February 13, 2012

Crimson win second straight Beanpot consolation game

By Andrew Merritt

BOSTON – Cold, quiet, and cavernous.

That’s how TD Garden feels at about 5 p.m. on the second Monday in February each year, when the two losing teams from the opening round of the Beanpot square off for the consolation game. 

Goalie Steve Michalek (Hartford, Conn.) made 24 saves in Harvard's victory on Monday. (Dave Arnold Photography)

You have to make your own noise.

That’s what Harvard did Monday, and the Crimson rode a strong early attack to a 3-2 victory over Northeastern, sparked by goals from Boston Bruins prospect Alex Fallstrom, Alex Killorn and Luke Greiner, and a 24-save effort from freshman goaltender Steve Michalek.

It’s the second consolation game victory in as many years for the Crimson (8-7-10), who last year beat BU 5-4 in a game that sparked a 4-1 finish to its regular season and a first-round win over Clarkson in the ECAC tournament.

“We’ve battled some injuries recently, and had some newer guys in the lineup, but I think this game can be used as a springboard,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “Last year, emotionally it gave us a lift, and this year, going down the stretch, we’ll go in with a positive feel off this game.”

The Huskies washed the bitter pill of last Monday’s 7-1 loss to Boston University with the sour tonic of a two-loss Beanpot, just a year after taking Boston College to the brink in overtime of the 2011 final.

“Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed with our effort over the two nights,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan, whose club fell to 11-14-3 and made it 24 years without a title on Huntington Avenue.

The Crimson had the edge early, with Danny Biega ripping a one-timer off the post over Clay Witt’s left shoulder 3:34 into the game, and Patrick McNally also hitting iron about four minutes later. Harvard finally cashed in on its early pressure when Alex Killorn took a pass from Tommy O’Regan down low, made a couple of moves to get Witt out of position and snuck a shot home for a 1-0 lead with 11:44 gone.

While they may have done it in front of a fraction of the Garden’s capacity, the Crimson generated plenty of energy off of the early onslaught.

“I think offense feeds energy, guys enjoy scoring goals, and that brightens up the mood and brings a lot of energy,” Donato said. “We really wanted to establish our ability to get pucks on the net, we got 40 shots and we hit three posts, so I felt like we were trying to attack all night.”

The Huskies evened things up in the second, coming up with a little more offensive verve and tying the game on Robbie Vrolyk’s hard wrister 4:07 into the period – a shot that goaltender Steve Michalek looked to have stopped, but it trickled through the freshman netminder and crawled into the net.

Harvard regained the lead with 1:47 to go, when Tommy O’Regan hit Alex Fallstrom in stride with a perfect outlet pass, setting the junior Swede loose for an on-the-run wrister to make it 2-1.

David Valek put the Crimson down a man with a roughing call 12:13 into the third, but Harvard turned the tables on the Huskies, making it 3-1 on Luke Greiner’s shorthanded strike with 6:16 to go.

Luke Eibler fired back just 23 seconds later, off a feed from Drew Ellement, but Harvard had already done the damage it needed to ensure this year’s Beanpot wouldn’t be all bad for the Crimson.

“You’re never really sure how the season plays out at the end of the year, but that game could be important if we take care of things down the stretch,” said Donato, whose team picks up the ECAC schedule in fourth place with four games to go. “When you have as many ties as we do (10), it’s important that you’re able to finish off the win and move on. We are comfortable playing in overtime, we’re comfortable playing in ties, but anytime you can win a one-goal game, I think it brings a lot of confidence.”

Andrew Merritt can be reached at MerrittNEHJ@gmail.com.