Crimson Score 3 Times in Final Four Minutes to Force OT
Allston, MA – The Harvard Crimson offense figured out Jack Watson (42 saves) and the RPI Engineers in the final minutes of regulation to pull off the come from behind 4-3 overtime victory in front of 778 fans at Bright-Landry Center on Friday night. Game One of the ECAC Quarterfinal was going according to the Engineers’ plan for the first 55 minutes of play.
Senior Jack Donato’s goal at the two-minute mark of the overtime period sent the Crimson players wildly over the boards to celebrate the improbable win.
“We cycled the puck a little down low, I saw we went D to D with (Jack) Bar and (Henry) Thrun, I was in the high slot,” said OT hero Jack Donato of his game-winning goal. “He (Thrun) saw my stick and he put a perfect shot, maybe an inch off the ice pretty hard. I knew I got a good piece of it, but I couldn’t really tell if had went in or if it had missed the net.”
“(Zackary) Karpa was standing in front of the net and he’s a big kid,” added Donato. “As soon as I saw him turn around and start celebrating and knew it went in. It’s still kind of a blur right now.”
“Anytime you get to win a playoff game it’s pretty cool,” said Donato of the biggest goal of his career so far. “It was pretty awesome to be able to get mauled by all your teammates. I was able to enjoy it a little bit but as soon as I get back to the (locker) room the focus is on taking game two.”
Watson was cruising with a 3-0 lead aided by two goals from senior Ture Linden in the first and second periods, along with a third-period strike from junior Rory Hermann. The RPI defenders were frustrating the Crimson through the neutral zone all game. Watson was swallowing up everything the Crimson put on goal when Harvard could fire off their shots.
“It was a crazy game. I give a lot of credit to RPI. They executed better and were more willing to win puck battles early on in the game,” said Harvard Head Coach Ted Donato. “Their execution and intensity was greater than ours.”
“I thought in the second period we started to turn the game and started to get our legs underneath us and started moving the puck quicker,” added Harvard’s coach. “(Jack) Watson looked like he was seeing everything pretty well, and he made a couple big saves in the first half of the game.”
The tide turned when Harvard goalie Mitchell Gibson (21 Saves) stonewalled RPI’s Ottoville Leppanen on a breakaway attempt at 12:40 of the third.
After that save, RPI had only two shots on the net that weren’t long-range six-on-five attempts.
“Absolutely. Gibby (Mitchell Gibson), that breakaway, trying to go five-hole, that was huge save for us,” said the younger Donato. “That kind of gave us the confidence to say ‘we can do this’ and he kept us in it most of the night. He made some big saves down the stretch that allowed us to find our game late and we wouldn’t have been there without him.”
I asked @HarvardMHockey @DonatoTed why he called T.O. @ 1:17 on an @RPI_Hockey icing. He didn’t say he wanted to see what @RPI_HockeyCoach was drawing up. But I’m pretty sure it’s what #HailToThee HC wanted to say to me postgame 😂 #GoCrimson https://t.co/9CXK1vw3dJ
— PuckingOff™ (Jason Scales) (@PuckingOff) March 12, 2022
Gibson was pulled for the extra skater for the first time at the 15:18 mark. A minute later, defenseman Marshall Rifai gave the Crimson life when he blasted a slapshot from the blue line through traffic past Watson to make it 3-1. Nick Abruzesse and John Farinacci assisted on Rifai’s fifth goal.
Harvard again pulled Gibson with 3:08 remaining. RPI used their timeout after an icing at 17:57. Harvard made it 3-2 five seconds later off the ensuing face-off. Farinacci won the face-off to Alex Laferriere, who dished to Ryan Seidem at the blue line. The 6’2″ junior unleashed a shot that beat Watson to cut the deficit to one.
Once again, the Crimson emptied the goal for the six-on-five; this time, Gibson hit the bench with 1:40 left. The Crimson used their time out at 1:17 on another Engineers’ icing.
Matthew Coronato tied the game with 15 seconds left when he banged in a rebound at the left post. Watson made the initial saves on a Henry Thrun slapper from the blue line off the face-off. Then he stuffed Casey Dornbach’s rebound attempt before Coronato capped off the regulation scoring. The goal was Coronato’s 14th.
Harvard forward Alex Gaffney went to the penalty box at 11:26 for Tripping putting the visiting Engineers on the man-advantage. RPI capitalized when senior Ture Linden banged a shot through the legs of Crimson goalie Gibson at 12:28, putting RPI ahead 1-0. Leppanen and TJ Walsh assisted Linden’s first goal of the game.
Linden added to the lead at 5:29 of the second. The senior from Great Falls, VA., scored his 20th goal when he capitalized on the Engineers rush. Linden beat Gibson with a shot from the bottom of the left circle to make it 2-0 RPI.
Hermann made it 3-0 Engineers at 2:07 when he knocked a rebound past a diving Gibson at the left post. Walsh and Jack Brackett assisted Hermann’s third goal.
“I thought it was a really good hockey game,” said RPI head coach Dave Smith. “It went according to script for 55 minutes and their offense got some momentum and they got the win from it.”
The two will meet again for Game Two on Saturday at Bright-Landry. The puck drop is at 7:00 pm EST.