In its first game in 10 days, Harvard earned its first regulation win since Nov. 6, skating to a 5-2 victory over Brown.
In the macro view of the season, Tuesday will stand out as the night Harvard got back on track. After a 4-0 start, the Crimson had gone 0-2-1 in its last three, with losses to Northeastern and Clarkson and a tie at St. Lawrence, though the Crimson notched a shootout win over the Saints after the tie.
“The last stretch has been kind of tough for us, and we haven’t really been able to play the way we want to play,” junior captain and forward Nick Abruzzese said. “So, to get back on home ice and establish a full 60-minute effort is really important for us moving forward. Three more games headed into the [winter] break — obviously, we want to try and win all them. So this was a good first step.”
While the final margin was relatively comfortable, the result was not always in hand for Harvard. Heading to the power play down just 2-1, with 13:06 remaining in the second period, the Bears (1-5, 1-5 ECAC) had suddenly reclaimed the momentum from the Crimson (5-2-1, 4-1-1 ECAC). Just over 90 seconds earlier, a short-side tally from first-year forward Thomas Manty had cut Brown’s deficit to one. With Crimson junior forward Austin Wong heading to the box for tripping, the Bears found themselves on the doorstep of knotting the game at two.
Harvard’s penalty kill, however, rose to the challenge, and the rest was history as the Crimson scored two goals immediately following the successful kill to increase the margin to 4-1 and put the game out of reach.
Just three seconds after returning to five-on-five play, first-year forward Zakary Karpa scored a highlight-reel goal — the first of his career — outlasting a Brown defender wide and angling himself around graduate student and goaltender Luke Kania to tuck the puck inside the far post. On the rush, Karpa withstood a slash on his way to the net, granting Harvard a power play immediately following the goal.
On the ensuing power play, the Crimson broke the game wide open, with first-year forward Matthew Coronato getting in on the scoring action this time around. On a textbook passing play, sophomore forward Sean Farrell dealt to Abbruzzese, who one-touched the puck to Coronato in the slot, who wasted no time firing it high blocker side on Kania.
“[A] nice individual effort with Karpa coming off the end of the penalty kill there. That’s a big momentum shift in the game,” head coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “The score is 2-1, and they’re on the power play. And then at the end of it, we come and get a... [goal] and then go on the power play, and we’re able to execute there. So I thought there were some good signs across the board.”
Before the Crimson’s second-period run, Abruzzese opened the scoring early for Harvard. Just 2:14 into the game, the junior forward corralled the puck along the goal line just wide of the net, collecting it and depositing it inside the post before Kania could slide back. Sophomore forward Alex Laferriere and junior defenseman Ryan Siedem tacked on assists on the Crimson strike.
“We were able to cycle the puck, get a couple chances, and the puck just squirted to [my] side,” Abruzzese said. “And I was all alone. So it was pretty easy — one of the easier goals we’ll score.”
After the goal, despite sustaining significant pressure, Harvard did not manage to strike again in the first period. Though the Bears registered the first shot in the game, the Crimson quickly gained the edge, racking up a 15-3 shots-on-goal advantage by the first intermission. Kania battled to keep the Bears close. Notably, with the score still 1-0, Kania made one of the plays of the game, pushing across to his right for a bang-bang pad save on what had seemed like an open net. Nonetheless, despite the pro-Harvard shots margin, outside of its goal and the highlight Kania save, the Crimson could not quite create signature chances.
“In the first period, we had the advantage in shots, but I didn’t think we fully established enough zone time and really challenged [Brown],” Donato said. “I thought we lost too many puck battles to be able to sustain the offense in dangerous areas of the ice. We did a little better job in the second period.”
With the game still 1-0 in the early second stanza, Laferriere took matters into his own hands, increasing the Crimson lead to 2-0 with a do-it-yourself effort. In a play that did not look at first like a prime scoring chance, Laferriere drove hard from a tight angle before slicing at the last second into scoring position and knifing a backhander through Kania.
“Nick [Abruzzese] and [junior forward John Farinacci] made a good play on the wall, just chipping it in deep,” Laferriere said. “I picked it up and just tried to drive through the middle and drive to the net. [I] kind of just whacked at it too as I was falling down. Luckily, it went in, so I’ll take it.”
The 2-0 lead did not last for long, however, as just a couple of minutes later Brown cut into the margin. On a two-on-one play, Manty opted to hold the puck for a shot, rifling it into the short-side top corner. The 2-1 score was a close as the Bears would come, however, as the Crimson went on its aforementioned second-period spurt from there.
With 1:53 to go in the second period, Brown had the chance to get back within two before the intermission as Laferriere headed to the box for a slashing minor. Recognizing the chance, the Bears called timeout to talk over its power-play plans. Brown did hit the post — nearly taking a 4-2 scoreline into the locker room. But the Crimson managed to stifle the rest of the Bears power play and preserve its three-goal cushion.
In the third, 4:18 into the final frame, Brown had consecutive power-play chances — with 12 seconds of five-on-three bridging the man-up opportunities. Junior forward Baker Shore went to the box for interference, and Siedem soon followed for boarding.
Nonetheless, the Bears could not cash in, and a few minutes later, Harvard made Brown pay when Laferriere recorded his second of the game to increase the lead to 5-1. The Bears countered with a Jake Harris finish to trim the difference to three, but the Brown senior’s goal was too little, too late, and the game finished 5-2 in favor of the Crimson.
By the end of the contest, Harvard had registered a 40-20 shots-on-goal advantage. On the offensive side of the ice, Abruzzese led the way for Harvard with four points by night’s end (one goal, three assists), and Laferriere followed just behind with three points (two goals, one assist). Junior goalie Mitchell Gibson finished with 18 saves for the Crimson. Kania played two periods for the Bears and made 22 saves on 26 shots while freshman goalie Mathieu Caron came in for Brown in the third, surrendering just one goal on 14 shots.
“I give Brown credit. They come out and play hard,” Donato said. “I thought they made some big saves there, especially in the third, when we had a chance to really extend the lead. So, it’s a nice win. We’re excited to enjoy Thanksgiving and play a tough UNH team here on Friday night.”
Due to Covid-19 protocols in the Boston College program, the Crimson’s Nov. 30 matchup with the Eagles has been postponed, meaning that Harvard only has three more games before winter break. Up next, the Crimson will begin this trio with a Nov. 26 battle against New Hampshire at Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Faceoff is slated for 7 p.m.
—Staff writer William C. Boggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.