NCAA runner-up Harvard back in the hunt

Michelle Picard (Harvard - 20). (Shelley M. Szwast)
Michelle Picard anchors Harvard’s blue line. (Shelley M. Szwast)

Harvard Crimson
USCHO prediction: Second
Coaches’ prediction: First
Last season: First (tie) (27-6-3, 16-4-2 ECAC)

The names
Harvard is the choice of the league’s coaches to emerge on top of the standings come season’s end.

“I certainly appreciate the good wishes from our league coaches, but we have a lot of work to do,” coach Katey Stone said. “We lost seven very impactful seniors last year and brought in six freshmen that hopefully will distinguish themselves, but until they get into those games, pretty much unproven.”

The Crimson are all set in the crease.

“In any league, you have to have strong goaltending, and we have that with Emerance Maschmeyer and Brianna Laing and Molly Tissenbaum,” Stone said. “It’s a great trio and creates a lot of depth for us.”

Many coaches might elect to give Maschmeyer the lion’s share of the minutes despite the depth, but she played just over 1,500 minutes last season and has logged 4,309 minutes in her first three years. By comparison, Tiley saw 2,182 minutes in her first season at Clarkson.

“In my opinion, she’s the best goaltender in college hockey,” Stone said of Maschmeyer. “She’s a competitor. She’s gotten better every year, more committed every year. The best part about her, in my opinion, is what a great teammate and person she is, and how she wants to do everything she can for her team to win and be successful.”

Four veteran forwards graduated, but most of the top scoring threats are back.

“With kids like Miye D’Oench and Mary Parker, hopefully Lexie Laing stepping it up a notch, Karly Heffernan, and some of the other kids, things could be good for us, but we’ve got to work hard,” Stone said.

The numbers
Last year’s trio of senior defensemen combined for 234 points in their Harvard careers. With them gone, the careers total for the Crimson blue line is 72, with the bulk of that being 41 points from Michelle Picard.

“There’s no question with Sarah Edney, Josephine Pucci, and Marissa Gedman, that’s a lot of minutes logged,” Stone said. “So we’re going to expect that some of our younger players are going to step up. The best way to get experience is when you’re out there, so we’ll open up the doors and give them an opportunity, and hopefully, everybody will do well. Shelly Picard is so seasoned, I think she doubles as a coach sometime. She’s a great mentor and just a steady presence back there for our younger defensemen, so hopefully, that will help us and our kids will get up to speed quickly. You can’t replace what you lost in those kids. It’s going to be different for us; we know that. We have to figure out how to win differently.”

The prognosis
The ECAC race has gone down to the wire the last couple of years and looks poised to do so once more. Harvard looks to have the most talent, but it also has a large number of mainstays to replace. The time it takes to do so may afford Clarkson the opportunity to grab a lead, and the Golden Knights have demonstrated that they can close the deal. Nonetheless, Harvard looks like the ECAC team with the best shot at reaching the Frozen Four.