Boston, MA – Just 1.9 miles separates Boston University‘s Agganis Arena and Harvard University‘s Bright-Landry Arena on the Boston bank of the Charles River. That’s the closet distance between two NCAA Division 1 opponents. The two schools are one of the oldest rivalries in college hockey as well, dating back to 1922-23. Coming into Tuesday night’s 158th meeting the Terriers held the 80-70-7 advantage. Boston U. had won four of their last seven against the Crimson (4-2-1) and won the last meeting at Agganis 5-3 on November 22, 2016.
Both schools are in the midst of a stretch against rivals. Harvard faced Boston College on Friday, a 4-1 loss, and will play host to Cornell this Friday in a battle of unbeaten ECAC foes. The Terriers meanwhile lost to Cornell on Saturday in New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden 2-0. BU travels to Matthews Arena to face Northeastern this Saturday. This game would be a big test for both teams.
A quick start by the home team would prove to be the difference in this one. Two goals in the opening ten minutes for Boston University would be too much for the Crimson to overcome. The Terriers added two more in the second.
The struggling Terriers had their act together early for this game. Forward Patrick Harper knocked the puck off of defenseman Jack Rathbone‘s stick to Trevor Zegras. Zegras snapped the puck past Crimson keeper Cam Gornet (28 saves) for the 1-0 Boston U. lead at 1:21.
Harvard’s Baker Shore would be sent off for Hooking at 2:20 giving the Terriers a power play. Harvard had a three on two shorthanded rush that had captain Nathan Krusko dish to Reilly Walsh in the slot. The defenseman’s shot beat Sam Tucker (23 saves) tying the game 1-1 at 2:43. While still a man down, Harvard’s Frederic Gregoire had a breakaway bid turned aside by Tucker (4-4-5 coming in).
Freshman Ethan Phillips deked on Walsh just inside the Crimson zone and fired a shot from the left face-off dot. The puck bounced off of forward Robert Mastrosimone and into the Harvard net at 7:30 putting the Terriers back on top 2-1.
A Slashing call on BU defenseman Sean Driscoll at 8:32 would give the Crimson their first power play.
With roughly five minutes remaining in the period a defensive zone turnover by Harvard led to Zegras having a scoring opportunity that slid along the Crimson goal line. Seconds later Matthew Quercia fed Sam Stevens but Gornet (3-1 entering this game) was there for the save.
A Tripping call on the Terriers Gabriel Chabot at 16:23 gave the Crimson their second power play of the period. The Terriers had the best scoring bid of the two minutes when Harper’s shot was kicked aside by Gornet.
As the period wound down Gregoire would be penalized for High-Sticking. The delayed penalty lasted until the buzzer sounded to end the period. BU outshot Harvard 12-8 for the period.
The Terriers power play didn’t convert on the fresh sheet of ice to open the second.
At 5:41 BU’s Jamie Armstrong was whistled for Boarding. Once again the Terriers held the Crimson power play in check.
Harper fired a shot from the top of the right circle that was stopped by the handle of Gornet’s goalie stick with roughly six minutes left in the period.
With a delayed penalty call coming to Harvard’s Walsh for Roughing, Patrick Curry one-timed a cross ice feed from David Farrance past Gornet for the 3-1 lead at 16:27. Farrance took a Kasper Kotkansalo pass at the top of the left circle, skated to the face-off dot and saucered the puck to a wide open Curry at the opposite face-off dot. The goal was Curry’s 10th of the season.
BU would outshoot Harvard 10-6 for the period, for a 22-14 edge after two periods of action.
The Crimson opened the third playing the best hockey of the evening. A solid shift from Jack Donato, Krusko and Gregoire had a flurry of opportunities for the trio when Donato fired off a shot from the slot that Tucker saved, Gregoire pounced on the rebound only to have it knocked away from goal by BU’s Case McCarthy. Krusko had a swipe at the lose puck but missed.
Defenseman Cam Crotty second goal of the season added to the Boston U. lead when he blasted a slapshot past Gornet at 5:09. Armstrong won the puck in the corner and dished to Crotty at the top of the right circle, the junior’s blast beat Gornet far-side.
Despite surrendering four goals, Gornet was solid all night. One of his best sequences came after the fourth goal. A shot from a Terrier defenseman was saved by Gornet, the rebound was corralled by Armstrong in front of goal. The freshman spun on a Crimson defender firing the puck on net, Gornet turned it aside but the next rebound went straight to Zegras who fired it back on from the left of goal. Gornet was unable to tie up the loose puck and Zegras fired off another shot from behind the goal line that Gornet stopped while lying on his side on the ice.
Harvard responded with pressure in the Terrier zone but a Boarding call on first-year forward Nick Abruzzese at 9:51 stunted that. Jack Drury‘s back-checking on Zegras stopped the freshman’s mini-breakaway bid on the power play. The Terriers used their time-out at 10:52.
Driscoll was whistled for his second penalty of the game at 13:57. This time for Cross-Checking. On the ensuing man advantage Abruzzese carried the puck into the Terrier zone and dished to Walsh trailing the play. Walsh then fired a pass down low that Drury poked past Tucker making it 4-2 at 15:25.
After this goal Harvard hit the post on shot attempt, then John Farinacci’s rebound attempt sailed over the BU goal.
The Crimson used their timeout at 18:25. At 18:47 Harper’s sixth goal of the season sealed the deal for BU. The empty net goal came on a neutral zone clearing attempt by the senior forward. Crotty would get the assist. The Terriers outshot the Crimson 33-25 for the evening.
The win was Boston U.’s first in four games, a 3-0 win over Vermont on November 22. For the Crimson it was their second straight loss after starting the season 6-0.
“In road games you want to get on a team early,” said senior Krusko. “You want to take away the energy from their building. I felt like we didn’t do it good enough tonight. I felt like we were in and out. A lot of the lines couldn’t sustain any offense. We played a lot of ‘run and gun’ which is not the way we want to play. It just took too long for us to get to our game and by that time when you play catch up with good teams you’re not going to win many games. We definitely wanted better.”
“I thought tonight we chased the game,” said Harvard’s Ted Donato. “I thought BU won the majority of the one on one battles, won the races to pucks, and I think we gave them goals too easily. Those first two goals they didn’t have to work very hard for. I think the first 10 minutes the game was pretty sloppy, we traded chances, and I also think we took a couple of penalties that were unnecessary. It didn’t allow us to get to our game. I really didn’t feel like we really started to skate until the third period.”
“It comes back to the fact that you have to play sixty minutes against good hockey teams, on the road,” said Donato. “We didn’t make things competitive enough to find victory on our side.”
“It was nice to score a couple of goals,” joked BU coach Albie O’Connell. “Two games not scoring, it was nice to get goals, especially early. We got off to a good start. The guys played well from the start of the game to the end of the game.”
“I think we’re starting to find our groove a little bit as far as the way we need to play. I think we went to the net better, I think we shot the puck more tonight. Young team, they’re starting to listen a little bit. It was a huge win. That’s a really good hockey team. I thought we had pretty good stretches where we controlled the game.”
“I think we’ve been playing good,” said Zegras. “The puck just hasn’t been going in the net. Today we scrambled the lines a little bit. That might have sparked something but I think we’re playing pretty good.”
“Yes, there’s been an a huge emphasis the last two games of really going to the net,” added Crotty. “A lot of the goals are scored around the net, within ten feet, some of them aren’t the prettiest goals but that’s where you have to be to create so many opportunities.”
“It was huge,” said Crotty of the win. “We’ve had an up and down season so far. A lot of games we flirted with, we’d play fifty solid minutes and then for ten minutes we fall asleep. I think tonight was probably the first game in a long time that we’ve put together a complete game and it really paid off for us so this game could mean everything for our season or it can be just an after thought. We just got to keep going, build off this for sure.”