Brown Outlasts Harvard, 1-0, in Playoff Opener

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. —Mike Clemente made 39 saves and Harry Zolnierczyk scored the game’s only goal in the third period as Brown defeated Harvard, 1-0, in the first game of the teams’ Bank of America ECAC Hockey Championship first-round series Friday night at Bright Hockey Center.

Ryan Carroll made 22 saves for fifth-seeded Harvard (9-15-6), which suffered its shutout loss since the 2007 playoffs and its first shutout at home since 2003. The Crimson will face the No. 12 seed Bears (4-21-5) again Saturday at 8 p.m., looking to force a deciding third game Sunday.

After two periods with no goals and barely any whistles, Zolnierczyk scored at 3:14 of the third. He hopped on a rebound in the slot and lifted a shot over Carroll’s right pad after David Brownschidle carried the puck along the goal line and backhanded a shot on net.

Despite a 39-23 disadvantage in shots, the Bears won for just the second time in 10 playoff games against Harvard and ended the Crimson’s six-game unbeaten streak. It was Harvard’s third loss in its last 22 home playoff games.

Harvard spent most of the first period in the Brown zone but could not take the lead despite a 13-7 shots advantage. The Crimson forechecked well, but its best chances came on rushes. Sophomore Pier-Olivier Michaud blocked a shot at his own blue line to start a two-on-one, but Clemente stopped freshman Alex Killorn’s shot from the left.

The Crimson got another good chance when sophomore Michael Biega sent a long pass to junior Doug Rogers, but Clemente was again there. The Bears’ best chance came late in the frame, off the stick of Michael Wolff, but Carroll got his right pad on the shot from the slot.

Brown took control from the opening whistle in the second, registering the frame’s first six shots and nearly taking the lead on a Jeremy Russell slap shot from the point. Carroll made the save, but the puck ended up behind him. Senior co-captain Brian McCafferty was there to clear it off the line.

Harvard regained the momentum and outshot Brown, 11-10, in the period but could not find the net. One good chance came on a rush around the left side by defenseman Chris Huxley, but the sophomore could not shovel his backhand past Clemente. Brown got the first power play of the game at 16:12 of the second but was held without a shot on net.

The Crimson resumed its offensive pressure following Brown’s goal, but the Bears survived two Harvard power plays, the second coming in the final four minutes after Aaron Volpatti dragged down McCafferty on a great chance in front of Clemente.

Harvard continued its attack into the final minute. Rogers got two one-timers from the edge of the right circle, but the first was stopped by Clemente and the second crept through the crease and wide. The Brown rookie needed just one more save, on a booming slap shot from junior Alex Biega at the right point, to secure the series lead for the Bears.