The last time Harvard and Quinnipiac faced one another, the Crimson won a 5-2 ECAC Hockey Championship Semifinal in Lake Placid, NY en route to a tournament championship.The two teams met up for the first time since that postseason bout on Friday night at High Point Solutions Arena.
On one side, Harvard entered the matchup with a 3-0-1 record and one of the best players in the country in Jimmy Vesey, who had four goals and four assists through the team’s first four games. On the other side, Quinnipiac came in with an 8-0-0 record and fresh off its from greatest come from behind victory in 16 years at Cornell.
Something had to give.
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“As a team, we knew that Harvard ended our chances at a Whitelaw,” alternate captain Sam Anas said. “That was just a little fuel to the fire this week.”
After a scoreless opening period, Tommy Schutt gave Quinnipiac the lead 2:41 into the second period. K.J. Tiefenwerth sent in a diving pass from the right side of the net and Schutt elevated the puck over Harvard goalie Michael Lackey for his third goal of the season.
Anas doubled the Bobcats’ lead with 7:30 left in the period. He was left alone between the right faceoff circle and the net before he sized up a wrist shot and rocketed it past Lackey.
“If every game [Anas] is getting four or five chances, he’s going to get his goals,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I thought Sam was pretty good tonight.”
The goal was the 50th of Anas’ Quinnipiac career, becoming the first junior to reach the milestone since David Marshall in 2008. Anas said that his name’s attachment to the award stands for a team effort.
“It goes down as an individual thing, but it’s a team thing,” Anas said. “So we have a lot of guys to thank for helping me get there.”
With 2:23 left in the second period, the officials gave Harvard’s Seb Lloyd a game misconduct for a hit that sent Quinnipiac’s Kevin McKernan to the locker room. Tim Clifton put the Bobcats up 3-0 on the ensuing power play as he tipped in Derek Smith’s shot from the left side of the ice.
“I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time,” Clifton said.
Harvard scored in a scrum in front of the Quinnipiac net with 30 seconds left in the game. The Crimson had a 6-on-3 advantage on the goal that came from an empty net and two Quinnipiac penalties. Vesey collected his fifth assist of the season as Wiley Sherman shot the puck past Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig.
It only took one second for the Bobcats to reclaim their three-goal lead. Alternate captain Travis St. Denis won the ensuing face-off and Clifton blasted the shot into the empty net from the red line.
“Right off the face off, I got it and kind of just got rid of it, like ‘I don’t want it. Get away from me,’” Clifton said.
With two goals in the game, Clifton collected his fifth and sixth goals of the season, and continued his hot start with a goal in each game.
“Do I think [Clifton] is going to have 45 goals on the year? Probably not,” Pecknold said. “He’ll slow down at some point. I think more than the goals, he is playing well right now. He’s a big, physical presence.”
The Bobcats improved to 9-0-0 on the season with the win. They will face Harvard again on Jan. 9 at Madison Square Garden. However, to finish up the weekend, the Bobcats must first host Dartmouth, a team that improved to 2-3-0 on the season with a 3-2 win over Princeton on Friday night, on Saturday.
Even though Quinnipiac is on its best start in program history, Clifton says the team needs to keep its head down and continue looking ahead to its next opponent.
“One of the most important things is we need to stay humble,” Clifton said. “Good or bad, we need to have a short memory. We got two points tonight and there are two big points on the line tomorrow. We can’t relish in a victory too long- onto the next one.”
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