LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The top-seeded Harvard men’s hockey team won its 10th Whitelaw Cup in program history, claiming the ECAC championship by defeating Cornell, 4-1, Saturday night at Herb Brooks Arena. In the process, the Crimson extended (26-5-2) their unbeaten streak to 16 games.
“First off, I want to congratulate Cornell. Obviously a very great team, very well-coached,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “They certainly had us on the ropes at times during the game.”
Behind its traveling fanbase, Cornell (21-8-5) received a much-needed jump in the opening minutes of action. Harvard played most of the early moments in its own zone, as the Big Red’s speed and physicality on the dump-and-chase dictated play.
Senior goaltender Merrick Madsen kept the Crimson alive during the early span, stopping a flurry of scoring chances on Harvard’s first penalty kill.
It wasn’t until halfway through the first period that Cornell started to slow down after a hooking penalty put Harvard on the power play.
After an unsuccessful first attempt, the Crimson went back to the power play at 14:10 when sophomore forward Lewis Zerter-Gossage drew a hooking penalty on a half-breakaway attempt.
On the ensuing man-advantage, senior Kerfoot won a faceoff back to freshman Adam Fox, who found sophomore Ryan Donato at the top of the point. From the center of the blue line, Donato fired a shot that found its way through a crowd in front into the back of the net at 14:41.
With less than four minutes left in the second period, Harvard senior Tyler Moy led the forecheck in Cornell’s zone. Moy pickpocketed a Big Red defenseman behind the net and dished it to senior Sean Malone, who found senior Luke Esposito in the slot. Esposito quickly fended off a defenseman and wristed a shot off the pipe and in for his 16th of the season at 16:08.
The goal gave the Esposito-Moy-Malone line 23 collective points in just four ECAC tournament games.
“Something that’s special about our team is that sometimes we feel like we have two first lines,” Ryan Donato said. “On any given night . . . I think if they take care of me, [Kerfoot, and Zerter-Gossage], we have another line that is just as worthy as us.”
Going into the final period of regulation play, Harvard led Cornell in shots, 22-20.
Less than three minutes into the third, junior Wiley Sherman dumped the puck into the zone along the glass. Cornell goaltender Mitch Gillam came out of the net to stop the puck, but it took an odd bounce off a stanchion and landed on the stick of Michael Floodstrand, who made no mistake, burying the puck into the empty cage for his first goal of the season at 3:01.
Just two minutes later, a desperate Cornell came back firing on all cylinders. The Big Red’s Trevor Yates thought he had a sure goal until Madsen extended his right pad to keep the game at 3-0.
“You always want your goalie to come up with the big save at the right time of the game and he did that today,” Ted Donato said. “They had some great chances and he made some incredible saves and I think when he’s on like that . . . it certainly allows the team to play with confidence.”
After a Cornell penalty halfway through the period put Harvard on its fourth power play of the contest, that confidence was evident. The Crimson controlled play in the offensive zone for the entire man-advantage before Ryan Donato turned a toe-drag in the slot to a perfect wrist shot over Gillam’s glove for his second of the night and a commanding 4-0 lead at 11:10.
With 1:17 remaining in the game, the Big Red finally beat Madsen on a Jeff Malott one-timer from the slot. Madsen was named the Most Outstanding Player of tournament.
Harvard was crowned ECAC champion for the second time in three years. While it is already nationally-ranked No. 2, the win earned Harvard an auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We feel fortunate to win the ECAC, obviously last year was a tough pill to swallow losing in the championship game,” Ted Donato said. “I think this group certainly has their sights set on the NCAA Tournament and we’ll find out in the next 24 hours or so where that will take us.”