In a matchup with ECAC playoff seeding and PairWise implications on the line, St. Lawrence and Harvard battled through an entertaining game. Ultimately, Harvard prevailed by a score of 4-1.
Harvard got the game’s first goal on an early power play. With time winding down on the man advantage, Luke Esposito notched his sixth goal of the season, snatching a loose puck in the low slot and beating Kyle Hayton as the SLU netminder tried to slide across. The goal came with just one second remaining on the power play at the 4:48 mark of the first.
Unlike last night at Appleton, where SLU and Dartmouth combined for five goals in the first 20 minutes, Esposito’s tally was the lone marker in the opening frame. However, each team had two power-play opportunities, the second of which for the Saints carried over into the second period.
The second period doubled the yield in terms of offense, with each team striking once. Harvard scored first, with the almost daily show of Jimmy Vesey finding the back of the net. After an extended tour of the offensive zone, he fired what appeared to be a harmless wrist shot at the net. The puck had eyes for the back of the net however, and the Crimson went up by two at the 7:07 mark.
The Saints responded with a power-play goal off the stick of rookie Jacob Pritchard. The initial shot was from Gavin Bayreuther, but Pritchard deflected it past Merrick Madsen to cut the deficit in half for the home team.
A five-minute major power play for the Crimson in the third provided Harvard with an opportunity to extend its lead, but the best scoring chance fell to the Saints. A two-on-two break for the Saints resulted in a short-handed penalty shot attempt for Saints captain Brian Ward, but Madsen stood tall.
“I wanted to get him going to fake forehand to backhand, but at the last second I decided to stay on the forehand,” said Ward. “I should have gotten it up over his pad, but I tried to slide it on the ice, but he’s a big kid.”
Later, the Saints had a five-on-three power play that they failed to convert on, and Harvard eventually got a second power-play goal, this one from Ryan Donato, to put the game away. A strong slap shot from the point beat Hayton with exactly four minutes remaining, and a Clay Anderson empty-net goal made it 4-1, the final score. As was the case when the two teams met in Brighton, Vesey was credited with the game-winning goal.
“We didn’t think we played bad last night, but we knew we had another level, given the talent on this team,” said Vesey. “We knew there was a lot on the line in terms of the PairWise, so this is a big win.”
Both coaches were effusive in their praise of Crimson netminder Merrick Madsen.
“I thought Merrick, you know, not only was he making the saves, but he looked comfortable,” Donato said.
“It’s not often that Kyle Hayton gets outplayed, but I think that happened tonight,” said Saints coach Greg Carvel.
“We knew it was important in terms of the national picture and for the psyche of this team,” said Donato.