Boston, Ma. – Sophomore forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine took advantage of teammate Jordan Harris’ crossing up the Harvard University Crimson defense at the blue line to skate in alone on Crimson goalie Mitchell Gibson and net the game-winning goal just twenty-five seconds into overtime in front of 4,018 Northeastern Huskies fans at Matthews Arena on Monday night.
“I saw that I had time and Jordo (Jordan Harris) took both defensemen with him,” said Fontaine of the game-winner. “They kind of collided with each other and I got the breakaway from there. (Julian) Kislin told me to shoot glove on the goalie and it worked out pretty well for me.”
It wasn’t the first or second Monday night in February but for a few hours the historic old barn felt like TD Garden and the Beanpot as the #17 Huskies hosted the #10 Crimson in a non-conference Top 20 showdown on the second Monday in November. The Crimson came into the game as one of the nation’s most prolific scoring machines, averaging six goals a game through their first four games. The Crimson is also the top-ranked power-play in the nation at a 70% clip.
No slouches, the Huskies are the fourth-best team on the penalty kill at just under a 95% kill rate through 10 games. Northeastern boasts the sixth-best Goals Against per game at 1.64. A huge part of that success is sophomore goalie Devon Levi who carries a .945 save percentage and four shutouts along with that 1.64 GAA.
The defense was the key as both teams were held in check offensively during the Huskies’ 2-1 win. The first period didn’t generate many chances as the Crimson outshot the Huskies 6-3 in the first 20 minutes of play. The two teams traded a few scoring chances but most of the pressure was generated by the Crimson, especially a few scrambles in front of Levi (20 saves) during the final two minutes of action. The Huskies blocked seven Crimson shot attempts in the period.
In the Second the Huskies had a breakaway bid early by freshman Justin Hryckowian but he was turned away by Gibson (15 saves). The game pace picked up when Huskies forward Jakov Novak was called for Tripping at 2:36 giving the vaunted Crimson power-play their first chance of the evening. The Huskies almost killed off the penalty but defenseman Henry Thrun‘s slapshot from just inside the Huskies blue line beat Levi at the blocker-side post for the 1-0 lead. Senior Casey Dornbach and sophomore Sean Farrell assisted on Thrun’s second of the year.
The two teams traded sets of power-plays in the period but neither team was able to capitalize. The Huskies did tie the game though at 17:17 when defenseman Jeremie Bucheler banged in a Hryckowian cross-ice pass at the top of the crease for his first of the year. Matt Demelis carried into the Crimson zone and dished to a trailing Hryckowian who found Bucheler on the Huskies three-on-two rush to even the score at 1-1.
The third period was a frantic back and forth battle. The Crimson had a Five-Minute Major power-play at 4:08 when Huskies junior Aidan McDonough was penalized a 10-minute Game Misconduct for the hit on Harvard’s Austin Wong, forward Alex Mella would serve McDonough’s Kneeing penalty. Wong would not return to the game. Harvard had four shots on goal and a few more blocked but couldn’t take advantage of the extra skater.
The Huskies had a power-play of their own at 9:57 when Harvard defenseman Kyle Aucoin was sent off for Holding. The Crimson held the Huskies to zero shots on goal during the penalty kill.
After sixty minutes of action and the score knotted at 1-1 Harvard was outshooting Northeastern 21-16 but trailing in the face-offs won category 23-21.
In overtime, the Crimson lost the opening face-off and that was all she wrote. One more shot on goal was all that was needed to send the Huskies and the Dog House into a frenzy at the Northeastern end of the ice. Fontaine corralled the puck in the Huskies zone and went end to end during the three-on-three to beat Gibson glove-side for the 2-1 win. The Nashville Predators draft pick was hit with an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty for his celebration as he zip past the Crimson bench on his way back towards the Huskies student sections.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Fontaine. “Harvard was 4-0 coming in. It was going to be a good test, they battled hard. We did what we needed to in our D-zone. We capitalized when we needed to and got a big two points out of that.”
“It’s not going to work every night,” said Harvard’s Dornbach. “We have some things to work on. It’s early and we just have to build on it.”
“It stings right after but we’ll get some objectivity when we take a step back and watch it,” added the centerman from Edina, MN.
“We just got crossed up a little bit,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “We just got caught a little bit flat-footed and they cut back to the middle and they were in. It was a nice play by them, but certainly not a great defense for us. We had chances to get that second goal. We didn’t generate enough shots and second opportunities and Levi is a heck of a goalie. We needed to puck pucks on him and get some rebounds. We didn’t do that often enough.”
“That was a great college hockey game,” said first-year Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe. “I thought both teams went at it pretty good tonight. I was proud of our guys the way they committed to playing the right way against a really talented team. We stuck to it.”
“It was a great win for our group, to get the fan support that we did tonight, the Dog House was awesome up there,” said Keefe. “I know that meant a lot to our players and our coaches. To find a way to get that win was big for us.”
The Crimson (4-1) travel to the north country of New York for a pair of ECAC games against Clarkson (4-4-1) on Friday and St. Lawrence (2-2-3) on Saturday. The Huskies (8-3) take on the UMass-Lowell River Hawks (4-1-2) on Friday at Tsongas Center Arena for Hockey East action.