Snapping a three game losing streak, the No. 12 Big Green men's hockey team came up with a 3-2 win against Harvard University in a fiercely contested game at Thompson Arena on Saturday evening. Though the game remained competitive until the final buzzer, a tip in goal by Big Green forward Jesse Beamish '15 with close to seven minutes remaining proved to be the game winner.
"We definitely needed to get over the hill," captain Mike Keenan '13 said. "But now we start looking forward."
The Big Green (9-5-2, 5-3-1 ECAC) conceded the first goal of the contest 13 minutes into the first period, when the defense could not stop an end-to-end run featuring some pretty stick work by Harvard (5-8-1, 3-6 ECAC) attacker Jimmy Vesey, who finished into the upper left corner of the net to give the Crimson a 1-0 lead.
Despite being forced to also defend a Harvard power play in the first period, the Big Green, who have conceded the fewest goals against the power play of any ECAC team, held steady.
"I thought we played really strongly, but we came out on the short end of the scoreboard in the first period," Coach Bob Gaudet said. "We found that extra gear about halfway through the first period, so my message was come out doing the same things, get pucks at the goalies feet."
The strategy worked for the Big Green, who equalized on a finish by forward Matt Lindblad 14 only four minutes into the second period with President-elect Philip Hanlon '77 looking on from the stands.
The opening moments of the second period were also marked by several displays of physicality, including a scuffle one minute in to the period that lead to penalties for both Crimson and Big Green players, leading the crowd to voice its vocal disapproval of the decision.
"Coming out for a new period, it's always good to step up and play physically," Keenan said.
As a result of penalties in the second period the Big Green went on the power play where they executed to take the lead on a goal by forward Nick Bligh '16.
"Power plays and special teams [on defense and offense] are all about hard work," Goalie Cab Morris '14 said. "Our coaches do a great job working with us on making sure we're all doing our jobs."
Morris, who made a spectacular save to prevent the Crimson from doubling their lead early in the first period, later found himself on the unfortunate end of a scrum in the front of the net early into the third, as Harvard stormed back to equalize on a goal netted with 16 minutes left to play.
"Our defenseman made a great block, but the puck got tipped and got into the air," Morris said.
Following the equalizer the Big Green once again reasserted itself on the game, providing constant pressure that saw forward Eric Neiley '15 skate past two defenders and nearly find a finish before being forced wide of the net with 12 minutes left to play. The pressure was eventually rewarded by Beamish's goal, which regained the lead for the Big Green and caused the home crowd of 4,381 to rise to its feet.
While Harvard pushed for a goal to take the game into overtime even taking its goalie off the ice and using five attackers in the game's waning moments the Big Green emerged victorious, running its record at home to 8-1 on the season.
"The whole preparation at home helps, we're very comfortable here," Keenan said. "The fans tonight were great, and even on break, we still had sold out games."
The Big Green entered the game reeling from three consecutive losses, all in tightly contested games decided by one goal that were characterized by Coach Gaudet as "winnable." The win pushes the Big Green into a tie for third in the ECAC standings with Union College and Yale University, who the Big Green face next Saturday on the road. The Big Green also moved into first place in the Ivy League standings.
"It's huge for us," Coach Gaudet said, commenting on the win.
The Crimson, who entered the game on a high having knocked of highly ranked Boston University last Wednesday, came up short in their third consecutive game against a ranked opponent, and fell into a tie for 6th in the ECAC standings.