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Harvard Speeds Past Brown in ECAC Tournament First Round

Harvard used a pair of goals from junior Colin Blackwell en route to an easy 6-2 win over Brown in the first round of the 2015 ECAC Hockey Championship on Friday night.

Matt Dewkett

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Speed and skill go a long way in hockey.

It was not for a lack of effort by visiting Brown, but Harvard proved to be too much in its opening game of the 2015 ECAC Hockey Championship.

The sixth-seeded Crimson came out firing and never looked back, scoring twice in each period for a 6-2 win over the No. 11 Bears to take control of the first-round series on Friday night at Bright-Landry Hockey Center.

The Crimson controlled the first period, coming out with a 2-0 lead and a 14-11 shots on goal advantage. Harvard is 10-0-1 on the season when leading after the first period and 15-4-2 when leading at any point in a game.

"I thought we got off to a good start," Harvard head coach Ted Donato. "Early on in the game, we didn't make any major mistakes or get ourselves into penalty trouble and put ourselves behind the eight ball. ... We wanted to put some shots early on the goalie (Brown sophomore Tim Ernst) and were able to get a couple behind him."

Just 3:57 in, junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo took advantage of a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing sequence for his 16th goal of the season. Classmate Jimmy Vesey found him alone on the left crease for what turned out to be an easy tap-in.

Junior Colin Blackwell scored his first point of the season at 12:33 after missing much of the last two years with multiple injuries, including post-concussion symptoms.

Sophomore Luke Esposito had the only assist to the North Andover, Mass. native and Sharks prospect as he tapped home a rebound for his first goal since a 6-5 overtime win at Boston University on Jan. 9, 2013.

"He's a special player," sophomore forward Devin Tringale said. "We see it a lot in practice and it's unbelievable for him to actually be getting into games. You can see his confidence fully getting back there. It's absolutely awesome to have him back."

Harvard struck twice in quick succession 3:23 and 4:03 into the second period to double its lead before the Bears cracked the scoreboard on a power play just after the midway point.

Junior Jimmy Vesey scored his league-leading 23rd goal of the season as he fired a great one-time shot from the low slot past Ernst off a centering feed from classmate Brian Hart. Forty seconds after Vesey's goal, freshman Jake Horton's fourth of the year came off an assist from Esposito and lucky bounce through Ernst at the front of the net.

"They're a very gifted hockey team," Brown head coach Brendan Whittet said. "I thought we started off the game very strong and our Achilles heel popped up; it's been our special teams play and it bit us."

Brown senior co-captain Matt Lorito got the visitors on the board 11:17 into the second period as he fired home a one-time shot from senior Massimo Lamacchia.

Blackwell scored his second of the game and the season at 9:08, cutting inside the circle for a great shot to the glove side of Brown's Tyler Steel who relieved Ernst after the first four Harvard goals.

"He's really had a journey that none of us can really relate with," Donato said. "Obviously, he's a very talented hockey player and outside he's a great character kid. I think the whole team was excited to get him back last weekend. He's a guy who can be a difference maker."

Criscuolo set up Vesey for a breakaway at 14:15. He drove wide on the right side of the offensive zone, moved to the front of the net and tucked the puck past Steel from in close.

Junior assistant captain Nick Lappin closed the scoring for the Bears at 16:54, finishing the job from just outside the crease for his team-leading 12th goal of the year.

"We were able to play with a lead and play an intelligent hockey game, not have to reach and take a lot of chances," Donato said. "But we talked about it after the game. We know it'll be a different game."

With a win in Saturday night's second game, the Crimson will move on in ECAC postseason play for the first time since 2012. A big story for Harvard will be whether or not sophomore Devils prospect Alexander Kerfoot is able to return after he exited the game favoring his right shoulder late in the first period.