PRINCETON, N.J. – Sophomore Sean Malone scored a goal and added a pair of assists in his first game back this season, propelling the No. 9 Harvard men's hockey team (8-1-2, 4-1-2) to a 4-3 victory against Princeton (2-8-1, 1-6-0) at Hobey Baker Rink Friday evening.
Harvard put together a strong offensive effort as a team, outshooting the Tigers 55-25 over 60 minutes, the most shots for Harvard this season. The triumph extends the Crimson's win streak to five games and sets up a battle of the top teams in the ECAC on Saturday evening, as second-place Harvard (10 points) will visit No. 15 Quinnipiac (12 points) in Hamden, Connecticut.
Coming off its first five-day break from competition since the opening week of the season, the Crimson wanted to make sure the extended absence from competition did little to affect its momentum. Harvard fired off 10 shots on goal before Princeton tallied its first and finished the period with a 13-3 shots advantage.
Harvard's top-five penalty kill saw its first call to action at 9:57 of the opening stanza when Eddie Ellis was whistled for tripping. The Crimson killed off the penalty and went back to attacking the Tigers' goal. Brayden Jaw came through with the first goal of the game and his first of the season at 13:52, blasting a slap shot from the right point that found its way through the Princeton defense and past goaltender Colton Phinney. Luke Esposito and Brian Hart picked up the assists on Jaw's second career goal.
The Crimson added to its lead just under seven minutes into the second period, with Jake Horton finding the top shelf on his fifth shot on goal of the contest. Malone led a 3-on-2 charge out of the Crimson defensive zone with Horton trailing behind. Just before being pushed off the puck, Malone dropped a swift pass to a charging Horton, who fended off a Princeton defender before launching a rocket over Phinney's shoulder. The goal gave Harvard a 2-0 lead, with Horton earning goal number two of the year, while Malone registered his first point and Seb Lloyd garnered credit for his third assist of the season as well.
Princeton snapped out of its offensive draught midway through the second period and potted a pair of goals before the final intermission. The Tigers went a man-up at 9:42, and despite Steve Michalek making a great save on Mike Ambrosia's first shot of the power play, Princeton got on the board when Tommy Davis's wrister found the back of the net.
Harvard suffered an unfortunate break with less than 90 seconds remaining when Princeton knotted the game at 2-2 on an odd-man rush that started when Max Becker was released from the penalty box after serving two minutes for tripping. Becker received a pass just before entering Harvard's defensive zone and fired an initial shot that was stoned by Michalek, but the rebound found the stick of Joe Grabowski who scored the equalizer.
The intermission is just what the Crimson needed to regroup, coming back onto the ice and scoring within the first 95 seconds of the third period. Garrett Skrbich was sent to the box for high-sticking, giving Harvard the man advantage just 25 seconds into the period. With just over a minute of the penalty expired, Princeton attempted to clear the puck, but Patrick McNally kept it in and sent it towards the Princeton goal. To the right of Phinney, Jimmy Vesey redirected the puck to the opposite side of the goal where Malone collected it on the backhand and flicked it over the sliding goaltender for the go-ahead strike. The goal kept Vesey's point streak alive at 11 consecutive games.
Harvard's power play was not done, adding another tally at 6:39. On the penalty kill, Princeton was able to clear the defensive zone, but Malone corralled the puck in the neutral zone and made a heady pass to Tyler Moy streaking back into the offensive zone up the right boards. Moy then did the rest, deking through the defense before beating Phinney five-hole to make it a 4-2 Crimson lead.
The Tigers would not go away quietly though, as Aaron Kesselman scored at 16:41 to make it a 4-3 game. Harvard's defense made sure it was the last goal the Tigers scored, fending off a last-minute 6-on-5 by Princeton to secure the two league points in the victory.