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Saturday, March 17, 2012
ECAC finals: Union ends Harvard's season

By Brion O'Connor

Once the Harvard Crimson got their fill of ties this season – an NCAA-record 11 in all – they learned how to win. Big time. Ted Donato's crew rolled into the ECAC Hockey finals riding lopsided wins over Yale (8-2) and Cornell (6-1). But on Saturday, the clock struck midnight.

The Crimson, which always seemed to find a way to get the equalizer this season, had no answer for the suffocating defense served up by the top-seeded Union Dutchmen, losing 3-1 in the ECAC Hockey championship at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

The loss knocks Harvard (13-10-11), which was playing for its ninth league title, out of any contention for an NCAA tournament bid, despite its great run through the ECAC playoffs. The 6th-ranked Dutchmen, already assured of a spot in the NCAA field of 16, got the league's automatic bid with the title.

Though both finalists potted six goals in their respective semifinal victories, the championship game was a defensive struggle, as Rick Bennett's Dutchmen (24-7-7) limited the high-flying Crimson to just 17 shots on goal.

After the teams battled through a scoreless two periods, Harvard senior Alex Killorn got the Crimson on the board first at 4:52 of the final stanza with his 23rd of the season. However, just 37 seconds later, Union knotted the game, 1-1, on Jeremy Welch's 25th of the campaign.

Union's Daniel Carr gave the Dutchmen their first lead of the game at 9:34, with the eventual game-winner, his 19th goal of the season.

Harvard's David Valek, who has been on a tear the last month of the season, rung his bid for the equalizer off the post with only 2 minutes left in the game, and Union's Josh Jooris sealed the championship for the Dutchmen with an empty-net tally with just 22 seconds left.

Harvard sophomore goaltender Raphael Girard was immense in defeat, stopping 31 Union shots, but that proved little consolation for the Crimson. Union's Troy Grosenick, the league's top goaltender statistically, recorded 16 saves.