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Criscuolo's OT winner sends Harvard past BU

Thanks to two goals from junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo and an outstanding 40-save effort by senior Steve Michalek, Harvard earned a 3-2 overtime victory over top-ranked Boston University at Agganis Arena on Tuesday night.

Jimmy Vesey
Jimmy Vesey
Gil Talbot

BOSTON -- Boston University entered the night as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time in nearly a couple years, but there's something about Harvard that gets the best of its crosstown rival.

They get the best of them, ranking or no ranking. For a fifth consecutive meeting, the Crimson were winners.

Led by two goals from junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo and an outstanding 40-save effort by senior Steve Michalek, Harvard earned a 3-2 overtime victory at Agganis Arena on Tuesday night.

"We're obviously happy with the win," Crimson head coach Ted Donato said. "I thought our guys battled. I thought it was a gritty performance; I didn't think we had our best game at all times and I thought BU was great."

The result gave the Crimson wins over BC and BU in the same season for the first time since 2004-05.

Criscuolo, a Southampton, N.J. native, scored late in the second period to give Harvard a lead before banging home a centering pass from classmate Jimmy Vesey at 3:10 of overtime.

"Our guys dug deep there towards the end," Donato said of his team's effort when it mattered the most. "Our attitude on the bench during the overtime was great. It's a nice win. I thought we had some guys stepped up and made some big plays at important times today."

The Terriers had a large territorial edge with a 13-5 shots on goal advantage, but neither team cracked the scoreboard in the first period.

BU jumped off to a 1-0 lead at 8:57 of the middle stanza as junior Matt Lane scored his third of the season on a power play. Freshman linemate J.J. Piccinich's initial shot careened off the right post and right to the stick of the Rochester, N.Y. native for the goal past Harvard senior netminder Steve Michalek.

Despite tasting defeat for the first time since Nov. 1 against Providence, BU head coach David Quinn was pleased with his team's effort.

"Overall, I was really happy with our effort. I was really happy with the way we played," he said. "There were a lot of good things we did tonight. That's a good hockey team we played, and from start to finish I thought that was as thorough game as we've played in a while."

Harvard dominated the latter stretches of the second, scoring twice in the final nine minutes to take a 2-1 lead into the intermission.

Off a faceoff win by sophomore Alexander Kerfoot, junior Jimmy Vesey cut to the front of the net and scored his team-best eighth of the season at 11:46. Kerfoot slid the puck back to a moving Vesey who tapped it between the legs of BU junior Matt O'Connor.

A hitting from behind call on Terrier freshman Jack Eichel allowed the visitors to take their first lead of the game at 18:24. Criscuolo took a feed from senior defenseman Patrick McNally for a pretty wrist shot high over O'Connor's glove side.

McNally added to his impressive resume through nine games as he leads the nation's defensemen with 1.38 points per-game, including eight helpers.

The Terriers knotted the score at two 6:43 into the third period as junior Ahti Oksanen took a long wrister from outside the right circle that slid between Michalek's legs. Freshman blue liner Brandon Hickey set the play up from the center point, feeding the Finnish winger for his eighth goal of the year and his fifth in four games.

Criscuolo's second goal was his third in two games as he scored the game-winner in Friday night's 5-1 win over Bentley. He made it two in a row in the clutch department by redirecting Vesey's centering pass between the legs of O'Connor.

"When the puck's behind the net, we knew to get guys going to the front," Criscuolo said. "Jimmy heard me calling for it, kind of threw it out front. I got a piece of it on the first try. The goalie kind of slid over a tad and I think I might have hit it a little bit out of mid-air."

In addition to completing a sweep of Commonwealth Avenue with the win, the Crimson knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation in their second straight attempt after downing Quinnipiac on March 1, 2013.

Harvard also became the first team to hold Eichel off the scorecard as he entered the game in the midst of a ten-game point streak, the longest by a BU player since Nick Bonino in 2009-10.

"It certainly didn't feel like he didn't have any points tonight," Donato said of the North Chelmsford, Mass. native. "He's a tough matchup but I think our guys tried to be aggressive and try to angle him when we could."

However, he mentioned it wasn't just a good game plan.

"I had a rosary bead in my coat pocket," he joked.

Luck works, and it worked in more ways than one.