CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — One shouldn’t read too much into an exhibition game, but after Harvard’s 8-0 snowing of Guelph on Friday before a friends-and-family Bright Hockey Center crowd, this much could be said without fear of overstatement:
Harvard can skate. And Harvard can score.
With last year’s prized pivots, Dominic Moore and Brett Nowak, taking their turns in the AHL, their former mates showed they haven’t lost the jump that made them the nation’s sixth-best offensive team last winter. Harvard buzzed the overmatched Gryphons all night, not stopping until eight different players scored goals and six more collected assists.
And the Crimson did all of this without Tim Pettit, its top returning scorer, and assistant captain Rob Fried, both out with minor injuries.
“We’ve got a good balance on our team this year,” said coach Mark Mazzoleni. “Good, quality depth.”
That was clear Friday, as the Crimson took advantage of an off-the-books evening to dress 13 forwards and seven defensemen — many, if not all, of whom are strong candidates to become regulars. Throw Pettit and Fried into the mix, and there’s little doubt Harvard is in for a year of intense practices and talented healthy scratches.
“One of the things that struck me about this team is that everyone is capable of contributing every game,” said captain Kenny Smith. “It’s going to make for some very difficult coach’s decisions this year, and that’s a good thing. It keeps us working hard, because we know the next guy is there to step in if we don’t.”
That sense of urgency was reflected in a lopsided set of shot totals: 19-2, 17-4, and 22-1 for a total of 58-7. The last time the Crimson put that much rubber on net was the memorable 2002 ECAC playoff game against Brown, the night of Yann Danis’ legendary 66-save performance.
But amid Friday’s lopsided play, Harvard’s special teams impressed. The Crimson power play was 2-for-4 on goals by Tom Cavanagh and Andrew Lederman, while Guelph was outshot, 3-1, during its three man-advantages.
With Pettit, a power-play fixture the last two seasons, out of the lineup, Harvard’s first unit consisted of Cavanagh, Charlie Johnson, Tyler Kolarik and Kenny Turano, along with point man Noah Welch. They cycled smoothly, especially on Harvard’s second man-up chance, during which that quintet played the entire 1 minute, 12 seconds, and put five shots on Guelph goaltender Ken Ritson.
The last of them was Cavanagh’s one-timer from the right-wing circle that beat Ritson five-hole and put Harvard up 1-0.
Freshman Kevin Du, a 5-foot-8 sparkplug, turned heads with his slippery, aggressive style while centering Harvard’s fourth line. His highlight came midway through the second, when he deked a defender dizzy and fed a wide-open Turano streaking down the right wing for a 2-0 lead.
Rebound goals by Kolarik and freshman Steve Mandes closed the period at 4-0, and freshman Dylan Reese scored about seven minutes into the third for a five-goal lead.
From there, it got even harder for the overworked press box pencil-pushers to keep up.
Smith connected on a one-timer from Lederman for a 6-0 lead midway through the period. Then came Blair Barlow, shorthanded, two minutes later. Lederman filled the scoresheet’s final line with 2:03 to play.
An overworked Ritson finished with 50 saves, while things were much quieter in the Harvard net. Junior Dov Grumet-Morris had three saves in the first 29:46, and sophomore John Daigneau stopped four while playing the rest of the way.
Mazzoleni’s critique? “I thought we did some good things today,” he said, “but we’ve got a long way to go.”
And so, after a win that couldn’t have been more dominating, Mazzoleni and his assistants ordered a couple pies from Pinocchio’s, the renowned pizzeria in Harvard Square.
“I’ve got to stick around and watch this tape for a couple of hours,” he said.
NOTEBOOK: Though Grumet-Morris has been Harvard’s No. 1 goaltender for much of the last two seasons, Mazzoleni has yet to name this year’s starter. “We’ve been very pleased with the progress of John Daigneau, and we’re going to give him a very strong look,” Mazzoleni said this week. “Every position is open, and that very much extends to goal.” … Mazzoleni said Pettit might have played Friday if it had been a regular season game, and that he may return as early as Sunday’s scrimmage at Dartmouth. Fried’s status for the season-opener against Brown next Saturday is unclear, Mazzoleni said.