Playoff run could give Harvard push into new season

When you have two seven-game losing streaks separated only by a win over Army, you’re probably having a bad year.

That was the case for Harvard as last January came to a close: losers of 14 of 15, ultimately to become 17 of 19 following yet another first-round Beanpot defeat. The Crimson had mustered fewer than three goals in 17 of its 22 games to date. Fortunately for the Crimson, the ECAC loves a redemption story.

Like Colgate — and to a lesser extent, Cornell — Harvard picked itself up off the mat just in time to throw a few roundhouse blows before the playoffs. Down goes Boston University in the Beanpot consolation. Down goes Cornell at Lynah, five days later. Pop, pop, pop: Brown, St. Lawrence and Clarkson each took it on the chin in the last three tilts of Harvard’s regular season.

The price of a miserable winter came due with a trip to Potsdam to open the playoffs, but Harvard stunned the Knights with a prompt two-game sweep. The team looked good to secure another upset the following weekend with a Game 1 win at Dartmouth, but a 2-1 overtime result and a 4-3 squeaker in Game 3 didn’t fall its way.

“We felt we finished pretty strong at the end of the season. We were a bounce away from making the final four in Atlantic City,” said coach Ted Donato. “We feel that we have some real key guys returning, first and foremost with Danny Biega, who led our league in [league defensive scoring] last year, and is one of the top scorers in the league returning, period. Alex Killorn, who I felt in the second half of the season was as good as anybody in our league, up front, scored 15 goals last year.”

Biega’s 11-19–30 line will earn him a lot of attention in this, his junior year. He and the rest of the team are hoping that someone beyond Killorn will step forward with some timely strikes, as none of the other returners registered more than seven goals last time out.

With the graduation of goaltenders Kyle Richter and Ryan Carroll, the Crimson crease is a point of intense concern. Donato hopes that a highly regarded rookie out of Glastonbury, Conn., will be able to stand and deliver sooner rather than later.

“Steven Michalek could be an impact player for us at the goalie position,” Donato said. “The goaltending position — not only at Harvard, but across the league — it seems like every year we’ve got three or four high-end goaltenders returning, and this year some of the top goalies have left,” Donato stated. “I think it’s definitely a question mark for us. [Sophomore] Raphael Girard played one game for us last season, and Steve Michalek — although highly touted — has not played at this level. He’s young, he’s only 18 years old, but he’s also a guy who was one of four or five guys invited to the World Junior tryouts this summer, so he is highly regarded and capable of having an impact for us.”

There are an awful lot of variables on this edition of the Harvard Crimson, but there’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Donato & Co. just need to give this one a push in the right direction.

About the Crimson

2010-11 overall record: 12-21-1

2010-11 ECAC record: 7-14-1 (10th)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Seventh

Key losses: F Michael Biega, D Chris Huxley, G Kyle Richter, G Ryan Carroll

Players to watch: Senior F Alex Killorn, junior D Danny Biega, junior F Alex Fallstrom

Impact rookie: G Steve Michalek

Why the Crimson will finish higher than the coaches poll: Michalek will rise to challenge Dov Grumet-Morris as Harvard’s best goalie of the young century, and the goals will come in time.

Why the Crimson will finish lower than the coaches’ poll: Harvard’s young talent struggles with the league’s steep learning curve, and puts itself into another deep hole by midseason.


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