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Harvard rebounds from slow start to cruise past RPI

Harvard trailed at the first intermission for the first time this season, but scored five unanswered goals to close the game en route to a 6-2 win over RPI at Bright-Landry Hockey Center on Tuesday.

Sean Malone had an assist to bring his point total to five in three games back after returning from injury.
Sean Malone had an assist to bring his point total to five in three games back after returning from injury.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- It's been a landmark season to date for fourth-ranked Harvard, but their start on Tuesday night wasn't quite what they had in mind as the night started.

The Crimson conceded two goals to Rensselaer in the first period and trailed at the intermission for the first time this season. But after the clock struck 20 minutes, it was a whole new ballgame.

Harvard scored five unanswered goals to close the game en route to eventually coasting to a 6-2 win over the Engineers at Bright-Landry Hockey Center.

"It was good to see that there wasn't a lot of hanging heads or negativity," Harvard head coach Ted Donato said. "The guys responded really well right from the first shift in the second. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have a period where we get outplayed like that but it happens. More importantly, our response was what we had hoped for."

With the win, the Crimson conclude the 2014 portion of their schedule in an admirable position - with a 10-1-2 record and holding down the top spot in the ECAC standings with 14 points.

Just 1:21 into the first period, the Crimson jumped ahead on the scoreboard as sophomore Luke Esposito cut through two defenders parked in the slot and lifted a backhand shot over the shoulder of RPI junior Jason Kasdorf.

The Engineers had been shutout in each of Harvard's last four wins in the series, but they made sure that it wouldn't be a high five with the next two goals to take a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. Off a draw won by senior Matt Neal, freshman Drew Melanson scored his second goal of the season at 4:46.

Senior Zach Schroeder made it a 2-1 game at 13:19, taking advantage of a turnover for an unassisted wrist shot goal off the post.

From there, things changed and the Crimson turned up the jets on offense in the second period, never looking back en route to their third straight win over RPI.

"In the first period, I think they took it to us and trapped us in our zone a little bit," Donato said. "We were able to have a little bit of a response which was good to see ... (and) in the second and third, we were able to get to our game a little bit and put some pucks in the net."

The Crimson got some of their legs under them in an exhibition game on Sunday night, but it was the team's first regular-season contest in just under a month. Senior co-captain Max Everson said that may have had something to do with the team's inauspicious start, but the goal for the remaining 40 minutes was clear.

"I think some guys were maybe a step behind and maybe just a little bit slower than we usually are," Everson said, "but we just came into the locker room and knew we were better. We just realized we needed to focus into what we were doing and start playing the right way."

Junior Jimmy Vesey extended his season-long point streak on a goal just 21 seconds into the middle frame, depositing a centering pass from co-captain and classmate Kyle Criscuolo into the back of the net.

Harvard's next two goals came nine seconds apart beginning at 3:45 as sophomore Phil Zielonka banged home a rebound in front with an assist from fellow second-year Devin Tringale.

Tyler Moy scored his first of two straight goals to conclude the rapid fire sequence for the Crimson with an assist by Criscuolo. 4:08 into the third, he found the back of the net on a power play with a low wrister in stride.

"It's a treat," the San Diego, Calif. native said of stepping onto the top line with Vesey and Criscuolo. "It's been great; they make players around them better. The puck movement is great and the chemistry as games go on is getting even more. It's great to have that when you're winning games too."

After scoring a goal in Sunday night's exhibition win over the Russian Red Stars, freshman Seb Lloyd scored the first of his collegiate career that counted at 10:18 as hit home a one-timer off a feed from sophomore Sean Malone.

The Crimson will have this coming weekend off, so the results of Tuesday night's game would sit for some time. Donato said the team had that on its mind entering the contest.

"Tonight's game was an important one for us because we knew that, in the league, we weren't going to be able to get any points over the next two weekends," the 11th-year head coach said. "I think there was a little more pressure on that."

Harvard, winners of a national-best seven straight games, will be on the big stage when it next takes the ice. On Jan. 10, the Crimson take it to Madison Square Garden for the second time in as many years to take on archrival Yale in "Rivalry on Ice." The 8 p.m. game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.