Harvard beats Yale, 6-4 in wild, back-and-forth ECAC quarterfinals Game 1

BOSTON, Mass. – The Bulldogs scored four goals and were flying around Boston with great speed, utilizing pin-point passing and a ferocious fore-check that enabled the Yale men’s hockey team to take a pair of one-goal leads. However, it wasn’t enough against the nation’s No. 2 ranked team. Harvard, which improved its unbeaten streak to 13 games by remaining undefeated at home this year, captured game one of the best-of-three ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal series 6-4 in a wild, back-and-forth game.

The loss spoiled a two-goal, three-point effort by Yale sophomore forward Joe Snively, who now has 14 goals and a team-high 38 points. It also makes Saturday’s 7 p.m. face-off a must-win for the Bulldogs, who fell to 13-14-5 overall.

Harvard (23-5-2) used a pair of power-play goals and two comebacks to earn its second win of the year against the Elis. The rivals skated to a tie in the other meeting.

The Bulldogs, who outshot the Crimson 13-10 in the first period, thought sophomore J.M. Piotrowksi gave them the game’s first goal 5:25 in. However, that was taken away after video review due to goalie interference. Freshman forward Will D’Orsi came into the crease and was shoved by goalie Merrick Madsen as Piotrowski was shooting from the top of the right circle. Harvard scored 63 seconds later and the home team took a 1-0 lead into the first break.

The Elis had trouble getting the puck out of their own end on the first shift and then moved the puck swiftly and carefully down to the offensive end the rest of the frame. That, combined with an excellent fore-check, had the Crimson fighting to get out of their own end at times.

Sam Tucker (27 saves) made a number of tough saves among his nine in the opening period. The best one may have been his lateral slide and body save on Lewis Zerter-Gossage 4:02 into the contest.

Things were starting to look bleak for the Bulldog boys after Harvard began the middle frame by scoring to go up 2-0. Instead of putting their tails between their legs, Yale decided to put its sticks on more shots… and the goals came.

The visitors notched three straight in 2: 41 to take a 3-2 lead before the Crimson scored with an advantage. Another Bulldog tally late in the frame sent the New Haveners into the second intermission with a 4-3 lead.

Snively’s put-back at 8:03 cut the deficit in half, and then Chris Izmirlian, who stole the puck at the Harvard blueline, set up Mike Doherty for his fourth goal in three games at 9:25. Doherty’s shot from the high slot found the net for his sixth of the year.

Snively set up rookie Luke Stevens at 10:44 for his second career tally to give the Blue its first lead. After Luke Esposito scored his second of the night, Snively was at it again with help from the Yale defense. Blueliner Anthony Walsh, under pressure from a Cantab fore-check, got the puck across to Adam Larkin, who spotted the team’s top point man open in neutral ice. Larkin flicked a pass off the glass to Snively, who came in alone on Madsen and went low stick side with 3:03 left in the second.

Harvard scored early again in the third to even the game at 4-4 and then jumped on another advantage to snare its second lead. The opportunity to get that fifth goal came from a slashing call on John Hayden when he tried to get his stick on a puck that was partially controlled by Madsen. The Yale captain got hit by a Harvard player after the whistle, so it appeared to be the routine no call situation or a pair of minor matching penalties. That’s not how the zebras saw it.

Harvard, which managed to avoid a penalty in wild third period filled with dangerous-looking hits all over the place on both sides, added another tally to put it away. One of those hits was a blind-side, punch to the back of Hayden’s head behind the play in the Harvard end. It was all too obvious to everyone sitting on that end of the rink, but not enough to draw a whistle.

Yale did an amazing job to come within three shots of Harvard in the third as the ice titled for the home team and its three power plays.

BULLDOG BITES

The Bulldogs were playing a second straight game without senior forward Frankie DiChiara, who got injured in the first game of the Dartmouth series… Sean Backman ’10, skating at forward for the AHL Ontario Reign (formerly the Manchester Monarchs), is third on the team with 30 points while wearing the same No. 16 he had at Yale… Alex Lyon ’17 had a 31-save shutout a few night ago for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms against a top AHL team.

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