Harvard hitting on all cylinders, learning success comes with detailed focus

 (Tim Brule)
Harvard has put together quite an eye-opening season entering the semifinals of the Frozen Four next weekend in Chicago (photo: Melissa Wade).

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — As the college hockey season embarks on its biggest weekend of the year, the biggest question has come out of the East Regional: What can’t Harvard do?

The Crimson’s resume is almost as impressive as the university itself, with a co-regular season title, Beanpot championship, an ECAC playoff championship and two strong showcases in an East Regional where Harvard was a No. 1 seed.

“I think they help a lot,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “They help from a confidence standpoint, they help from an experience standpoint. Our guys played in front of a sold-out crowd in the Beanpot championship against a very good BU team, so I think that’s an experience our guys will lean on and take confidence out of. I do think it gives us something to use as a reference point. Obviously, it’s a whole new situation, but I do think that is helpful to the overall team psyche.”

Since the 8-4 loss to Dartmouth on Jan. 17, Harvard has gone 18-0-1. That success comes easy with every facet of Harvard’s game hitting at the right time, including special teams where the Crimson power play is at a 26 percent success rate this season.

“We have a lot of confidence in our group [and] we have two different units that makes it hard for teams to kill against us,” Harvard forward Alexander Kerfoot said. “I think we just wanted to do a good job of moving the puck quickly and getting shots on net and we were able to do that. Power play and penalty kill are huge down the stretch and one and done situations and those are going to be key for us next weekend.”

Four of the team’s top six leading scorers are members of the senior class. Tyler Moy, Sean Malone and Kerfoot all have over 40 points and Luke Esposito has 36. Even contributions and the team’s threat from depth of scoring stems from those players.

“It’s been a great part of our success is the fact that we have great senior leadership,” Donato said. “Guys that have played in the NCAA tournament, guys that are familiar with the big stage and have learned from past successes and failures. It’s been a great season mainly because of our core leadership, which comes from our senior class.”

But a discussion of Harvard’s potential would be remiss without mentioning the resurgence of Merrick Madsen. The junior goaltender became stronger game by game and held his team up when faced with an onslaught of shots in both the ECAC playoffs and NCAA tournament.

Madsen’s numbers put him as the 11th-best goaltender in the nation with a 2.10 GAA and .923 save percentage. His 6-foot-5 reach is key in pulling off saves behind him or reaching to the corners when play is pulled behind the goal line. Even after being named the ECAC tournament Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Goaltender in the East Regional, Madsen maintains his quiet composure in net.

Much like the rest of his team, finesse comes naturally, but is executed quietly.

“We want to focus on what we bring to the table,” said Donato. “Obviously, there are tremendous teams left, teams that have had great success. I just want to make sure our focus is on how we play and what we bring to the table. If we do that, we’ll have our focus in the right place.”