Raphael Girard made 28 saves in his second shutout of the season (Gil Talbot).
Highlights: Harvard Blanks No. 10 Rensselaer, 2-0
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – In the back end of a home-and-home series with No. 10 Rensselaer, senior goalie Raphael Girard was flawless in net, turning aside all 28 shots that he faced to post his second shutout in as many games, powering Harvard to a 2-0 win over No. 10 Rensselaer. The win keeps Harvard (2-0-1, 1-0-1 ECAC unbeaten on the season while RPI (4-2-1, 0-1-1 ECAC) takes its first conference loss.
The clean sheet marks the first time since the 2007-08 season that a Harvard goalie had posted back-to-back shutouts. That year, Kyle Richter '10-11, blanked Rensselaer and Union in back-to-back contests.
After a frustrating first period that saw both teams gain a number of good looks, the Crimson broke through with a heady play from its top line. Kyle Criscuolo chased down a puck that had been briefly possessed by Rensselaer and flung it back to the blue line from against the boards deep in the RPI zone. Senior Dan Ford was waiting in the corner and he caught the puck and released a wrist shot on net. The puck got caught up in front of the goal and sophomore forward Jimmy Vesey was there to backhand the short-range look home just 14 seconds into the stanza. It marked the first goal of the season for Vesey, who tied for the team lead in goals last year with 11.
The momentum from the goal was infectious and Harvard played a dominant period, showcasing penalty-free hockey and outshooting the guests 15-9. The Engineers held their ground, however, and kept their deficit at 1-0 heading into the third period.
A re-energized RPI squad took the ice in the third and Girard rallied the Crimson defense during lengthy stays by RPI in the Harvard zone. Good looks for the Crimson came on counter-attacks, but tired legs kept the hosts from finishing on an insurance score. Finally, with just over a minute to play in the game, RPI pulled its goalie and Greg Gozzo fed Criscuolo on a breakout, and the sophomore backhanded home his third goal of the season to seal the 2-0 final.
Blocked shots were the story of the game for the Crimson defense as Harvard blocked more shots (29) than made it through to Girard. Rookie Kevin Guiltinan led all Harvard players with five blocked shots on the evening, while Dan Ford and David Valek each had four. Criscuolo is now riding a three-game point streak which ties a career high, and leads the team with five points through three games.
It was clear the teams were familiar with one another in the early going, and the physical play from Tuesday's matchup in Troy, N.Y., was apparent once again. Harvard took a pair of penalties within the first five minutes, but showed poise on the penalty kill despite seven shots from RPI. The Crimson had an excellent chance to retaliate when quick penalties put Harvard on a five-on-three for more than a minute and a half. The Crimson managed just a few promising shots, but Scott Diebold was up to the task and kept the game scoreless through one.
Harvard wraps up the homestand with a Saturday matchup against league foe Union. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.