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Harvard didn’t need its scoring depth nor its power-play finesse to advance to the ECAC Championship on Saturday. The nation’s No. 2 team only needed Sean Malone’s finishing touch in the 4-1 victory against Quinnipiac in a semifinal.
Malone’s hat trick was the first in an ECAC semifinal since Todd White scored three for Clarkson in 1997. The senior forward is two points shy of hitting the century mark for his four-year career.
“It’s pretty special. Being a senior, it’s my first hat trick,” Malone said. “It feels good to do it in a big game like this. More importantly I’m just happy we got the win.”
Two of Malone’s three goals came seven minutes apart in the second period. The first came from a quick turnaround after Craig Martin was hit off of the puck, while the second Malone threw from the red line on goal. Malone capped off his scoring as he brought the puck in through the zone and neatly played the puck in the crease to slip it past Quinnipiac goaltender Andrew Shortridge early in the third.
“We need our best players to step up and we’ve seen that throughout, starting with last weekend,” Harvard forward Luke Esposito said. “We needed a spark and the greatest thing about our team is that it can come from any player.”
After a scoreless first period, Harvard continued to throw pucks on net, amassing 35 during the game. Merrick Madsen was tested with 26 shots on goal, 15 of which came in the third period. Madsen’s only goal against came on a Quinnipiac power play on a tuck in on his blocker side by Thomas Aldworth, who found a sliver of space between Madsen’s side and the net.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to stick with the game, I think I only had five or six shots in the first,” Madsen said. “It’s hard to play in this type of venue but I think it made it easier for me to stay with it.”
Harvard will face the winner of Union and Cornell. Harvard owns a 1-1 record against the Dutchmen and a 2-0 mark against the Big Red this season.
The loss marks the end of the road for Quinnipiac in the playoffs, with its only guaranteed return to the NCAA Tournament through reclaiming the Whitelaw Cup. The matchup was the third in three consecutive years, with the series now 2-1 in Harvard’s favor.
“I give Quinnipiac credit, they kept coming and they kept making plays,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “We’ve had some battles with them for the last three years. … In some ways I feel like our seniors think you can’t win the ECAC unless you play Quinnipiac along the lines.”
Quinnipiac graduates its winningest class in team history. Accolades for the class of 2017 included three NCAA Tournament berths, two Cleary Cups, a Whitelaw Cup and an NCAA Tournament championship game appearance. The class also stands with North Dakota as the only two programs to feature 100-win senior class with 102 overall victories.
“In the end it’s about our senior class,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “It’s really a nice group of young men who have helped to put our program on the map.”