No. 18-ranked Harvard played its final game before the semester recess Monday night at Bright Hockey Center against nonconference foe UMass-Lowell significantly shorthanded, particularly on defense.
A report in the Crimson, the school’s student newspaper, said three more players — all defensemen — had been removed from the roster, possibly tied to the academic scandal that hit the university over the summer. Goaltender Stephen Michalek left last month and is now playing in the United States Hockey League.
Max Everson, Patrick McNally — who was named to the ECAC All-Rookie team last year — and Mark Luzar were the latest to depart.
That leaves Harvard coach Ted Donato very thin on the blue line. In Monday’s lineup, there were stalwarts Danny Biega, a senior, and Dan Ford, a junior. They were joined by freshman Desmond Bergin, senior Brendan Rempel (playing in his 58th career game), and juniors John Caldwell (20 career games) and Danny Fick (56 career games), but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Junior Raphael Girard, who took over as the No. 1 goaltender the end of last season, made 27 saves against UMass-Lowell but the Crimson were overwhelmed in a 5-0 loss, dropping Harvard to 4-4-1.
After the game, Donato was reluctant to discuss the situation, preferring to speak about what he did have as opposed to what he lost.
“The guys were focused and ready, we just didn’t win enough battles,’’ said Donato, who said he won’t be able to add anyone the second semester to bolster the ranks. “I don’t want to take anything away from Lowell because there were elements of their game, quite frankly, that we need to incorporate into our game. I think our guys felt that the focus really was on the guys that were playing. The margin for error might be a little bit smaller but we can play a lot better. I think really that’s the focus.’’
River Hawks freshman defenseman Dmitry Sinitsyn gave his team the lead at 6:01 of the first period when his shot from long range found its way through traffic and past Girard.
They doubled it to 2-0 during a power play at 15:19, just five seconds after senior center Luke Greiner was sent to the penalty box.
This time junior defenseman Chad Ruhwedel put home a shot from the point for his first tally of the year.
Sophomore defenseman Jake Suter made it 3-0 on a slap shot from the right point at 14:01 of the third, earning his first career goal and resulting in a hat trick for the River Hawks’ back line.
UMass-Lowell (6-7-1) added two late scores, the first of which came with 2:25 remaining when Scott Wilson raced in on a breakaway and beat Girard on a backhander from just outside the right post. Joseph Pendenza closed out the scoring during a five-on-three power play with 42.5 seconds left.
Freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 30 stops for his second shutout in a row and his third career win.
For UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin, it was a terrific way to head into the break.
“We were very pleased with the effort,’’ said Bazin. “I thought it was three very good periods by our team. We challenged them because we have 18 days to think about this whatever the result may be so we weren’t focused on the result as much as the effort we put forth and I thought the urgency was very strong.’’