HANOVER, N.H. — If the Harvard men’s hockey team was at all rusty after 19 months away from the ice, it didn’t show in the Crimson’s season-opener on Friday night.
No. 15/14 Harvard put on an offensive clinic in its first game since March 2020, trouncing Dartmouth, 9-3, at Thompson Arena to open the 2021-22 regular season. The Crimson (1-0, 1-0 ECAC) exploded for six second period goals, burying the Big Green (0-1, 0-1 ECAC), which struggled to create scoring chances in its home opener.
Harvard dominated from start to finish in a contest that got more lopsided as it went on. Six Crimson players recorded multi-point nights — including freshman forward Matthew Coronato, who dazzled in his Crimson debut, notching two goals and two assists.
“It’s always tough to win on the road, and this has been a tough place for us over the years,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “It’s nice to be finally playing a game, and I thought our guys made some key plays.”
Harvard’s special teams picked up where they left off from two years ago, when the Crimson carried one of the best power plays in the country. On Friday, Harvard’s penalty kill limited Dartmouth to 1-for-7 on the man advantage. The Crimson went 3-for-6 on the power play.
“It’s a big part of the game, so we do spend a lot of time on it,” Donato said of Harvard’s special teams. “I thought, killing penalties, we had some shot-blocks, we had some nice saves, [and] we had some puck battles that we won.”
Dartmouth goalie Justin Ferguson struggled in his first appearance in net for the Big Green since January 2020. The senior, who had played in just four games for Dartmouth prior to Friday, allowed nine goals on 37 shots. Still, Dartmouth coach Reid Cashman stuck with his starter for the full 60 minutes.
Harvard jumped out to an early lead, scoring the first two goals of the game in the opening period, despite committing three penalties.
The Big Green gave up a tone-setting shorthanded goal just over one minute after the opening faceoff. After the Crimson committed a penalty just 10 seconds into the game, Coronato put Harvard on the board, taking the puck from a Big Green defender just inside the blue line before scoring on a breakaway with a wrist shot that snuck past Ferguson on the glove side.
“It flipped from us being at a disadvantage to feeling good about ourselves,” Donato said.
Coronato, who went on to score again in the third period and assisted a pair of goals in the second, said he was “really excited off the jump” in his first game for the Crimson.
“I was able to get a turnover at our defensive blue line and just kind of took off and put it high glove,” he said of his first-career goal. “It was a great feeling.”
The Crimson’s penalty kill created problems for Dartmouth, which gave up one shorthanded goal and a pair of goals that came seconds after power-play chances expired.
Harvard tacked on one more in the opening frame when junior forward Nick Abruzzese scored a power-play goal on a shot from the bottom of the left circle. The right-winger — who is coming off a strong freshman season two years ago during which he recorded 44 points and was named the ECAC Rookie of the Year — collected a pinpoint pass through the slot from senior forward Casey Dornbach and beat a lunging Ferguson.
Harvard then cracked the game wide open in the second period. After killing off the tail end of a five-minute Big Green power play that was left over from the first, Harvard came alive for six goals — including two on the power play — that put the game out of Dartmouth’s reach. Wyllum Deveaux, Sean Farrell, Baker Shore, Jack Donato, Henry Thrun, and John Fusco each registered their first goals of the season in the second frame.
After both teams scored in the first three minutes of the second period, making it a 3-1 game, Farrell scored the first of five unanswered goals while crashing the net after a blue line shot by Thrun. From there, the Crimson never looked back.
“Coach Donato really preaches that our best game can beat anyone and that our legs can come through in a 60-minute game,” said Thrun, who notched three points with a goal and two assists Friday. “If we just stick to our game and wear teams down, we’ve got the depth up front — and with D — to be able to play a full 60 minutes and eventually get teams to break down and find the back of the net.”
Dartmouth showed offensive life only intermittently. The Big Green got on the board just under three minutes into the second period when defenseman Tanner Palocsik chipped the puck forward to himself to create a breakaway. The junior fired a shot from the slot that snuck past Harvard goalie Mitchell Gibson.
Gibson, who shared playing time during his freshman season two years ago, surrendered only one goal Friday before being pulled during the second intermission with a big lead.
Dartmouth showed life in the final 2o minutes, scoring twice — but it was too little, too late.
“There’s some things that I am concerned about that we need to fix and adjust,” Donato said. “But overall, I think we should be pretty happy coming out of the game.”
Harvard will host Bentley (3-3) at 8 p.m. Saturday in its first game at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center in more than 600 days.