PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Here are three takeaways from Harvard’s 3-0 win over Providence on Friday in the first semifinal of the NCAA East Regional.
1. Adam Fox makes his presence felt
While Harvard has made the national tournament for three consecutive seasons, Friday night was its first victory since 1994.
A big reason for that, and any future success the Crimson will have this year, is its depth on defense. That depth was bolstered by the addition of freshmen John Marino and Adam Fox this season. Fox, in particular, made his presence felt against Providence.
He assisted on Harvard’s first goal and then made it 2-0 when he cleaned up Ryan Donato’s rebound and backhanded the puck past Friars goalie Hayden Hawkey to make it 2-0 17:46 into the second period. Fox led the Crimson with four shots on goal and was also part of a Crimson penalty kill that denied Providence on all four of its chances.
Marino and Fox lengthen Harvard’s defensive depth. That was a problem for the Crimson last spring, as injuries left Harvard dressing several inexperienced players during the postseason.
2. Providence can’t catch any breaks
The Friars had a goal waved off in the first period due to an offside call, the first in what was several unlucky breaks throughout the game.
“The referees are human,” Providence coach Nate Leaman said. “To win a national championship, you have to get some bounces along the way. Harvard got a bounce there. I took a look at it between periods and it’s onside but we just had to keep going and I thought the guys did. It’s not like we didn’t get a chance after that.”
Providence had a wide-open net on a second-period power play, but a Friars skater whiffed on the shot. They also couldn’t take advantage of a pair of Harvard penalties that negated the Crimson’s man advantage and gave PC power plays of its own.
The frustrations culminated when Scott Conway hit a post late in the third period before the Harvard goal came loose in the ensuing frenzy around the crease.
Those were bad signs for a young Friars team that fell to 0-7-1 this year when trailing after two periods. Providence might be a well-structured, physical team, but it simply couldn’t convert its chances, especially when the game turned to comeback mode for the Friars.
“It’s tough to be disappointed with the way we played tonight. I thought we played a terrific game,” Leaman said.
3. Merrick Madsen up to task
The skaters in front of Harvard junior goalie Merrick Madsen get plenty of attention, and rightfully so. But Madsen proved he was up to the task Friday, making a career-high 41 saves for his third shutout of the season.
He made 17 saves in the opening period to help keep the game scoreless through a flurry of Friars opportunities in the opening minutes and then made several big stops in the third period to deny any thoughts of a Providence comeback. Since getting pulled after allowing six goals on 18 shots in an 8-4 loss to Dartmouth on Jan. 14, the junior has posted a .938 save percentage during a 17-game unbeaten streak for the Crimson.