Girard Backstops Harvard to 2-2 Tie at No. 8/8 Yale

Raphael Girard posted a career-best 52 saves against Yale Saturday (Gil Talbot).

NEW HAVEN, Conn. –
A gutsy comeback by the hometown Yale Bulldogs saw the game go to overtime, but a career-high 52 saves from senior goalie Raphael Girard helped the Harvard men's hockey team skate to a 2-2 tie with defending national champion No. 8/8 Yale Saturday at Ingalls Rink. The tie is Harvard's (4-7-2, 2-6-2) second of the season while Yale moves to 6-3-3 overall and 3-2-3 in ECAC action.

With the result, it marks the first time Harvard has earned a point at Ingalls Rink since a 3-3 tie with the Bulldogs in 2007. It also marks the first time a Harvard goalie has eclipsed the 50-save mark since Grant Blair '86 made 60 stops in a 6-6 tie against Boston College Dec. 21, 1984.  

A scoreless stretch through the first period extended towards the midpoint of the second, but the Crimson was able to silence the raucous Yale crowd with the game's first goal. A big hit on Pat McNally saw a two-minute boarding call go against the Bulldogs at 11:22, and Harvard struck just 10 seconds into the man advantage. A faceoff win found the stick of McNally, who worked the puck to Jimmy Vesey on the nearside of the net, and Vesey's flick to the backside found Alexander Kerfoot who buried the puck for his third of the season.

The momentum looked to swing back to the hosts when Brian Hart was sent to the box less than a minute after the Harvard goal, but the penalty kill was poised, utilizing a handful of strong saves from Raphael Girard to kill the threat. Happy to take a 1-0 lead into the second break, Harvard took advantage of an offensive zone faceoff with under a minute to go, stretching its lead to 2-0. Max Everson fed McNally near the blueline for a one-timer, and rookie Luke Esposito swept in for the rebound, putting home his third with just 12 seconds left in the frame.

Desperately needing a goal to climb back into the game, Yale was able to manufacture a score early in the third period to cut the deficit to 2-1. A series of close-range shots stayed within the Harvard crease and Matt Killian was able to pounce on one before Girard could smother it at the 17:52 mark.

Harvard killed off a brief penalty handily, and then forced Yale to commit a penalty when Luke Esposito was dragged down on a breakaway. The Crimson was unable to connect on the man advantage, and Yale continued to pepper Girard with shots, leading to the equalizer with 5:41 to play. Kenny Agostino controlled the puck near mid ice and brought it slowly across the blue line, looking to set up the offense. Instead, he fired a low shot that snuck through Girard's five-hole to knot the game at 2-2.

A cross checking penalty late in the period gave Harvard one final look on the power play, but Yale did well to smother the attempt and put a few last chances on the Crimson cage. Girard ended the frame with 18 saves.

In the overtime period, it was Harvard with the best looks as Kerfoot, Sean Malone and Kyle Criscuolo all had good looks on the net, but Lyon stood tall to preserve the 2-2 final.

Yale's up-tempo style of play was on display early, and the home team rode the energy from a capacity crowd to get a few good looks on Harvard netminder Raphael Girard. Harvard was able to match the Bulldogs' intensity step-for-step and put the Elis on their heels when Phil Zielonka redirected a Dan Ford blast at 14:10 that freshman goalie Alex Lyon was fortunate to stop with his chest.

The Harvard penalty kill was put to the test twice in the opening stanza, and the Crimson was up to the task on both occasions, with Girard turning away six shots during the four minutes of man-up play. Yale closed the first with a 16-9 edge in shots, but the score stood at 0-0 at the first break

The Crimson's next contest is an exhibition against the Russian Red Stars Dec. 29 at Bright-Landry Hockey Center.