LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Here are three takeaways from Harvard’s 4-1 win over Cornell in the ECAC championship game.
1. Harvard demonstrates its depth
Depth is crucial for any team that wants to succeed, and Harvard is certainly deep, but it’s not just the strength of the Crimson’s third and fourth lines that makes the difference. Harvard has depth among its top scorers as well, and this weekend showed that.
Entering the contest, Harvard’s “second” line of Tyler Moy, Sean Malone and Luke Esposito was carrying the offense, but the Crimson’s top line of Ryan Donato, Alex Kerfoot and Lewis Zerter-Gossage got the job done against Cornell. Donato had a pair of power-play goals, in the first and third periods, to pace the Crimson to victory.
Even with Donato stealing the show, Moy, Esposito, and Malone still managed to record four points in the game, and the three combined on Esposito’s 19th of the year in the second period, which wound up as the game winner.
Combined with their skating ability and strength on defense and in net, the top-to-bottom depth the Crimson boasts is the reason they were able to put up eight goals against two of the better defensive teams in the ECAC.
2. Big ice too much for the Big Red
Coming into the championship weekend, Cornell was the only team whose style of play didn’t seem to be helped by the Olympic-sized ice in Lake Placid. The Big Red was able to skate with Union on Friday night, but Saturday, the big ice played right into the hands of the Crimson, who took advantage.
Harvard used the extra space on the wing to carry the puck in to Cornell’s zone with little pressure, and once that offense gets set up, it’s hard to effectively defend them.
When the Big Red had offensive zone possession, they looked as good as Harvard, and two dazzling saves from Merrick Madsen and a clutch clearance of a loose puck in the crease by Clay Anderson changed a game that easily could have seen Cornell score two goals. But as soon as the Crimson picked up the puck, their speed on the large ice sheet was too much for Cornell.
Bound for the NCAA Tournament, Cornell isn’t finished yet, and a return to a typical college ice sheet makes the Big Red a team nobody wants to face.
3. A season of trophies
The Crimson are making a habit of winning trophies this year, and that experience, coupled with the skill they have, makes them a very legitimate contender for the national championship.
Harvard claimed the Ivy League championship, ECAC regular-season title and the Beanpot before taking home the Whitelaw Cup, which means they’ve won every trophy they were eligible to win this season. The team’s mix of dynamic offensive players and good skating defensemen, along with the play of Madsen, makes the Crimson a team nobody will want to face in the NCAA Tournament.
They also won their trophies in convincing fashion. They topped Boston University 6-3 to win the Beanpot, lost just four games all year in ECAC play, finished three points clear of Cornell in the Ivy league race, and won by identical 4-1 scores in Lake Placid. They are composed in pressure moments and it’s paid off so far. With one more trophy out there to win, the Crimson should be on the short list of contenders.