POTSDAM — Last-place Harvard made the road to hosting an ECAC Hockey playoff series a bit tougher for the Clarkson University men’s hockey team, stunning the Golden Knights 6-2 before 2,334 fans in the final regular-season home game at Cheel Arena Saturday night.
The top eight teams in the 12-team league are assured of hosting a home playoff series and Clarkson is in seventh place with 19 points with two games remaining next weekend at Rensselaer and Union.
Had Clarkson (9-16-7 overall, 8-9-3 conference) won Saturday it would have moved into a three-way tie with Dartmouth and Yale for fourth place, which is the final spot that gets a first-round bye.
Clarkson had a strong outing Friday, shutting out Dartmouth 4-0 and the Golden Knights got off to a good start Saturday when Ben Sexton scored a power-play goal just 5 minutes, 24 seconds into the game.
But Harvard (8-16-3, 5-13-2) responded by scoring three goals in the first period to take a two-goal lead.
Harvard tied the game with a power-play goal from Kyle Criscuolo at 7:44 and then Criscuolo scored on a breakaway at 8:53 to give the Crimson the lead for good.
Harvard built the 3-1 lead when Greg Gozzo scored on a rebound with 23.6 seconds left in the opening period.
Clarkson responded from a stunning first period by controlling play throughout the second, outshooting the Crimson 15-3.
The Golden Knights cut Harvard’s lead to one when Simon Bessette scored on a shot from the circle at 18:31.
But after getting back into the game in the second Clarkson was stunned again when the Crimson scored three goals in 2:53 of the third period to turn the game into a runaway.
Conor Morrison started the spurt with a shot that went over the glove of Clarkson goalie Greg Lewis and rang off the post at 6:41. Gozzo scored his second goal of the game at 7:34 and Brayden Jaw ended the run with a goal at 8:49.
If Clarkson is to return to Cheel Arena for a playoff series it may have to earn at least two points next weekend in games against second-place Rensselaer and two-time defending regular-season champion Union.