fb-pixel Skip to main content
NCAA Men's Hockey Bridgeport Regional semifinal

Harvard, Merrimack both swamped in men’s NCAA hockey tournament

Ohio State defenseman Mason Lohrei had no trouble keeping the puck away from Harvard's Mason Langenbrunner in the first period as the Buckeyes took a 2-0 lead in Bridgeport, Conn.Greg Cooper/Associated Press

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — What happened to Harvard’s hockey team on the way down from Cambridge? Did they get waylaid by Yalies while coming through New Haven? Whatever the reason, this wasn’t the same varsity that won two dozen games and came into the NCAA tournament with Frozen Four aspirations.

‘We picked a tough game to have a really poor performance,” coach Ted Donato said Friday after third-seeded Ohio State demolished the second-seeded Crimson, 8-1, at Total Mortgage Arena. “Give them [OSU] all the credit but we certainly would have liked to play a lot better.”

The Buckeyes (21-15-3) advanced to Sunday’s regional final against top seed Quinnipiac (31-4-3), which blanked fourth-seeded Merrimack (23-14-1), 5-0, in the nightcap.


It was Harvard’s worst NCAA loss since the 1969 squad was drubbed, 9-2, by Denver and the 10th time in their last 11 outings that the Crimson (24-8-2) went one-and-out. And from early on there was little doubt as to which was the better team.

“We were just relentless,” said Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik, whose team hadn’t played since March 11. “They believed and when you put that stuff together it’s pretty powerful.”

The Buckeyes took the lead at 3:22 on Cam Thiesing’s seeing-eye shot to the far corner from below the circle and defenseman Cole McWard added another through a scrum at 18:24. “We were reeling, trying to get to the locker room down one and then they got the second one,” said Donato.

Five more followed in the second period from Gustaf Westlund (playing his first game since October) and Thiesing six seconds apart, then from Mason Lohrei, Joe Dunlap and McWard on the power play. “They just kept going in for us,” said co-captain Jake Wise.

The Buckeyes had dropped four of their previous six games, including a 7-3 loss to archrival Michigan in the Big 10 semis.


But they knew that Harvard, which yielded the first goal in 20 of its 34 games, has trouble starting the game on time. So Ohio State swarmed the Crimson from the opening drop and kept them penned in, outshooting Harvard, 17-3, in the opening period.

And Harvard, as it did too often this year, was forced to chase the game. “They didn’t give us much chance to get back in it,” said co-captain John Farinacci, who scored the Crimson’s only goal with 3:14 to play.

The Crimson could have chased this one all the way to the New York state line and still not caught the Buckeyes.

“Everything was clicking and we all know that when we play like that it doesn’t really matter who we play,” said Wise, the Boston University transfer and Reading native who chipped in four assists. “We’re so confident that we can play and even dominate teams. Now we just have to do the same thing on Sunday.”

Thus did a Harvard season that began with such promise, with seven straight victories and a draw at Michigan, end with a hollow thud.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Donato. “This group was looking forward to this tournament, wanted to make a deeper run than last year. For whatever reason we got off on the wrong foot and couldn’t stop the bleeding.”

Merrimack, the Hockey East runner-up which was making only its third NCAA appearance and its first since 2011, was a bit more competitive but the Warriors also ended up putting away their skates.


“I’m not emotional because we lost,” said coach Scott Borek. “I just love our team. I didn’t want to stop coaching them. And it kills me.”

Merrimack was facing a Quinnipiac group that had won 30 games by popping in four or five goals and then starving opponents into submission. And after falling to Colgate in double overtime in the ECAC semis the Bobcats were determined not to end a glorious season with two losses.

“When the draw came out I wasn’t happy with it,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “I was like, I don’t want to play Merrimack right now. I just thought they were excellent all year. We feel fortunate. We played well. The guys bought into what we need to do to be successful, played our identity and we got rewarded. We’re moving on.”

Quinnipiac got the Warriors down by two early in the middle period on goals by fourth-line winger Joey Cipollone (1:56) and first-line center Jacob Quillan (3:29) and added three in the final period by Michael Lombardi (6:28), the other fourth-line winger, and Quillan (14:41) and an empty-netter by Sam Lipkin (18:31). So it’ll be East versus West on Sunday for a trip to Tampa.

John Powers can be reached at john.powers@globe.com.