Harvard’s No. 9 men’s ice hockey posts mixed results in winter break ahead of critical period | Sports

Harvard’s men’s ice hockey team faces a packed schedule in the coming weeks, with home games against No. 16 Cornell and No. 1 Quinnipiac preceding the first round of the Beanpot Tournament against No. 18 Boston College. Despite the return of key players to the roster in recent weeks, including senior forward and captain John Farinacci, the Crimson are still looking for consistency as they seek to move past a mixed winter break and achieve its pace thanks to a difficult schedule.

“I think we’re still forming some chemistry and different combinations,” head coach Ted Donato said. “We have to be able to…find different ways to be successful when teams are trying to be very strong defensively and clutter the neutral zone. I think we need to find a way to… use our speed to get into the forecheck and be able to play and generate offensive chances that way.

In its first game after winter break on December 30, the Crimson faced the No. 5 Boston University Terriers at Walter Brown Arena in a top-10 matchup. Terriers forward Quinn Hutson scored on the power play just over two minutes into the game, but senior goaltender Mitchell Gibson and UB goaltender Drew Commesso quickly took control. Although he allowed the opening goal, Gibson put on a stellar performance and Commesso tied it except to save until a late tying goal from second-year forward Matthew Coronato. Although Harvard forced extra time late in the third period, Terriers captain Domenick Fensore scored in the run with less than a minute left in overtime, securing a hard-fought 2-1 win for BU.

“I felt like we put up a fight, but I don’t think we were as strong as we could have been,” Donato said of the loss to the Terriers.

Despite a tough loss less than 48 hours earlier, Harvard started 2023 on a high, beating the Northeastern University Huskies 8-4 in front of a sold-out New Year’s Day crowd. Six different Crimson players scored, including junior forward Ryan Drkulec and freshman forward Philip Tresca, who each scored their first college goals. Although Harvard controlled the game early and held a 3-0 advantage early in the second period, the Huskies quickly came to life, tying the game late in the period. However, late second-period goals from freshmen Casey Severo and Joe Miller restored the Crimson advantage, and Tresca and junior forward Alex Laferriere put the finishing touches to the third-period win.

Harvard began its first road trip of 2023 against the Princeton Tigers on Jan. 6. After a scoreless first period, the Tigers took control in the second period, riding two goals from captain Liam Gorman for a 3-0 lead in the final 20 minutes of action. However, the Crimson refused to go quietly. Coronato reduced the powerplay deficit midway through the third period, and goals from Miller and Coronato 16 seconds apart late in regulation sent the game tied at OT at 3-3. In overtime, an outstanding individual effort from Laferriere provided the game-winner, completing Harvard’s comeback and the Crimson’s season sweep against the Tigers.

Despite the thrilling win over Princeton, Harvard’s momentum stalled the following night against the Quinnipiac Bobcats. The Bobcats, currently ranked No. 1 in the NCAA, are second nationally in goals per game and first in goals against per game. Quinnipiac scored twice on the board in the first period, creating an attack on a partial breakaway and a well-executed back-and-forth. The Bobcats extended their second-period lead by cleaning up a lively rebound in front of the net, and while sophomore forward Alex Gaffney pulled the Crimson in half with a goal early in the third period, Quinnipiac goaltender Yaniv Perets, who ranks fourth in the nation with a 1.75 goals-against average, slammed the door on a potential comeback with a strong third period, handing Harvard its first loss of 2023.

“I think Quinnipiac played a really good game,” Donato said. “We weren’t able to do enough in the first half not to continue the game.”

Junior forward Sean Farrell goes on offense against Cornell on November 5, 2021. Farrell is the Crimson's leading scorer this season.

Junior forward Sean Farrell goes on offense against Cornell on November 5, 2021. Farrell is the Crimson’s leading scorer this season. By Owen A. Berger

Returning home on January 13, Harvard overcame an early deficit to defeat Clarkson University 4-1. Junior goaltender Derek Mullahy, seeing his first action since November, had an excellent performance, saving 25 of 26 shots. Farinacci also joined the roster for his first game of the season, registering two power-play assists after returning from injury.

“It’s nice to be back, after a really long months away. I feel a lot better physically,” Farinacci said. “There’s nothing like playing games.”

Within the first six minutes of the game, Thrun was boxed for interference and gave the Golden Knights a power play, which they converted via a goal from All-American Alex Campbell. Coronato responded immediately, capitalizing on Harvard’s first power play to tie the game at 1-1 after the first period. The Crimsons led the second period with 19 shots on goal, but Clarkson goaltender Ethan Haider held off the onslaught. Harvard continued their offensive aggression in the third period, starting with a power play advantage carried over from late in the second. Again, the Crimson capitalized, as junior forward Sean Farrell put Harvard ahead 2-1. Goals from Gaffney and Miller later in the third period provided essential insurance, giving the Crimson a 4-1 victory when their captain returned to action.

“John is a really important part of our group… he’s been a leader for us and a real productive player everywhere in every situation; an older, more mature center ice player who has had great games, whether in the league or even at the U.S. Junior World Championships,” Donato said.

The following night, with Mullahy again between the posts, the Crimsons hosted the St. Lawrence Saints at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Harvard started with a dominant first period, scoring three on 13 shots, Farrell scoring two and Miller scoring one. Miller and first-year defenseman Ryan Healey capped the scoring with second-period goals, and Mullahy continued his strong weekend in net, making 23 saves for his first career shutout.

“I think we had guys in and out of the lineup, which a lot of teams do, but I think we took a step in the right direction last weekend,” Donato said.

In the Crimson’s second meeting of the season with Yale on January 20, Harvard defeated the Bulldogs in a 3-2 overtime win. With Gibson back in net after a weekend off, the Bulldogs gave the Crimsons all they could handle, taking the game’s first lead midway through the first period. Harvard didn’t respond for the rest of the first, but came out strong in the second, with goals from Miller and freshman defenseman Mason Langenbrunner (the first of his career) putting the Crimson back in front. Yale tied the game four minutes later, and after a scoreless third period the bitter rivals headed to extra time tied at 2-2. After an additional back-and-forth session, Coronato scored the game-winning goal with 19 seconds left, using a series of moves in the crease to slide the game-winner and secure Harvard’s season sweep against the Bulldogs. .

Despite Friday’s thrilling win, Harvard fell flat in a Saturday night loss to the Brown Bears. Brown came out fast, scoring in the first three minutes of the game. However, Farrell responded less than a minute later, scoring his 14th goal and 29th point of the season. The game remained tied until the second period, when the Bears scored twice to claim a 3-1 advantage heading into the third period. The Crimson increased the pressure on Brown in the third, beating the Bears 19-2, but despite a late count from Farrell, Brown held on for a 3-2 victory.

“I think we’re always trying to find the right recipe to find consistent success,” Donato said.

With players moving in and out of the lineup, Harvard’s line combinations have often been in flux, but Farinacci believes the team’s strong chemistry will make any adjustments seamless.

“We’re all pretty close in the team…you can kind of bring anybody together and make things happen, which I think is a big part of our team,” Farinacci said. “Whatever happens, I think everyone is ready for it.”

Harvard has a two-game home game this coming weekend, taking on ECAC rivals Colgate and Cornell. Both will bring competitive hockey to Bright-Landry, especially Saturday against longtime rival No. 16 Cornell.

“Our guys will be thrilled to have these intense, emotional and important games ahead,” Donato said.

—Editor Aaron B. Shuchman can be reached at aaron.shuchman@thecrimson.com.

— Editor Bridget T. Sands can be reached at bridget.sands@thecrimson.com.

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