Three and Out: Donato’s Hat Trick Ends Dartmouth’s Season

  • Harvard University's Nathan Krusko wheels through center ice Sunday, trailed by teammate Ryan Donato (16) and Dartmouth's Shane Sellar. The Crimson ended the Big Green's season with a victory in the ECAC quarterfinals best-of-three series at the Bright-Landry Center. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Purchase a reprint » —Tris Wykes

  • Dartmouth College defenseman Connor Yau stands up Harvard's Lewis Zerter-Gossage during Sunday's ECAC playoff game between the teams at the Bright-Landry Center. Harvard's 4-2 victory sends it to Lake Placid next weekend for the semifinals and ends the Big Green's season. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Purchase a reprint » —Tris Wykes

  • Dartmouth College goaltender Devin Buffalo, right, watches a referee and both linesmen try to sort out a mess in his crease Sunday. Buffalo made 25 saves but the Big Green's 4-2 loss in the deciding game of the ECAC teams' best-of-three, quarterfinal series ended its season. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Purchase a reprint » —Tris Wykes

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/12/2018 2:00:31 AM
Modified: 3/12/2018 2:00:31 AM

Allston, Mass. — The Harvard University men’s hockey team just had too much for visiting Dartmouth on Sunday. Too much Ryan Donato, that is.

The recent U.S. Olympic star, son of the Crimson’s coach and a Boston Bruins draft pick, notched a hat trick during a 4-2 victory in the deciding, third game of the ECAC teams’ quarterfinal playoff series. The junior scored on a 40-foot, one-time blast, in gritty pursuit of a rebound and with a dipsy-doodle deke while wearing only one glove.

“Overrated!” a Dartmouth fan shouted at No. 16 early in the game at the Bright-Landry Center in a spectacularly off-target barb. Late in the contest, the public-address system blared the White Stripes tune Seven Nation Army, and that’s seemingly what it would have taken to stop Donato during the series’ last two games.

“The difference between these teams isn’t as much as people might think,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet, whose squad played its sixth playoff game in 10 days. “That kid is a difference-maker.”

Said his father, Harvard coach Ted Donato: “On Saturday and Sunday, he elevated his game and that helped elevate our team.”

Ryan Donato has 26 goals and 15 assists. He helped Harvard (15-13-4) advance to the ECAC semifinals in Lake Placid, N.Y., for a fourth consecutive year, where it will face Clarkson. He and his father have declined to discuss whether the Crimson will enjoy his services for his senior season.

Dartmouth opened the scoring in the fifth minute when Collin Rutherford took two whacks at the puck at the left post. His second swing didn’t have as much juice, but it propelled the puck across the line.

Harvard tied the game at 1-1 while on a power play. Donato ripped a one-time shot from the right circle, over goaltender Devin Buffalo’s glove and inside the near post. The backstop was shaken up during a previous play, asking for additional time to recover before the faceoff that began the hosts’ man advantage.

Soon after, Dartmouth insisted it had scored during a goalmouth scramble. Shane Sellar raised his hands in celebration and pointed emphatically into the net. After a lengthy review, however, the officials ruled that netminder Merrick Madsen had pinned the puck against the post with his shoulder.

“Sometimes it’s hanging there by a thread, so I was trying to hold as still as I could,” Madsen said.

Donato scored again for a 2-1 lead eight minutes into the second period. This time he charged down the slot and jammed home the rebound of a shot Buffalo saved by lunging forward and kicking out both his legs. That maneuver and a crowded crease left the senior helpless to stop the sequence’s second shot.

Dartmouth’s last significant gasp came when Harvard committed an interference penalty, handing the visitors a power play with 12 minutes remaining. The Big Green kept the puck in the offensive zone nearly the whole time and had several good shots, but couldn’t solve 6-foot-5 Madsen.

“They were looking at the end of their season and they threw everything at us they could,” said Madsen, a Philadelphia Flyers NHL draft pick and an applied mathematics major. “Our guys stepped up and battled and didn’t give them many shots.”

Thirty seconds after that power play expired, Harvard scored its third goal. Adam Fox carried the puck from high in the zone and just before reaching the goal line, fired a shot inside the near post.

Donato’s third goal was one for the highlight reel. He broke down the left side of the slot with two defenders on his right, cut across the top of the crease and brought the puck towards the right post on his backhand.

Buffalo sprawled to stop that move, but Donato slammed on the brakes just past the right post. Now facing center ice, he reached back and flipped the puck over the downed goaltender with a forehand shot.

“He’s a natural goal scorer and he’s going to be a really good pro player,” Gaudet said. “He’s a sniper and he’s got vision and he’s been a class act in the league since his freshman year. He has a lot of weapons.”

Madsen faces them every day in practice and said he’s thankful he doesn’t have to do so in games.

“Ryan takes hockey very seriously and he prepares more than anybody; he doesn’t cheat the game,” the goaltender said. “He can pinpoint pucks in crazy places.”

Dartmouth pulled Buffalo for an extra attacker and got a Kevan Kilistoff goal with four minutes remaining. Harvard took a penalty with two minutes remaining, leaving the hosts down two men. The Big Green had several point-blank chances, bringing its total for the final stanza to roughly a half-dozen, but none wound up in the net.

Harvard had 22 blocked shots, 15 during the third period. Gaudet tipped his hat to the Crimson, but said he’s already looking forward to next season. Dartmouth was 2-8-2 when it visited defending national champion Denver during December, but finished 16-17-2.

“It’s such an emotional thing when guys wear our uniform for the last time, but I like the team that’s coming back,” Gaudet said. “This is a team that maybe doesn’t have a lot of name brands, but some of our young players are going to be really, really good.”

Notes: Sophomore Cam Strong was a healthy scratch for Dartmouth, opening a lineup spot for John Ernsting. … A pregame video segment showed Ryan Donato using his stick as a make-believe fly-fishing pole, casting and reeling in pretend aquatic prey. … A hashtag on the end boards read #StandUpForBen, a reference to Harvard freshman football player Ben Abercrombie, who remains paralyzed after suffering an injury in the Crimson’s 2017 season opener. … The Harvard student section is designated by signs calling it the “Crim-Zone”… Harvard wore alternate jerseys in the style of the famous Montreal Canadiens sweaters, with an ‘H’ on the chest superimposed over a horizontal torso stripe. … Gaudet took a minute at the end of his postgame news conference to congratulate the Hanover High boys and girls hockey teams, which each won an NHIAA title Saturday. He also praised Sellar, who jumped from a goal and six assists last season as a freshman to 11 goals and 11 assists this winter. “If he’s not the most improved player in the nation, I don’t know who is,” the coach said. “He’s a first-liner and on the power play and he’s killing penalties. He’s the hardest-working, most self-made player I’ve ever been around.”… Dartmouth players took final exams proctored by Gaudet throughout the weekend. … Ryan Donato is a sociology major.

Tris Wykes can be reached at or 603-727-3227.

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