After a 6-0 start and a climb into the top 10 nationally, Harvard was eager to take its act outside of the ECAC to face a pair crosstown rivals, with the hope of getting a better gauge of what kind of team it can be.
The Crimson responded with losses to Boston College and Boston University, and learned there is still work to be done. While hosting BC the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Crimson showed they belong, jumping to a 2-0 lead toward the end of the second period before the Eagles rallied for a 4-2 win at a sold-out Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
That was followed by a less-than-stellar outing at Agganis Arena Tuesday that saw Harvard fall behind, 2-1, in the first period, and trail, 4-1, in the third before Jack Drury’s power-play goal with less than five minutes remaining made it 4-2.
The Crimson went on the power play again and had several good looks, but one shot clanged off the pipe, and Terriers goalie Sam Tucker made several huge saves to keep Harvard from getting any closer. Patrick Harper’s empty-netter accounted for the 5-2 final.
Although disappointed with the loss to the Eagles, Harvard coach Ted Donato was not discouraged after the first setback of the season.
“I thought we actually played pretty well against BC,” Donato. “We made some mistakes obviously, but I thought we had opportunities in the third to score.”
The 16-year Crimson coach was not as enthused about his team’s effort against BU.
“I thought we chased the game,” said Donato. “I thought BU won the majority of one-on-one battles, won the races to pucks, and I think we gave them goals too easily. The first two goals they didn’t have to work very hard for. I think the first 10 minutes of the game were really sloppy.”
On both nights, what had been an explosive offense was held in check. Even after the two losses, Harvard still leads the nation in scoring, averaging 4.62 goals per game. Sophomore forward Casey Dornbach was named the ECAC Player of the Month for November, collecting five goals and seven assists in seven games.
Forward Nick Abruzzese (2-8—10) leads all NCAA freshmen with an average of 1.25 points per game, while forward John Farinacci (4-4—8) is seventh on the list, averaging a point per game. The Crimson also have three freshman defensemen in their top six, as well as a freshman in goalie Mitchell Gibson (3-0, .955 save percentage).
“As they came in, I thought they were all really mature, and I’ve found them all to be really hard-working,” said senior captain Nathan Krusko about the freshman class. “I’m not surprised to see the kind of production they bring.
“We’re really proud with the way they’ve been working. We want to continue to push them and help them get better every day.”
Harvard is home again for a pair of games this weekend, but it’s not about to get any easier. No. 2 Cornell, the only remaining undefeated team in the country at 9-0, comes to town Friday night, followed by Colgate Saturday. Donato is not worried about the quick turnaround.
“We should have no problem being emotionally charged up for a real tough game against a rival and a team that’s undefeated,” said Donato. “So for us I think it’s a good challenge, and an opportunity to re-establish the way we want to play.”
The win against Harvard was BC’s seventh in a row, as the Eagles improved to 9-4 and moved up in the polls to No. 10 in USCHO, No. 7 in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine. Coach Jerry York was happy to come away with the victory.
“It’s been a terrific hockey series over the years and one that I’ve been fortunate to play in and had the opportunity to coach in, and the [atmosphere] was electric,” said York. “The crowd enjoyed it. Packed house. Sold out. Both teams play the right way — quick and we make plays.”
Spencer Knight made 27 saves to get the win. This week he was named Hockey East Rookie of the Month for November after he went 7-1, including 5-1 on the road, with a 1.12 goals against average and a .959 save percentage. The Florida Panthers’ 2019 first-round pick leads the league in wins (7), save percentage (.959), goals against average (1.12), and shutouts (2).
Completing the job
After getting shut out in consecutive games, BU was happy to strike for a pair of goals in the first period and rolling to the win over Harvard to improve to 5-6-5. “It was huge. We’ve had an up-and-down season so far,” said junior Cam Crotty, who had a goal and an assist in the win. “A lot of games we flirted with, we’d play 50 solid minutes, and then for 10 minutes we fall asleep. I think tonight was the first game in a long time we put together a complete game, and it really paid off for us.
A pair Hockey East teams came away with impressive tournament wins over the holiday weekend. Northeastern (10-4-2) defeated New Hampshire and Colgate at the Friendship Four in Belfast to win the Belpot Trophy. The Huskies climbed up to No. 8 in both polls with the two wins. Senior defenseman Ryan Shea of Milton and BC High was named the Player of the Tournament after finishing the weekend with two goals and five assists. Forward Tyler Madden was named the conference’s Player of the Month for November after collecting 7 goals and 10 assists. The Huskies travel to Agganis Arena to take on BU Saturday night. After dropping the opener to Northeastern, 4-0, UNH (7-6-1) bounced back to defeat Princeton, 3-2 in the consolation game . . . UMass Lowell won the Turkey Leg Classic with wins over RPI, 4-0, and No. 6 Penn State, 3-2, in overtime. The River Hawks improved to 9-3-4 and moved up in the rankings (16/15). Senior goalie Tyler Wall was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Month for November and ranks fourth in the nation with a .947 save percentage, recording at least 30 saves in nine of his 15 starts. Next up for UMass-Lowell will be a home-and-home series with No. 15 Providence (8-4-3), which boasts the nation’s top two scorers in Jack Dugan (6 goals, 25 assists), and Tyce Thompson (12 goals, 12 assists). UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin had high praise for Dugan when speaking with USCHO: “One of the most impactful forwards Hockey East has seen since [Jack] Eichel. Very few guys of that size and that weight have that type of skill.”
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.