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Harvard starts strong with four-goal first period, sinks Bentley for third straight year

Thanks in large part to a four-goal first period, Harvard dismantled Bentley on Friday night at Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Freshman Jake Horton scored his first collegiate goal to get the scoring going en route to a 5-1 win.

Jimmy Vesey had a goal and an assist Friday night.
Jimmy Vesey had a goal and an assist Friday night.
Gil Talbot

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- With several bus loads of Bentley fans in attendance at Bright-Landry Hockey Center, the Harvard offense made sure they could warm up the bus early on Friday night.

The majority of the offense came early for the home team as it went on to a 5-1 win, the third in as many meetings between the two programs separated by just six miles.

The Crimson came out firing on all cylinders in the first period, scoring four times on 11 shots to take a commanding lead. That's been an early theme for Harvard as it has outscored opponents 16-1 in the opening period over the first nine games.

"I thought we came out and established the kind of game we wanted to," Harvard head coach Ted Donato said. "We were able to get it up-tempo, and we did a good job of finishing some chances early. We wanted to make sure we got off to a good start, controlled the play."

Jake Horton jumpstarted the offense with his first collegiate goal at 1:47 with help from his mates on the third line, freshman Seb Lloyd and sophomore Tyler Moy.

The trio had an excellent shift leading up to the opening goal as he missed a chance earlier before becoming the first Crimson freshman to score this year on a puck that bounced back to the doorstep for the shot.

"It was nice to get it," the Lake Elmo, Minn. native said. "I've been going after it for a while, had some good chances but wasn't able to bury it. It ended up popping right out to me on a great play by my linemates grinding and getting the puck back."

Harvard's top line connected at 2:59 as junior Kyle Criscuolo took a pass from sophomore Alexander Kerfoot and beat Bentley senior netminder Blake Dougherty on a shot from the slot.

Junior Jimmy Vesey notched Harvard's seventh power-play goal of the season at 7:08, snapping one in from Dougherty's left side just eight seconds into the man-up situation.

The goals continued lengthy streaks for both Criscuolo and Vesey as the two have each posted points in each of the team's first eight games. Vesey's streak included goals in each of the last three games and five of six, while Criscuolo has now scored in three of the last five.

"That top line is just unbelievable, the way they play," Horton said. "One of the things that makes them so good is they're doing all the right things; they're back-checking, finishing hits."

"They're setting the tone for everybody else," he continued. "(Their play) gives us that depth that allows us to draw on and compete with some of the best teams in the country which we think we are."

Senior defenseman Patrick McNally continued his excellent offensive start with his fourth goal and tenth point of the year at 10:51. He took a feed from junior partner Desmond Bergin, beat two defenders on the wing, cut inside and lifted the puck over Dougherty's left shoulder.

The Falcons started off the second period with five of the first six shots on goal, but it was Harvard that took a 5-0 lead at the 12:27 mark. Sophomore center Tyler Moy completed a twirl around the offensive zone by sneaking a wraparound goal inside Dougherty's right post.

Harvard conceded its first goal on the penalty kill at 17:01 as Falcon sophomore Max French tipped in his national-best tenth goal of the season on Crimson senior Steve Michalek's crease.

"I think good teams start the game on time. It's easy to play with the lead and pull teams out of what they want to do," Donato said. "The second period wasn't our best but I think part of that was just that we were in the box. It was a good game to come out and play hard."

At the tail end of a five-on-three advantage, senior assistant captain Steve Weinstein sent a shot on from the center point that bounced right to French's stick, ending Harvard's perfect streak at 28-for-28.

Bentley had plenty of chances to inch closer throughout the contest, despite the Crimson holding a 9-6 shots on goal advantage in the final period.

Michalek was the main reason behind that, stopping double-digit shots in each of the first two frames and six more in the third. Perhaps his biggest stop of the night came in the waning minutes of Harvard's final penalty kill as he went post-to-post to stop senior Brett Switzer on a breakaway to hold the Falcons to one goal or less for the first time this year.

"I thought Steve was sharp when he needed to be," Donato said of his senior stopper. "I thought he made some big saves to keep them at bay, certainly on the penalty kill. We've said over and over Steve's our best penalty killer."

With the win, the Crimson improve to 5-1-2 and will have the rest of the weekend off in preparation for a crosstown showdown at Boston University on Tuesday night.

Bentley, now 5-6-1 on the year, returns to action on the same night when it heads out the Massachusetts Turnpike to Holy Cross.