Waltham, MA- Harvard has ridden a curious roller coaster this season. The Crimson entered their final game before exams hovering around .500 and seeking a winning record and strong end to the 2018 calendar year. After a bitter loss to ancient rival Cornell, Harvard traveled to Waltham for the first time in program history to face the Bentley Falcons at their new home, the Bentley Arena. The infrequent yet nearby foes combined for a physical and entertaining confrontation in front of a loud and mostly full Bentley Arena. Harvard’s experience ultimately won out.
Neither team gained a clear advantage in the first period. Harvard only won the shot battle 9-8 and Bentley provided plenty of pushback. Each team committed two penalties. Neither scored on the power play, which is particularly impressive for Bentley’s penalty kill stopping Harvard’s national leading power play. Michael Lackey and Aiden Pelino held their own in net and kept the game scoreless into the first intermission.
Bentley tilted the ice for much of the second period with heavy checks and hits. They outshot the Crimson 7-3 and had the only power play of the period. Lackey held his own, and Harvard netted the only goal of the period. Freshman Jack Drury took a Casey Dornbach pass and ripped one through Pelino for a Harvard lead. Bentley battled through the frame, highlighted by 5’9″ Jonathan Desbiens upending 6’4″ Jacob Olson in transition. But Harvard maintained their lead.
The third period was even and increased the chippiness. Bentley again got the only power play but didn’t score on the advantage. Meanwhile, Jack Donato extended the Crimson lead to 2-0 with a perfect bar-down ping from the slot. Bentley showed some fight and rewarded their fans with Brendan Hamblet’s wrister through Lackey to cut the lead down to 2-1. Unfortunately, the Falcons did not land the equalizer and fell to the Crimson 2-1.
Bentley slips to 5-10-1 in their last game before the break. Head Coach Ryan Soderquist thought well of his team’s effort.
“That was a really good college hockey game,” Soderquist said. “Overall, I thought it was a good 60-minute effort. Over the course of the season, if you give those efforts, you’re gonna find yourself in a good spot most nights. Unfortunately, tonight we were on the wrong side of it.”
The Falcons sit for exams and return to the ice on December 30th, with a road game against the New Hampshire Wildcats. Puck drop at the Whittemore Center is at 5 pm. The team does not return home until January 5th, when they host the Dartmouth College Big Green. Puck drops back at Bentley Arena at 5:05 pm.
Harvard ends their first half at 5-4-2. Sophomore Jack Donato spoke well of his team’s ability to handle the Falcon attack and the schedule.
“This time of year, it starts to take a bit of wear and tear on your body,” Donato said. “We played Friday and Saturday, two very good, competitive games; we knew we needed these two points, we wanted to build off it going into the break. We hadn’t played Bentley in a long time. They’re a good team, I thought we did just enough to win the game. We didn’t have our best, but good teams find ways to win and that’s what I thought we did.”
Jack’s father, and Crimson Head Coach, Ted Donato, echoed his son’s sentiments.
“It was a tight game all the way through. Neither team gave up a lot of opportunities,” Donato said. “This is a tough time of year for college hockey in general. You’ve got two teams that are playing their last game before the break. You’ve got two teams that I’m sure academically have a lot of challenges going into exams and final papers being due. It is a challenge to play three games in five nights like both teams did.”
Harvard sits for exams and returns to the ice with an exhibition game against the Chinese National Team at Bright-Landry on December 30th. Puck drop is at 4:30 pm. The Crimson’s next regular season game is January 4th against the RPI Engineers, also at Bright-Landry. Puck drop is slated for 7:30 pm.