1 / 9

After a tumultuous past weekend, the No. 5 Michigan hockey team looked to capitalize on a bounty of returning players against No. 9 Harvard.

The Wolverines were still not nearly at full strength, missing four typical starters to injury and once again unable to field a full four lines, yet they were securely in a healthier position against the Crimson than just days ago. 

Still, they could not  fully capitalize on a galvanizing comeback, as Michigan (9-5-1) tied Harvard (7-0-1), 4-4 Friday evening. Early Crimson neutral-zone and transition success jumped them out to a lead which Michigan could not surmount, despite a late-game push by the Wolverines.

“It’s good that we came back,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said. “It was a really good third period, we just need to find a way to do it (for the entire game).”

Each team struggled to find their identity early on. Transition play controlled the first period as a litany of neutral zone turnovers often led to rapid-fire offensive chances for both with Michigan striking first on a cross-crease goal by freshman forward Adam Fantilli.

“I thought our first 10-12 minutes were really good,” Naurato said. “Then we got away from it a little bit.”

Despite the momentum seemingly shifting in favor of the Wolverines, they were unable to build sustained offensive pressure, leaving the door open for Harvard to intervene — much as Naurato alluded to.

Intervene they did as the Crimson took command of the final ten minutes of the first period, carrying their momentum into much of the second: Harvard netted three goals while Michigan’s offense lay dormant. The Wolverines looked continually disjointed, missing passes and struggling to capitalize on the limited chances they found.

“We just got to focus on playing with that intensity and that urgency that we had in the third period for a full sixty minutes,” sophomore defenseman Ethan Edwards said. “As soon as we get away from it, we go down by two and dig ourselves a little hole.”

At the risk of the game falling out of hand, Michigan’s offense finally opened up and began to find shots at will. And with five minutes remaining in the second period, sophomore defenseman Ethan Edwards galvanized perhaps the best 20 minutes of the Wolverines’ season.

Taking matters into his own hands, Edwards grabbed the puck from the point and stepped into the crease, placing a bar-down shot over the shoulder of goaltender Mitchell Gibson and dancing between three Crimson defenders in the process to cut the deficit to 3-2.

With that, momentum swung Michigan’s way.

“That second half of the game … we just started playing our game,” Naurato said. “We start delivering pucks, we were harder, putting more pucks behind them. Not turning it over at the blue line, which didn’t feed their transition game and just everything we talk about.”

Despite ceding a Harvard powerplay goal in the first minute of the period to push the score to 4-2, Michigan had instigated something it had sorely missed — a dominant offensive onslaught.

Three minutes into the third period, graduate forward Nolan Moyle cleaned up a scrum in front of the net to bring the Wolverines back within one. The Wolverines dominated the final 18 minutes of the period, creating an avalanche of high-danger chances and pushing Harvard onto its back foot. 

Michigan logged 42 total shots in the final frame alone, 18 of which found Gibson. Generating chance after chance, the Wolverines were rolling.

Those chances paid off as junior forward Philippe LaPointe sent a slot shot past Gibson to tie the game at four, sending the game to overtime. 

From there, amid a number of chances, Michigan was unable to secure the victory, ending the five minute overtime period just like it began: tied.

“(We had) a good end to the second for sure and then it transferred over to the third, but like I said, we got to string a couple Ws together.” Edwards said.

Despite a comeback effort, the Wolverines lack of 60-minute play limited their ability to succeed, stymying a potential victory.