LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – For the third year in a row, the No. 2/2 Harvard men's hockey team (25-5-2, 16-4-2 ECAC) will play in the ECAC Hockey championship game, earning its spot with a 4-1 victory over No. 19/- Quinnipiac in the semifinals Friday at the 1980 Rink – Herb Brooks Arena.
Harvard was led by senior forward Sean Malone who recorded his first career hat trick. The West Seneca, New York native scored twice in the second period and completed the trifecta early in the third period. Malone now has nine points during the ECAC Hockey playoffs (4g, 5a).
Harvard will meet the winner of the second semifinal matchup, No. 9/10 Cornell, Saturday night at 7:35 p.m. The game will be broadcast on NESNplus in the Boston area and streamed online at ECACHockey.com and TSNGO. Harvard has nine ECAC Tournament titles under its belt, with its most recent coming in 2015 when it beat Colgate, 4-2, in the championship game.
The Harvard defense was lock-down throughout the game. Merrick Madsen finished the contest with 25 saves, but faced only 11 attempts by the Bobcats through the first two periods due to the stifling Harvard defense.
After a scoreless first period, Malone broke open the scoring at the 11:00 minute mark of the second frame. Michael Floodstrand kept the puck in the offensive zone, laying a check along the right boards and then gathering the puck. From the corner, he found Malone at the face-off dot for the wrister to put Harvard ahead, 1-0.
Thomas Aldsworth tied the game at 16:16 with his 10th of the season, scoring on a Quinnupiac power play. Malone responded 2:34 later, to give the Crimson the lead back. Nathan Krusko fired a shot on goal from the left side that Quinnipiac netminder Andrew Shortridge turned away with his leg pad, but awaiting on the other side of the net was Malone for the quick rebound.
Malone brought the hat trick full circle at 4:04 of the third frame. Fielding a pass from Luke Esposito at the goal line, Malone glided with the puck in front of Shortridge, deking him enough to slide the puck inside the far post and the outstretched leg pad, making it a 3-1 Harvard lead. Esposito completed the victory with an empty net tally at 17:55 to give him two points in the contest.
Harvard is now 21-11 all-time in semifinal games and 4-2 against Quinnipiac in the playoffs. The Crimson's 25 wins this season is its most since it won 31 during the 1988-89 national title season. Harvard's 13-straight wins are also its most since it won 15 during the 88-89 campaign.