Back In The Mix
For the first time since 1995, Harvard finds itself among the NCAA elite, currently No. 13 in the national poll. Most Harvard fans will admit that it’s been a long time since the Crimson have been able to live up to its preseason hype, but after definitive wins against Boston University and an almost-victory against No. 4 Boston College, it appears that this year’s Crimson team is finally stacked with the talent it needs to be competitive with the top teams in the nation.
Early wins against Dartmouth, Colgate and Brown have allowed the Crimson to take a strong stance in the ECAC standings, but those contests against BU and BC were true character tests.
After dispatching of the struggling Terriers in Walter Brown Arena on Tuesday night, Harvard took on the Eagles in their own barn in front of their own fans. With 1:11 left in the game, the Crimson held a 2-1 advantage and appeared poised to storm the ice in triumph.
However, showing why the Eagles have appeared in the last three Frozen Fours and Harvard has not, Boston College emerged from a timeout and deposited the equalizer 29 seconds later. The tide had turned, and it didn’t take long for the Eagles to end any hopes of a Harvard upset as they walked away with the victory just 1:37 into the overtime period.
“You don’t start running until you walk fast, and you start to trot before you run,” said Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni. “We haven’t been in any races yet. Until we’re in a few races, we’ll take this, learn from it and be a better team the next time out.”
The road from mediocre ECAC team to NCAA challenger is a long, arduous one. In his two years at the Crimson helm, Mazzoleni has fastidiously tried to mold this group of players. From implementing a new system to taming egos, he has been constructing a team that understands the principles of discipline, but feels the freedom to explore its potential on the offensive end of the ice.
After showing hesitancy in the first period against Boston College — the Eagles outshot the Crimson by a 23-8 margin — Harvard showed growing confidence as the game progressed, and then a true sign of change. With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game and Harvard up by a goal, the Crimson extended the forecheck, instead of backing into its own zone. The tactic worked — at least for about eight minutes before Lephart scored.
“We are a night-and-day different team from where we were last year,” Mazzoleni said. “We’re not BC yet, but we have our sights on them.”
The Crimson faces another gut-check this weekend when it heads to the North Country to take on St. Lawrence and Clarkson. Although both ECAC foes are struggling this year, Harvard has always had problems stealing four points on this road trip. In fact, Clarkson is one of the only ECAC teams that hold a winning record against Harvard, leading the overall series 38-36-6; the Crimson have not won in Cheel since 1993-94.
But for the first time in quite a while, all eyes will be on Harvard, not Clarkson and not St. Lawrence. Everyone wants to know if the Crimson can continue to claw the way up the national rankings, or if this is some early-season fluke.
“We had the lead for a little while, and then inexperience took over [against Boston College],” said senior Chris Bala. “We need to battle through that kind of adversity.”
Is there any relief in sight for the Brown Bears? After starting the season by losing to Harvard, the Bears peeled off a 5-1 win over Providence and lost an overtime game to Dartmouth. Starting with that Dartmouth game, the Bears have dropped five straight to see their record fall to 1-6-0 on the season.
Maine defeated Brown 6-2 last Friday, and there wasn’t much that head coach Roger Grillo saw that went well, but what he did see could mean a brighter future, either the immediate or far.
“The only positive I can take from this game is the play of our freshmen,” Grillo said. “I thought that (freshman defenseman Scott) Ford looked really good out there, on the penalty kill and on offense, and some of our freshman forwards were doing some good things for us.”
The Saints went to Grand Forks on their “Murderer’s Row” schedule last weekend and came out of North Dakota with a pair of losses. Despite the results, head coach Joe Marsh liked what he saw of his goaltending and what the experience meant for his team.
“We played basically four freshmen on defense Saturday night, and they did a pretty good job,” said Marsh. “We wanted to give our younger players a taste of what it is like to play at the top level of the college game, and I think we learned some things from it. “This is a big weekend coming up, and an important one in terms of the league picture even though it is very early in the season.”
Clarkson finished third in the Syracuse Invitational after dropping the opening round to Cornell and then defeating Colgate. The Golden Knights are one game over .500; head coach Mark Morris is continuing to teach, and his team is continuing to learn.
“We had steady play from our young players and pretty decent goaltending — we continue to improve every time out,” Morris said. “We know we will have to be at our best in the upcoming weekend against Brown and Harvard. It’s our opportunity to finish the first half of our season on a positive note. It is important that we continue to bank as many points in ECAC play as possible.”
Yale/Princeton at Colgate/Cornell
Yale and Princeton played a home-and-home series last week and both teams won a game — on the other’s home ice. On Tuesday it was a last-minute goal by Jeff Dwyer that won the game for the Bulldogs, 4-3, and on Saturday the Tigers held on to a two-goal lead to win 3-1.
Dan Lombard has stood tall in net for the Elis, facing 200 shots in the last six games — an average of 33.3 per game — while allowing 23 goals.
“We continue to give up too many quality shots,” head coach Tim Taylor said. “We’re asking too much of Dan every night.”
Princeton has gotten off to a better start than most expected at 3-2-3, 2-2-0 in the ECAC. Head coach Len Quesnelle looked at last week in a cliched manner.
“We got a bounce that went our way tonight,” he said. “On Tuesday, it went Yale’s way.”
Colgate and Cornell went to Syracuse, but only Cornell could come out of the OnCenter with a win. The Big Red beat Clarkson 2-1 in the first game and in the championship game fell 4-3 to Niagara.
One noticeable misery which has befallen the Big Red is offensive production. Through eight games and a 3-3-2 record, the Big Red have scored 15 goals, less than two per game. But that doesn’t seem to concern head coach Mike Schafer as much as it does the fans.
“One of the things we’ve done is play real tight defense and have solid goaltending, and we’ve won those low-scoring games,” he said. “It’s coming slowly, but as I said our biggest thing is we need to get rested and get ready to play the high level.”
A lot of people are wondering what has happened to the Red Raiders. After a pair of losses in the Syracuse Invitational, the Raiders are 2-8-2, with their only two wins coming against Sacred Heart and Brown. They are now 1-7-0 in their last eight.
How to turn it around?
“I thought we worked harder tonight, I thought we really did,” said head coach Don Vaughan after the consolation loss to Clarkson. “We had better individual efforts out of guys like (Kyle) Doyle, (Sean) Nolan; they played well, Cory Murphy had a better game, but we’re a team that needs to have every guy going and we’re not there right now.”
Heading into this weekend’s action, who would have thought it would be Union as the favorite as the Dutchmen headed into Troy to take on the Engineers? The Skating Dutchmen moved up to 11th in the USCHO.com poll after a 2-2 tie against Mercyhurst and a 5-3 win over UMass-Lowell.
“I’m not getting caught up in it,” head coach Kevin Sneddon said. “It’s the same thing as the week before. It’s a compliment, and that’s all we’ll take it as. It doesn’t do us anything to prepare for RPI, and that’s our main focus right now.”
The Engineers come off of a 5-0 win over Mercyhurst after a 9-2 victory against UMass-Amherst the weekend before. Those were their first back-to-back wins of the season as they head into the final weekend of their six-game homestand.
Suffice to say, home cooking has helped the Engineers.
“We’ve put a little streak together with our win tonight” said head coach Dan Fridgen Saturday. “We’re coming together and playing a little more consistent.”
If It’s So Easy, You Try It
We took down Vic in week one, and Tayt in week two. Now it’s week three, and we welcome another challenger.
Tayt gave us a good fight last week, but in the end we did prevail. Tayt wound up under .500 with a 5-9-1 record, two games under our mark of 7-7-1.
Thanks for the game, Tayt, but unfortunately, you are now banished from the island.
We now welcome Michele Kelley, a Colgate fan. What’s that old cliché? “Third time’s the charm”? Perhaps someone will beat us, so let’s take a look and see what Michele thinks about this weekend’s action.
Friday, December 1
Brown at Clarkson
Michele — Clarkson’s hot right now, and Brown is … well, Brown. Clarkson 6, Brown 1
Becky and Jayson — Clarkson 5, Brown 1
Harvard at St. Lawrence
Michele — Harvard may have a lot of talent this year, but SLU is at home, so advantage Saints. St. Lawrence 6, Harvard 4
Becky and Jayson — Harvard 3, St. Lawrence 2
Princeton at Colgate
Michele — I try not to pick against my team, and we need to pull out at least a couple of points this weekend. Colgate 3, Princeton 2
Becky and Jayson — Princeton 4, Colgate 3
Yale at Cornell
Michele — Yale’s doing well so far, and I have no great love for Cornell. Yale 3, Cornell 2
Becky and Jayson — Cornell 4, Yale 1
Union at Rensselaer
Michele — In this battle of the travel partners, Union continues its winning streak. Union 5, RPI 3
Becky and Jayson — Rensselaer 3, Union 2
Saturday, December 2
Brown at St. Lawrence
Michele — History repeats itself as Brown pulls out another victory at Appleton for its first two points of the season. Brown 4, St. Lawrence 3
Becky and Jayson — St. Lawrence 5, Brown 1
Harvard at Clarkson
Michele — Clarkson pulls out two victories at home for a four-point weekend. Clarkson 3, Harvard 2
Becky and Jayson — Clarkson 4, Harvard 1
Princeton at Cornell
Michele — Princeton, ashamed of losing to Colgate the night before, gives Cornell a run for its money and comes out on top. Princeton 6, Cornell 4
Becky and Jayson — Cornell 4, Princeton 1
Yale at Colgate
Michele — Like I said, I try not to pick against my team, but they haven’t won two in a row all season, and it’s not going to happen this weekend. Yale 5, Colgate 3 Becky and Jayson — Yale 3, Colgate 2
Quinnipiac at Rensselaer
Michele — Quinnipiac is leading the MAAC right now. And RPI is only a mediocre ECAC team so far. Quinnipiac 2, Rensselaer 1
Becky and Jayson — Rensselaer 6, Quinnipiac 5
Holy Cross at Vermont
Michele — I won’t say anything bad about Holy Cross, but Vermont’s at home and those Vermonters love their hockey. Vermont 7, Holy Cross 1
Becky and Jayson — Vermont 7, Holy Cross 3
Sunday, November 26
Quinnipiac at Union
Michele — If it was any other year than this year, I would definitely take QC. But this is 2000, and Union is doing pretty well. Union 3, Quinnipiac 2
Becky and Jayson — Union 4, Quinnipiac 2
Remember, if you’re interested in putting your money where your mouth is, drop us an email to be eligible to be chosen when Michele bites the dust.
Thanks this week to Dan Fisher, Sean Peden and Ken Schott for their contributions