ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — For the last month and a half, Harvard sophomore goaltender Raphael Girard has been a coach’s dream … and a PR flak’s nightmare.
The 5-foot-11 product of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, is 6-2-3, hasn’t allowed more than three goals in an outing all year, and hasn’t had a sub-.900 save percentage appearance in 2012. He has saved 147 of 155 playoff shots this year, in his first-ever collegiate postseason action.
So while it may give sports information director Casey Hart a few headaches, it seems a fair compromise to allow him to compare himself to Patrick Roy, or to wonder aloud about the atmosphere at home games.
“Sometimes when things are going your way, you might feel pretty cocky,” Girard said after a flashy win over St. Lawrence last month, in which he taunted Saints sniper Kyle Flanagan with yet another saved puck. “I don’t do that all the time, but sometimes when things are going your way, it rattles them even more, and they can’t find the back of the net, so it’s good for you.”
His postgame comments have moderated a bit in their confident intensity, but his game has done anything but. Girard wasn’t called on to make many saves against Cornell in a 6-1 victory Friday night in the ECAC Hockey semifinals, but those he made were both confident and intense, sparing his Crimson an inevitable and highly dangerous momentum swing.
“I’m pretty sure that today, [the defense] blocked almost as many shots as I did,” he said. “My defensemen made my job so easy. I made like one or two good saves, but … we played even better than we did against Yale.
“There’s no better feeling” than to beat Cornell, he said. “Cornell’s a really good team, and we thought they’d come out really hard. We came out really strong, and we were just relentless. Their goalie [Andy] Iles didn’t play bad, but we came out on fire and made really good plays. We made his life really hard.”
With a .948 save rate over his last four games, “I’m definitely in the zone,” Girard said. “We’re all trying to be perfect out there. I’m definitely on a good streak, trying to keep it up, and with my team playing like they did today, it’s a lot easier.”
Which, in turn, promises to make things very, very hard on Union on Saturday night in the championship game.
Schafer finds shoe on the other foot
A long-time opponent of the oft-meaningless, usually lifeless consolation contest, Cornell coach Mike Schafer finds himself and his team in an awfully ironic situation.
If the Big Red can beat Colgate Saturday afternoon, they will be very strong contenders for one of the NCAA tournament’s at-large bids. Should the Ithacans lose, however, they will require an awful lot of help in order to see their season continue another week.
“I’ve been a real strong advocate to get rid of [the consolation game] for many, many years,” he said. “It’s one of the hardest games to motivate your players for coming off the disappointment of not being in the championship game. Here, all of a sudden it’s one of the more important games of the year to get into the NCAA tournament. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Harvard’s student pep band had to prioritize this weekend, and given that the men’s basketball team was competing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1946, it was a relatively easy call to make. Off to Albuquerque, N.M., they went.
So how did the Crimson build the same kind of audible support that the band would’ve brought to Atlantic City?
Dip into the second-largest private endowment in the world, of course. Second only to the Catholic Church.
Harvard hired an alumni band from St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia to come play on behalf of the Crimson, distributing Harvard Crimson T-shirts and, reportedly, sheet music.
Before everyone piles on Harvard, let it be noted that George Mason’s band played for Bemidji State in the 2009 Frozen Four in Washington, D.C.