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  • 2017 Frozen Four: Harvard hits heartbreak hill in last-second loss

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    2017 Frozen Four: Harvard hits heartbreak hill in last-second loss

    Bob Snow April 7, 2017

    (Photo by Bob Snow, Bruins Daily)

    CHICAGO – One and done – and in dramatic fashion.

    Harvard’s hope for a second national championship came to an abrupt end with 27 seconds left in regulation Thursday night at the United Center when Minnesota-Duluth’s Alex Iafello tipped a Willie Raskob slow roller five-hole past Merrick Madsen to break a 1-1 game, all but headed to overtime.

    “It appeared we had a couple opportunities to get the puck out and we get trapped I think with three guys on the boards,” Crimson coach Ted Donato said postgame. “And I think they got a tip in front of the net that ended up going five-hole.”

    In the final frantic seconds, Harvard hit no less than three posts to grab the equalizer – in a final gasp to keep their 18-game win streak intact – and live to play that one last time.

    Not to be.

    Here’s what else we learned as Duluth punched its ticket to Saturday’s final against Denver, while the Crimson headed home red-eyed from the heartbreaking loss.

    Puck luck abandons Harvard in final seconds

    First, Luke Esposito hits the crossbar with 10 seconds left; a killer second clang with just 2.9 ticks when Sean Malone came within a puck-width of scoring the biggest goal in Harvard’s last 25 years when they won their only national championship in 1989.

    “Everything happened so fast,” a dejected senior captain Alexander Kerfoot said after. “We had opportunities to score there at the end, hit a couple of posts. We took it to them. And just wasn’t meant to be.”

    Disallowed goal comes back to haunt Harvard

    Midway through the third, a major scrum around – and in – Duluth goalie Hunter Miska’s crease had the review showing the puck finding its way over the goal line. But after a lengthy review, it was disallowed, denying the Crimson a 2-1 lead.

    “It looked like the puck was in before [the referee] was able to blow the whistle,” Donato said. “They went and looked at it. The explanation I was given was that there was no audio on the replay. He thought the goalie at one point had it underneath his glove, and in [the referee’s] mind that’s when the play was over.”

    “I think — I don’t know,” Medford native and Harvard senior Devan Tringale said, “it might have been an early whistle.”

    Crimson offense stifled

    “I think pretty much every bit of ice was hard to get out there,” Donato said. “It was two teams that both are very good defensively. So I thought we generated chances. I don’t think the game ever got probably up and down the ice as much as we would have liked.”

    The nation’s No. 1 offense at 4.14 goals per game never got into its customary rhythm as the Bulldogs clogged the neutral zone and limited the high-flying Crimson to but one goal – a first-period power-play tally by Tyler Moy to give Harvard the early lead. Moy’s deep angle shot off the left dasher found net behind Miska with Kerfoot and Adam Fox assisting.

    The lead did not last long when Joey Anderson tipped a floater off the faceoff to payday past a screened Madsen at 18:24.

    It was Harvard’s third man-advantage of the period. They would get one more at 16:11 of the third, but Duluth’s PK held firm.

    Goaltending duel throughout the 60 minutes

    Miska, a 21-year-old freshman and MVP of the West Regional, and Flyers’ pick Madsen, MVP of the East Regional, dueled all 60 minutes to keep the game deadlocked. It ended with Harvard outshooting Duluth, 40-38.

    Madsen at his best on a Duluth power play early in the second period when he made three terrific stops, the best a glove on a point-blank laser by Anderson. And a repeat performance on an Adam Johnson blast eight minutes into the final period.

    “[Madsen] gave the bench a lot of confidence,” Donato said about his junior netminder. “When you play a team like that, you know, they played so many close games and it was going to be a bounce either way. We thought we got that bounce with ten minutes to go there. It didn’t work out. But I thought Merrick was outstanding.”

    Donato’s summary of his team

    “The emotions, the love in the locker room; this was such a special group. It’s really tough to swallow right now because these guys have really given their all, all year. Not only of themselves but to their teammates,” said the Harvard bench boss and former Bruin. “And I think this will be an incredibly special group in my mind forever.”

    Duluth vs. Denver for all the NCAA marbles

    Two NCHC teams with tons of history – mostly from their storied years in the former WCHA – meet Saturday night at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN for the ultimate bragging rights. Duluth last won its only title in 2011. Denver last won it all with back-to-back titles in 2004 and ’05. A Denver win will tie the Pioneers with North Dakota for second place with eight behind Michigan’s nine.

    Denver earned the Saturday ticket with a convincing 6-1 steamroll over Notre Dame in Thursday’s second semifinal game.

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