BOSTON — Harvard overcame a 5-2 third period deficit and scored with 48 seconds remaining in overtime to defeat Boston University, 6-5, at Agganis Arena on Wednesday night. The win halts a six-game winless streak for Harvard; most of which came during a tumultuous month that saw four players leave the university due to their role in an academic dishonesty scandal.
Conor Morrison picked up his first goal of the season on a breakaway to win the game for the Crimson. Goals from Marshall Everson, Luke Greiner and Colin Blackwell led the third-period surge for Harvard. BU held leads of 3-0 and 5-2, but the Terriers failed to hold or build on these leads.
The game marked the first meeting of the O’Regan brothers. Both BU freshman Danny (two goals and an assist) and Harvard sophomore Tommy (a goal and two assists) picked up three points on the night. The crosstown rivals may meet again this season. However, both will need to win their opening Beanpot games. Harvard takes on Boston College, while BU plays Northeastern on the first Monday in February.
What I Saw
- Boston University defensemen played their worst game of the season as a group. Not a single BU blue liner played well in his own zone on the night, leaving freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor in some tough spots. Lax play on breakouts or zone entries led to frequent turnovers and odd-man rushes for Harvard. Following the game, BU coach Jack Parker pointed to his defensemen as an especially sore spot in the game. Throughout the season, BU has come to rely on its defenders given their consistent play and contributions on both ends of the ice. Wednesday, the group looked disinterested at times, neglecting its responsibilities to join rushes and leaving Crimson forwards open below the circles as a result.
- Harvard goaltender Raphael Girard improved late in the game. However, his problems with rebound control led to BU’s leads in the first and second periods. BU’s first three goals came after Girard failed to corral initial shots. Wade Megan’s goal, which made it 3-0 BU 56 seconds into the second period, was the result of three separate attempts from Megan to jam a loose puck past Girard. Harvard’s defenseman didn’t help the situation either, leaving BU forwards open to pester Girard throughout the game.
- Harvard’s line of Jimmy Vesey, Colin Blackwell and Brian Hart was its most effective throughout the night. Altogether, the group scored two goals, and those were the only points it managed. Regardless, the trio was among the lone brightspots for the Crimson in the early parts of the game. Each player created chances and used his superb puck skills and skating to create space and find holes in the Terrier defense. With the Terriers leading, 1-0, in the first period, a series of shifts nixed lengthy spells of possession for the Terriers. Eventhough BU displayed little ability to maintain leads in the game, this could have been a 3-0 or 4-0 game after the first period. Some key saves from Girard, a few bad bounces for BU and the play of the Crimson’s gifted line kept Harvard in the game in the first.
What I Thought
- The result of this game is an important for both teams. The win ended a lengthy spell of frustration for Harvard as it heads into a crucial portion of its schedule. Similarly for BU, losing in this manner should illustrate just how quickly games and momentum can shift without focus. Playing perfect and full bore for 60 minutes is impossible. Making smart plays throughout a game, however, is not. BU needs to play better fundamentally to put games away. Simple concepts of hockey — skating, working pucks deep and others — evaded BU’s understanding Wednesday night. BU didn’t lose to Harvard because Harvard necessarily played better. BU lost this game, because they didn’t deserve to win it.
- Early in the game, BU’s forward dominated possession for the Terriers and converted chances with simple, smart plays. They moved the puck well and pestered Girard. Each of the first three BU goals came on rebounds, and they weren’t exactly accidents. The BU forwards got to the front of the net and created those chances. Even with the final result, certain portions of the game showed some positives for the Terriers. Their forwards, even smaller players, showed no fear in getting to the net and grinding out some goals.
- Wednesday was an important game for BU’s Matt Nieto. The junior scored the Terriers fourth goal on a shot from the high circle that found its way through Girard’s pads. It was just his fourth goal of the season. Nieto is a player Parker and the Terriers expected to produce major numbers this season. The goals just haven’t come. It’s not for a lack of effort. Still, BU needs more production from the winger. His goal and two assists on the night give him four goals and eight assists on the year. Despite the loss, it was a good start for Nieto, and BU needs it to continue to collect any hardware this season.
What They Said
“I thought our guys just stayed with it. Before the third period, we talked about it and said if we just tighten things up in front of our net and play better defensively that there were chances out there. The game was pretty much up and down with scoring chances. I’m happy for the guys — they’ve worked real hard and haven’t had a lot of pucks go in the net. It’s obviously a nice win and hopefully a springboard with some real positive energy for the team.” — Harvard coach Ted Donato
It hasn’t been an easy few weeks for the Crimson on or off the ice. Wednesday’s win doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme for Donato’s team, but it’s a positive step. This weekend, the Crimson travel to Dartmouth for its lone game of the weekend. Getting two points out of the trip is critical for Harvard, which enters the final stretch of the season in ninth place in the ECAC.
What They Didn’t Say
Parker didn’t specifically mention it after Wednesday’s game, but O’Connor hasn’t been at his best recently. Regardless of his performance against Harvard, fellow freshman goaltender Sean Maguire was likely to get the start on Friday at Merrimack. Given Wednesday’s results, that’s probably good news for the Terriers.
What Else You Should Know
- BU travels to North Andover, Mass., for a game at Merrimack on Friday night.
- Harvard is in Hanover, N.H., for its game with Dartmouth.