blueliner Dan Markowitz dug the puck from a frenetic pile in the Harvard slot and roofed it over a stacked-pad Hoyle.
The officiating crew of Chip McDonald and Harry Dumas seemed as slow to warm up as the teams. The tandem called six penalties in the period, four of which came in the final 6:30 of play; Harvard was deemed culpable for four of the six whistles. The Big Green outshot the Crimson 13-10 over the first 20 minutes.
The second began nearly as tentatively as the first, but things got interesting before too long. Midway through teammate Matt McCollem’s slashing minor, Crimson freshman Colin Moore found a wandering puck in the neutral zone and broke into Dartmouth’s end unmarked. He made a beeline for O’Neill’s left post, but the goalie came up huge with the mitt to deny Moore the instant memory.
Once the penalty box doors opened, they seemed thoroughly disinclined to shut again. The second period consisted of eight minor penalties and only 8:07 of five-on-five hockey. Once more, Harvard took the majority of the blame with five penalties to Dartmouth’s three.
â€œWe’re going to have to practice the power-play and man-down [strategies] 60 or 70 percent of our practices,â€ lamented Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet. â€œI’m not pinning it on the referees, but that’s what you’ve gotta do.
â€œIt’s part of learning, as a coach [and player],â€ he mused. â€œIt was strictly power play [tonight], that’s what it was about. You have to read and react as a coach, and I didn’t see it coming. I wasn’t misled [by the league]; I just didn’t see it coming.â€
The persistent whistles utterly disrupted the play, resulting in only eight shots apiece and no goals in the period despite a 49-second five-on-three for Harvard early on and a 1:36 two-man advantage for the Green that ended just before the buzzer.
The third proved to be the hosts’ strongest period, and Dartmouth’s undoing.
First, Doug Rogers’ low-angle power play drive hit O’Neill’s right post and rebounded to open ice, but proved a precursor of things to come. Biega broke the draw moments later at 7:39, potting Rogers’ rebound shot via O’Neill’s mask.
â€œRogers got stronger as the game went on,â€ said Donato of his first-line center. â€œIn my eyes he’s one of the best players in the country.â€
The Crimson kept up the pressure, stretching the lead to two goals a minute and four seconds later. Senior winger Nick Coskren walked the puck through O’Neill’s pads from the goal line at the right of the net, squeaking the biscuit under the half-knelt ‘keeper in embarrassingly easy fashion.
With under seven minutes to play, ref McDonald had to leave the game with a cut to his jaw, courtesy of a deflected puck along the Dartmouth end boards; Dumas finished the game with his two linesmen. Harvard captain Jimmy Fraser capped the scoring with an empty-netter with seconds remaining.
Harvard finished two for seven on the power play, while Dartmouth scored only once in 13 opportunities with the advantage. The Big Green returns to action Sunday to host Vermont at 7 p.m. Harvard plays the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program squad Saturday night at the Bright Hockey Center, and resumes league play Tuesday, Nov. 4 against Rensselaer.