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Harvard couldn’t be faulted if it wasn’t entirely focused Friday night against ECAC Hockey rival Dartmouth, which it ended up defeating 5-2 at the Bright-Landry Center.
After all, the Crimson lost to the same Big Green, 8-4, just three weeks ago. They took an early lead in Hanover, but by the third period they were beaten and their star goalie had been pulled. They could have had one eye looking back and regretting that effort.
Or they could have had one eye looking ahead to Monday night, the opening of the annual Beanpot tournament at the TD Bank Garden and a meeting with cross-town rival Northeastern.
“Guys always have one eye on this first Monday in February,” Harvard coach (and Beanpot veteran) Ted Donato said. “But we knew that this game was a big one for us in the ECAC standings and the Ivy League standings. It’s a weekend where our league teams mostly have an opportunity for four points, but we only play once on this weekend and these two points are very important to us.”
Harvard is 11-4-2 in the ECAC, one point behind league-leading St. Lawrence.
Donato’s team came out of the starting gate at full speed Friday, sort of the same way that Donato runs his team’s practices.
“He always has us doing the full speed drills right at the start of every practice,” said senior Sean Malone, the star of Friday’s game wth two goals and an assist.
“It’s our identity that we want to be a fast, skilled team that forces the issue,” Donato said, and that is exactly what his boys did from the start against Dartmouth this time.
Harvard used its speed, chipping pucks toward center ice from the defensive zone where their forwards regularly beat Dartmouth defenseman, creating odd-man rushes that had the Big Green back on their heals from the start. Harvard got the puck down low in the zone and kept constant pressure on the Dartmouth goaltender.
Sophomore Ryan Donato, son of the coach, was instrumental on several of those rushes, including a breakaway while killing a penalty, but he was unable to finish.
“I hope he was just saving the goals for Monday,” his father said.
Malone opened the scoring halfway into the first period when he was left uncovered in front of Dartmouth goaltender Devin Buffalo. He took a shot/pass from Clay Anderson at the point and slid it quickly past Buffalo.
Junior Jake Horton picked up a rebound in close and made it 2-0 near the middle of period two.
Dartmouth slowed Harvard down a bit late in the second period, but it obviously couldn’t keep up with its faster opponents.
“Our kids tried hard, but Harvard was winning all the races to the puck and all the battles,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “Harvard is a very good offensive team and they had their A game tonight. In Hanover we were able to slow them down a bit.”
Malone’s second goal opened the final period. With two defenders draped around him, Malone went directly at the goal and his backhander beat Buffalo.
Dartmouth’s Will Graber beat Harvard’s Merrick Madsen from the point four minutes later, but Luke Esposito kept Harvard comfortably ahead, beating Buffalo at 7:28.
Harvard’s Jake Horton took a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for hitting from behind shortly after and Dartmouth’s Josh Hartley scored on that long power play, but Alex Kerfoot iced it for Harvard at 12:54 on another odd man rush, looking off Ryan Donato before beating Buffalo, who was leaning to his right as Kerfoot shot to his left.
“The five-minute penalty sort of forced us to keep our focus,” Malone said. We skated hard and we blocked shots. We did the right things and now we want these things to carry forward.
“We want to go into the Beanpot like this.”
ECAC Hockey roundup
No. 16 Cornell 5, at No. 4 Union 3
Jake Weidner scored with 4:09 to play, and Anthony Angello’s second goal of the game, with 3:30 to go, iced the Big Red’s victory over the Dutchmen at Schenectady, N.Y. Alex Rauter, Angello and Dwyer Tschantz gave Cornell a 3-1. Mike Vecchione had two goals for Union, which tied the score at 3 on Ryan Walker’s power-play strike.
Rensselaer 5, Colgate 2
The Engineers got two goals from Evan Tironese and 40 saves from Chase Perry in the victory at Troy, N.Y.
No. 19 Quinnipiac 1, at Brown 0
The Bobcats made a first period goal from Bo Pieper stand up as they nipped the Bears at Providence. Andrew Shortridge had 21 saves for the shutout.
Princeton 4, at Yale 2
The Tigers broke a tie with two third-period goals in beating the Bulldogs at New Haven, Conn. Eric Robinson had two goals for Princeton and Joe Snively scored twice for Yale.