On paper it looked like sixth-ranked Harvard would have no trouble beating Brown Friday night. Yet it took a goal on a deflection from behind the net, a power-play score and an empty-netter for the Crimson to gratefully resume their winning ways, 3-0.
A week ago Harvard was ranked second when it lost 4-0 to ECAC Hockey cellar dweller RPI, 2-1 to nationally ranked Union and then 8-4 to Dartmouth (a sub-.500 team in the middle of the ECAC pack).
Brown, meanwhile, was locked in a duel for last place in the ECAC with RPI. The Bears were scoring less as a team (fewer than 2.5 goals per game) than the total from Harvard’s top two lines. Their goaltenders were allowing 4.33 goals a game and none had a save percentage above .875. There was little reason to wonder why Brown had only won three games all season (just two in the ECAC.)
Yet as Friday’s game went on, Brown showed it has some good hockey players. They were skating well with the fast Crimson, their goalie (Gavin Nieto) was coming up with good saves and it took until 7:56 of the opening period before freshman Frederic Gregorio passed (shot) the puck from behind the goal line and watched it bounce off the skates of at least one Brown defender before getting past Nieto.
Gregorio’s first career goal came in only the second game that he has dressed for Harvard this season.
“He has a ton of speed,” Harvard assistant coach Ron Ramsey said.
It took until the middle of the second period, on a power play, before Harvard could score again. Another freshman, Nathan Krusko, deflected a shot from Clay Anderson on the point to give his team a 2-1 lead and a little breathing room. Tyler Moy’s empty-netter ensured the outcome at 18:27 of the third.
“We really aren’t that bad of a team,” Brown coach Brendan Whittet said. “We have some good players, but our losing record just sort of snowballed.
“Tonight we did a lot of good things. So far this year for us it has always been a poor effort by us in one area or another. One time it will be poor penalty killing, another time our power play doesn’t click, another time we aren’t getting good goaltending. We can’t afford to play bad in any area.
“Tonight we got good goaltending and we played well enough to have success. We have to find a way to generate more scoring. But, you can’t feel good about losing, no matter how good you play.”
A portion of the blame for Harvard’s three-game losing streak rests on junior goaltender Merrick Madsen, who was in net for all three losses and gave up 14 goals in those games. He was pulled in the third period at RPI and Dartmouth.
“Last weekend was not the one that I, or my teammates, would have liked to have,” Madsen said after recording the shutout Friday and boosting his .905 save percentage. “We worked hard together all week, we came together, and we had a sort of mental reset.
“I am very confident in my team and I watch the play in the offensive zone from the other end of the ice. We want to get a ton of shots. We did that tonight and we were swarming down low. Tonight was a big step in the right direction for us.”
Harvard took 70 shots at Nieto and 42 of them were on target. (Twenty-one were blocked and seven missed the net.)
Harvard was extremely effective on face-offs, winning 39 and only losing 16. Senior center Alexander Kerfoot, Harvard’s leading scorer, was held off the scoreboard by Brown, but went 11-1 in the face-off circle.
“We had to get back on track,” Harvard captain Devin Tringale said. “We had to get pucks deep and we tried to take shorter shifts.
“And, I wouldn’t lose faith in Harvard yet.”
ECAC Hockey roundup
Clarkson 3, at No. 15 Cornell 3
At Ithaca, N.Y., Trevor Yates scored twice and had one assist for Cornell. Jordan Boucher scored twice for Clarkson. Clarkson’s Jake Kielly made 28 saves, including two in overtime, while Cornell’s Mitch Gillam only had to stop 13.
Yale 7, at Dartmouth 0
At Hanover, N.H., Charlie Curti had two goals and two assists for Yale and Andrew Gaus had a goal and an assist.
No. 16 St. Lawrence 3, at Colgate 0
St. Lawrence took 40 shots at Colgate goaltender Charlie Finn, but it took two third-period goals for the Saints to get by the Red Raiders at Hamilton, N.Y. Ben Finkelstein, Alex Gilmour and Jacob Pritchard scored for St. Lawrence.