Last season, the Harvard men’s hockey team recorded an NCAA-record 11 ties, which became a source of frustration for the Crimson. “We had the market cornered on that,’’ said coach Ted Donato.
Saturday night, in the opener of its 113th season, 17th-ranked Harvard left little doubt about the outcome of its first meeting with Bentley by scoring a 5-0 victory before a Bright Center crowd of 2,911.
“It was a great start for us,’’ said Donato, whose team was the last Division 1 squad to drop the puck on the 2012-13 season. “I think there’s always a lot of pressure in that first game, especially when everybody else has already been playing.
“We had a lot of respect for Bentley. They had a very dangerous first line and had gotten off to a good start and I think they definitely had our guys’ attention.’’
Freshman left wing Jim Vesey led the way for the Crimson with an assist on Harvard’s first goal of the season, by Luke Greiner at 4:09 of the first period, and scored a pair himself to cap an impressive debut.
“We’re very excited about Jimmy,’’ Donato said. “He makes a lot of plays. That first goal was a pretty incredible individual effort and the second goal, to me, was really what we’re going to have to add to our mix to be successful.’’
After Alex Fallstrom followed Greiner’s goal with a strike at 16:22 of the first, Vesey scored on a power play at 17:42 of the second with a brilliant toe-drag to beat splayed netminder Branden Komm (39 saves) to make it 3-0.
Vesey followed with another impressive goal at 9:13 of the third when he camped out in front of the net and potted his second.
“I think scoring goals is my best asset,’’ Vesey said. “I think I can do it in a lot of different ways, but I’ll take that one.’’
Harvard junior goaltender Raphael Girard, who went 6-4-3 in 18 starts last season, was the game’s No. 1 star. He recorded the first shutout of his career and the first for Harvard since a 1-0 home victory over Rensselaer Nov. 6, 2010.
“That’s my first time in my three years here that we started [the season] with a win,’’ said Girard, who stopped 31 shots — 14 in the second period. “It feels awesome and then we’re ranked, so we’ve got to keep winning the games we have to win, so that was big. We’ve just got to be hard to play at home and we just showed that tonight.’’
The Crimson put 44 shots on Komm, who made 50 saves last Friday in a 6-3 setback against Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The Falcons buzzed the Crimson net in the first period and appeared to score when Brett Hartung’s shot from the left circle seemed to trickle over Girard’s right shoulder.
A review resulted in a no-goal call, which was met with a vocal protest from a strong contingent of Bentley supporters. The school sold some 700 student tickets for its first meeting against Harvard.
Marshall Everson, who along with his younger brother Max was credited with an assist on Fallstrom’s goal, scored the final goal of the night at 19:25 to put an exclamation point on the victory.
“I think it’s big for our team and the program going forward,’’ Vesey said. “We have high expectations this year and to get started on the right foot was big for us.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.