BOSTON — One of the ECAC’s best-kept secrets continues to excel. Arguably the best defensive defenseman in the league, Harvard junior Ryan Lannon is the quiet anchor of a stingy blueline corps.
A group of seven defensemen, six of whom, including Lannon, are NHL draft picks, they have combined to do the majority of the heavy lifting in leading Harvard to back-to-back shutouts — the first such feat for the Crimson since 1987.
Friday, the sextet combined to hold Vermont to just 19 shots, including only 10 with 10 minutes to go in the teams’ ECAC playoff Game 1. This is the same UVM squad that scored six times last Friday against Harvard.
“I thought we did a lot of good things defensively,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni.
Especially on the penalty kill, where the Crimson held UVM without a quality scoring chance over six opportunities, including a crucial 5-on-3 early in the first period.
“[That's] a great opportunity to generate offense,” said Mazzoleni, “but it can work both ways — if you don’t generate offense, it takes away your momentum.”
“We worked on shutting them down,” added Lannon. “We did not want to give them room to operate. We wanted it more than them.”
While the return to health of rookie Dylan Reese and senior Dave McCulloch have been big boosts down the stretch, it is Lannon who has consistently been the best defender of the Harvard zone all season long — and among the best in the league since his rookie campaign.
The Grafton, Mass., native is the most physical defenseman on the team, using the strength contained in his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame to keep opponents’ top forwards off balance and away from the front of the net.
“When you play defense,” explained Lannon, “one little detail can cost you a goal. You want to play aggressive, but not too aggressive. Every game from here on out is magnified.”
Lannon walks that fine line better than most in the ECAC. Rarely out of position, he has a strong understanding of his role.
“When I’m at my best,” he said, “my game is to keep it simple and by physical. I don’t have the quick hands and feet to step up into the offense. My job is to support the forwards, not lead the rush.
“Being a veteran, it’s a big difference. We’ve been in this position before. Confidence is a big part of it. As a freshman you may be nervous in the first playoff game. Now it comes more naturally. I know my game and I don’t do too much.”
On the contrary, Lannon does it all for the Crimson.