BOSTON, Mass. – One of the oldest rivalries in college hockey produced one of the best games of the 2016-17 season. Patrick Spano stopped 33 of 34 shots and Ted Hart scored his sixth goal of the year as Yale completed a three-point road weekend with a 1-1 overtime tie at No. 6 Harvard.
The 21st draw in 116 years of the rivalry was scoreless until the 56th minute. The Bulldogs (8-7-4, 4-5-3 ECAC) had a brief lead before the Crimson (12-5-2, 8-4-2) answered 69 seconds later. A bitter, sweet finish to a second straight three-point Yale weekend was a thrill for a sellout crowd at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
"It was a really good college hockey game," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach. "Two teams that really competed hard. I thought we had it won late, but they fought back to tie it up. A tie was an appropriate result for that game."
Harvard may have had a 34-28 shots advantage, but Yale's aggresive fore-check and up-tempo style had the Crimson on their heels for much of the contest.
A fast-paced opening frame had Yale with a 10-7 edge in shots and a number of excellent rushes that came close to connecting at the end. The Mike Doherty-Robbie DeMontis-Ted Hart line contributed six shots on target to pace the Elis.
However, both Spano and Harvard netminder Merrick Madsen saw the puck enough to get comfortable with the game. Spano's biggest challenge of the first was a shot from Michael Floodstand from the right circle.
There wasn't a boat load of shots in the second, but there were two home team power plays, which helped make for a wild, back-and-forth frame with great chances at both ends. Both goalies came up with huge saves, but Spano (12 saves) had to do more head stands than Madsen (8).
"Patrick [Spano] was good tonight, and he had a really good weekend for us," said Allain about his goalie who shared player of the game (Tim Taylor Cup) honors with Madsen. He [Spano] is a good example of our whole team; we are getting better as the season goes on."
The Eli penalty kill had a tremendous showing on the only two advantages of the period, allowing just two shots to find Spano. However, the Eli senior had to come up big at even strength.
A quarter of the way into the period, Sean Malone fired a shot from the circle and Luke Esposito literally crashed the net and ran over the Yale goalie trying to knock it past him. Spano stopped both the shot and the party crasher, but there were still tougher chances to come. Midway through the second, Spano had to stop a close-range shot coming from his left and then kick out his leg to close an open right side after the rebound.
At the other end, Evan Smith nearly cashed in on an odd-man rush, but his shot from the left circle hit the goalie. That may have been Yale's best chance before the third, but the visitors came out of the locker room buzzing and got two quick grade-A opportunities. In the opening seconds, Joe Snively had space to shoot in the low slot until a Harvard stick came in and deflected it. Less than a minute later, DeMontis fired a shot off Madsen's glove.
It took almost 57 minutes, but a puck finally found the net, and the Blue got the first one. The Yale line getting so many of the shots was rewarded when Hart tipped home a DeMontis shot from the point with 3:16 left. Doherty picked up the other assist by getting the puck to his freshman linemate.
"We had sustained pressure for a while there," said DeMontis. "Dots [Doherty] made a nice pass from the goal line to find me in the left high slot. I saw Teddy in front of the goalie, so I just tried to get the puck through. Teddy made a great play to get a stick on it and it went in. It was a rewarding goal because I thought our line had a lot of good chances this weekend."
"I was able to work my way into a one-on-one situation in front of their net," said Hart, whose brother played for Harvard. "DeMontis saw the matchup and threw the puck to the net. I was able to deflect it near side for the goal."
The lead lasted until there was 2:07 on the clock.
That's when Esposito evened things and sent the game to an extra session in which Yale had the edge in shots. Snively had the Bulldogs' best look early on but broke his stick on the shot. Spano came up with two huge saves later in the OT to preserve the point.
Yale's head coach summed up the weekend reiterating his point about the way the team is progressing.
"We are improving as a hockey team and hopefully we have more improvement left in us," said Allain, who recorded his 200th victory as a head coach last night at Dartmouth.
The Elis had three Bay State natives in the lineup tonight: Mike Doherty (Reading), Matt Foley (Longmeadow) and Billy Sweezey (Hanson)… Yale has a home-and-home with its travel partner next weekend. Brown hosts the Blue on Friday before the teams drop the puck at the Whale on Saturday. Both games are 7 p.m. starts on the ILDN… ECAC Hockey and the Headway Foundation have a concussion awareness weekend set for Feb. 3-4… The Yale Hockey Alumni Game is set for Saturday, Feb. 18, at 1 p.m.