CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – It looked as though that the New Hampshire Wildcats would have smooth sailing early on in Tuesday night’s game at the Bright Hockey Center, but the Harvard Crimson offense mounted an emphatic comeback to score a 7-6 victory in their first non-conference contest of the season.
“Obviously, we are happy to get the win,” said Harvard head coach and former Boston Bruin Ted Donato. “It was quite a crazy game. It looked like every puck that went towards the net had a chance of going in there for a while.”
“We just talked about, you know let’s just give ourselves a reason to hold our heads high walking out of here,” he added. “Just go out there and play hard…I am really proud of the way the guys persevered.”
Harvard went down by four goals in the first period, but came back to score the most goals in one game since an 11-0 victory over Quinnipiac on March 14, 2008.
It was a very busy first period in the Harvard zone as the Wildcats potted four goals against two Crimson goaltenders, seeing 18 total chances in the process and 13 shots on the net.
“[I think the win] was a big confidence boost for our team,” said Harvard freshman Colin Blackwell, who played his high school hockey at St. John’s Prep. “I think we came into the first intermission. I think a couple guys had their heads down, but the older guys brought us back together as a team and said, ‘Hey, it can get much worse than this. We just got to go out there and finish our checks, get pucks in deep….”
Just 1:23 into the proceedings, freshman Grayson Downing scored his third of the season as he hugged the right post and beat Crimson sophomore starter Raphael Girard.
On the first power-play chance of the contest, leading scorer Kevin Goumas poked in a rebound off a pass from sophomore Nick Sorkin at the 5:20 mark. The goal was the second given up by Girard, a native of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, and he was then replaced by freshman Steve Michalek.
Michalek did not fare much stronger as he allowed two more goals for UNH in the opening 20 minutes. At 8:18, Greg Burke scored another lowly rebound goal inside the goaltender’s crease.
Freshman Trevor van Reimsdyk redirected Downing’s shot from the left point at the 11:56 mark to account for the fourth Wildcat goal of the stanza.
The heavy scoring load continued in the second period, except Harvard mounted a comeback to score four goals on senior Matt DiGirolamo compared to UNH’s one on Michalek.
Senior Alex Killorn scored a power-play goal at 6:50 of the first period as he fired a wide-open wrist shot past a down-and-out DiGirolamo from the mid-slot for Harvard’s first score of the game.
“I think once we got that first one,” Blackwell said. “The floodgates started opening and we finally started to play Harvard Hockey…They might have got a little too comfortable and we were not going to give up then.”
At 8:21, senior Eric Kroshus fired a screened wrist shot from the middle of the left circle, over DiGirolamo’s shoulder to make it 4-2, but the Wildcats responded on the shorthand at 14:14 when van Reimsdyk passed to sophomore Kevin Goumas for a open drive from the slot for the score.
“When we got the fifth goal, I thought we gained it back and thought we were going to be OK,” UNH head coach Dick Umile stated. “But they came out in the second and just took it away from us…I thought we’d get our composure back and start winning some battles.”
With two minutes to go in the second, Boston Bruins draft pick and junior Alex Fallstrom scored five-hole on DiGirolamo on a shot from the middle of the slot. Killorn scored his second of the game with just five seconds remaining as he took Fallstrom’s pass and beat a sleeping DiGirolamo.
In the second, UNH held a 23-20 advantage in total chances, while Harvard finished with the slight edge in shots on goal at 13-12.
The Crimson netted the equalizer at 6:51 of the final period as the North Andover, Mass. native, Blackwell banged in his second of his freshman season on a rebound in front of DiGirolamo’s cage.
Blackwell was credited with the go-ahead goal at 12:02 of the third as he was parked in front of a Dan Ford drive from the point to tip the puck past DiGirolamo for his second of the contest and third of the season.
With 1:25 left, junior David Valek scored an empty-netter from his own defensive zone to make it 7-5, but Stevie Moses scored one final time with just three seconds remaining in the contest.
“That was pathetic,” Umile concluded. “I just told them that was pathetic the way we lost the game. We gave it a way. We have a 4-0 lead, go through the motions thinking it was going to be an easy game…We did not block any shots.”
“It was not a very good game at all…I did not like the way we handled it.”
DiGirolamo finished the game with 23 saves, while Michalek made 24 saves to earn his third victory of the season. Girard made four saves in the first 5:20 of the contest before being pulled. The Wildcats totaled 34 shots to Harvard’s 30 in the contest, including 9-8 in the final period.
“I just thought both goals were just not great goals,” Donato said when speaking of his decision to pull Girard after allowing just two shots beat him. “They were both short-side, both not necessarily scoring chances. Every guy in that locker room has had nights when we have not been our best.”
“It’s really about the fact that our guys were able to pick it up after the puck seemed to get in out net pretty easily.”
The Wildcats return home this Saturday night to host Alabama-Huntsville at the Whittemore Center. Harvard travels to Dartmouth on Friday.