Sean Malone hat trick carries Harvard to ECAC hockey final

March 18, 2017

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — It took more than 30 minutes of play for Harvard to find the back of the net during the ECAC men’s hockey semifinal yesterday, but the Crimson’s Sean Malone was just getting started when he scored the first goal of the game halfway through the second period.

Harvard bested No. 5 seed Quinnipiac, 4-1, to move onto today’s final against Cornell at the 1980 Herb Brooks Olympic Arena.

With more than 20 shots on net already registered, Michael Floodstrand dropped the puck off to Malone, who found the upper left corner of the net over Quinnipiac goalie Andrew Shortridge’s shoulder for the first score of the game at the 11-minute mark of the second period.

Five minutes later, Quinnipiac tied the game on a power play when senior Derek Smith fed the puck to Thomas Aldworth for the near-post score. Harvard junior Jake Horton was in the penalty box on a hooking call when the Bobcats scored their lone goal of the game.

With just 1:10 left on the clock in the second, Malone put away his second of the night on assists from Nathan Krusko and John Marino for a 2-1 lead.

Four minutes into the third, Malone netted his third, putting the puck past Shortridge with some elaborate stick work. Malone was assisted on the goal by Luke Esposito and Viktor Dombrovskiy. Malone’s was the first hat trick in an ECAC semifinal since 1999.

Esposito rounded out the scoring on an open-netter.

“We made it clear to the younger guys that we owed them one from last year,” Esposito said, as Harvard fell to the Braves in the ECAC semifinals. “I thought it was a good game both ways and it’s a nice way to finish a four-year rivalry with those guys.”

Harvard and Quinnipiac split games during the season, each winning at home.

“It’s pretty special being a senior; it’s my first hat trick and it feels good to do it in a game like this,” Malone said. “It was a really fun game (and) we’re going to be playing one of two very good teams tomorrow.”

The Crimson gained an early advantage in shots on goal, but failed to find the back of the net during the first period. Harvard at one point held an 11-1 advantage in shots, and dominated the game, out-shooting Quinnipiac 36-26.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to stick with the game,” Harvard junior goalie Merrick Madsen said. “I think it was easier, just playing at this kind of venue with the stakes where they were at, it made it easier for me to stay with it and respond to their big push there at the end.”

Esposito created two quick opportunities late in the first period when he sent the puck to defenseman Clay Anderson, but that chance was broken up by a smothering Quinnipiac defense. Esposito then took a pretty shot on net with a backhand flick just a minute later, but Shortridge gloved it to keep the game scoreless at the end of the period.

After Ryan Donato and Kerfoot each had wrap-around attempts on net for Harvard early in the second period, Quinnipiac stepped up its defensive effort and kept the puck between the blue lines for a good chunk of the second period.

“I think we’re very excited to move on,” Crimson coach Ted Donato said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game and it was. I thought we carried the play with shots, but they’re so dangerous in transition. So I thought our guys played well. They played great down the stretch here.

“I thought Sean Malone was immense for us tonight. Up and down the line, we’ve had some great efforts.”