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Harvard took three periods to crack through a tough Princeton team at the Bright Center Saturday night, taking 51 shots on Colton Phinney and 24 more that were blocked in front of him before walking away with a 5-2 victory.

The game was tied until 4:12 of the third period when senior Alexander Kerfoot put his team ahead 3-2. Harvard’s last two goals came on an empty net.

Ranked fourth in the country by USCHO polls and second nationwide for goals scored and scoring margin, Harvard might have been projected to take home an easy victory over Princeton, which started its season with six losses and a tie in its first seven games.

However, Princeton scored first, on a strike by Josh Teves at 6:45 of the second period, and Harvard struggled to find a goal despite pummeling Phinney with shots coming from everywhere and everyone (10 from Ryan Donato, five from Kerfoot, Seb Lloyd and Sean Malone, and four from Luke Esposito.)

Jake Horton got Harvard on the scoreboard at 17:52 of the second and defenseman Adam Fox, just back with a gold medal for Team USA from the World Junior tournament, followed up 59 seconds later with a goal from the point.

Princeton keep coming, however, and 3:02 after the second intermission Jackson Cresey tied the game again.

Before Princeton fans could count their blessings, Kerfoot responded with the winner at 4:12.

Both coaches were satisfied with the effort from their own teams and were very complimentary of their opponents.

Ron Fogarty said his Princeton Tigers put forth a “great effort against one of the best teams in the country. Harvard comes hard to the net, forcing us to pack our team deep in the zone and that opens up their points. They can get you both ways. They are ranked fourth for a reason.”

“Early in the game we were frustrated, but you have to give a lot of credit to Princeton,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “They didn’t give us a lot of opportunities and they were making great sacrifices for their team, blocking all those shots the way they did.

“I don’t really think we played with the energy that we are capable of. We weren’t sharp around the net, and of course there were several bounces of the puck that didn’t go our way.”

When asked about the turnaround that his team has made since Thanksgiving, Fogarty said that his team has had the talent all along.

“We weren’t playing that badly,” he said of the 0-6-1 start. “You have to win that first one (Bemidji State, Nov. 25) and then we bounced back from there.”

His team in now 7-3 since that slow start. In particular, Fogarty gave credit to his busy netminder, Colton Phinney. By the game’s end, Phinney was just five saves short of setting a new record for career saves by a Princeton goalie.

“He has had a terrific career for us,” Fogarty said. “Too bad we haven’t given him more wins to go with it.”

ECAC roundup

No. 15 Quinnipiac 4, at Dartmouth 2
Quinnipiac had a 3-0 lead early in the third period and beat Dartmouth 4-2 Saturday night in Hanover, New Hampshire. Alex Whelan, Kevin Duane and Craig Martin scored the first three for Quinnipiac, but Dartmouth didn’t quit.  Cam Strong scored within at 10:47 of the final period to bring his team within two, but Kevin McKernan scored an empty netter to finish off the Big Green.

No. 16 St. Lawrence 2, at Canisius 1
Alex Gilmour scored in the first and second period for St. Lawrence and Nick Hutchinson snagged one for Canisius at 16:35 of the third as St.Lawrence went home 2-1 winners Saturday night in Buffalo, New York.

Clarkson 6, Rensselaer 1
Clarkson got two goals apiece from Haralds Egle and Sam Vigneault and cruised past Rensselaer, 6-1, Saturday night at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, New York. Lou Nanne had the only score for Rensselaer with just 11 seconds left to play.

Yale 4, at Connecticut 2
Ryan Hitchcock had a goal and an assist and Henry Hart had two assists as Yale beat Connecticut, 4-2, in Hartford. Yale outshot the Huskies 41-15. Spenser Naas and Bryan Morgan scored for UConn.

Cornell 1, at Merrimack 0
Cornell had a lone goal from Matt Buckles and Merrimack was held scoreless Saturday night in North Andover, Massachusetts. Mitch Gilliam for Cornell and Collin Delia for Merrimack both saw 18 shots on goal, but Cornell went home a 1-0 winner. Merrimack had beaten Cornell 3-2 in their other meeting of the season on Oct. 28.