CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Raphael Girard made 31 saves, including 15 during St. Lawrence's six power plays, and David Valek scored twice to lead the Harvard men's hockey team to a 4-1 win Friday night at Bright Hockey Center. The victory secured a home playoff series for the Crimson and inched Harvard closer to a first-round bye with one game remaining in the regular season.
Harvard (9-8-11, 7-5-9 ECAC Hockey) leapfrogged Clarkson into a tie with Colgate for third place in the ECAC standings. The Crimson can clinch a bye with a win or tie against Clarkson Saturday or with a Colgate loss and Quinnipiac loss or tie.
In addition to his two goals, Valek shined on the defensive end, recording six of Harvard's 15 blocked shots. Eric Kroshus and Patrick McNally registered a goal and an assist each, while Danny Biega notched two helpers. Each team killed five power plays, and St. Lawrence's Matt Weninger finished with 23 saves.
The Saints (13-17-3, 9-11-1) held a 32-27 shots advantage. Colin Blackwell paced Harvard with five shots on net.
The Crimson found itself in a tough position right off the bat, as it was faced with an five-minute SLU power play when Ryan Grimshaw was whistled for contact to the head. Harvard nearly killed the entire SLU advantage, but Austin Riley found the net with just three seconds left on the penalty, at the 6:10 mark.
It took Valek barely a minute to answer, as he redirected in Biega's point shot after Max Everson passed across the point to Biega. Kroshus put Harvard ahead at 15:39. McNally took a pass from Biega and fired the puck toward the net. It deflected off a defender to Kroshus on the goal line just left of the net. He reached back to tuck a shot inside the post for a 2-1 first-intermission lead.
Neither side scored in the second period, thanks in large part to 14 saves by Girard during the frame. The Saints appeared destined to tie the game about six minutes into the period, when a rebound fell to the feet of Chris Martin on the edge of the crease. Girard, however, dove to his right to rob the SLU freshman in spectacular fashion.
Valek gave his squad some breathing room at 6:41 of the third period. After Tommy O'Regan broke up a Saints breakout, Daniel Moriarty got to the puck between the tops of the circles. Moriarty slid a look-away pass to Valek, who rifled a wrist shot over Weninger's left shoulder from near the right dot.
Girard made three saves during a pair of third-period SLU power plays before McNally sealed the win with an empty-net goal in the final minute. He skated out from behind his own net and shot the length of the ice after Fallstrom and Kroshus worked for the puck in the corner.