Earlier this season, Harvard lost a string
of close games and was searching for answers. Breakdowns
at the wrong time, a bad bounce, or failing to capitalize
on opportunities proved to be the difference between winning
and losing. The Crimson were 3-9-0 as the month of November
ended, a month in which they played 11 games. And remember,
Harvard only plays 29 regular-season games every season.
Hockey League Notebook
Junior forward Ryan Maki is Harvard's third-leading
scorer with 12 points in 15 games, and shares the
Crimson's goal-scoring lead with seven goals.
When the schedule settled a little bit in
December, the coaching staff was able to re-focus the players
and work on making some minor adjustments, as well as address
some bad habits that had crept into their games. Lines were
changed and systems were tweaked.
"We went through a lot of adversity early
in the season. As a team we didn't actually know how to
win and we gave the games away. When we went into the room,
we would get behind and get discouraged," senior defenseman
and captain Dylan Reese said. "Now we know what we
need to do, and take the game into our own hands."
After those things were addressed, Harvard
returned to the ice and defeated Dartmouth 3-2, then split
a pair of games at the Great Lakes Invitational, and finally
swept road games at Rensselaer and Union last weekend.
The win over Union clearly illustrated the
difference between Harvard's early struggles and its newfound
confidence. Harvard opened the scoring just 32 seconds into
the game, but the Dutchmen took the lead with a pair of
second-period goals. Harvard scored twice in the last eight
minutes of the game to rally for a win on the road.
"It's tough to analyze what was going
wrong then. Now that we've got a winning streak going, we've
got more confidence that things are going to go our way,"
junior forward Ryan Maki said. "That's what helped
us in the Union game. We were coming off a couple of wins,
and even though we were down, we kept working hard, and
momentum is a big part of that."
"We felt like we played well all game,
but we escaped just barely," Harvard coach Ted Donato
said. "We've been more timely. When you're losing it
seems like you take a penalty at the wrong time or can't
score a goal at the right time. It was a good comeback win
and we've played very well for five games in a row."
Just when it seems that Harvard is turning
things around, and four wins in their last five games clearly
proves that they are indeed heading in the right direction,
another obstacle makes things difficult for the Crimson.
Final exams means that they don't return to
game action until Jan. 26-27, and even that is more difficult
than most games, as it's a pair of ECACHL road games at
St. Lawrence and Clarkson. Another road game at Quinnipiac,
and home games against RPI and Union lead up to the Beanpot,
so the schedule isn't favorable.
Harvard can only control how they prepare
for those games, and is taking a positive attitude into
the exam break. Winning streaks have a way of making that
"The key is just working hard in practice
and off the ice. Guys have exams and papers due and we've
got to get that stuff done too, because it's important,"
"We're positive and we're excited about
our team and how it's heading right now," Donato said.
As we've already seen this year, and in years past, not
much separates the teams in the standings."
"Everyday we're getting better,"
Reese said. "We're the team we want to be right now."
Only time will tell if Harvard is the same
team two weeks from now.
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE ECACHL
U-S-A! U-S-A!: Even though
he was coaching a team comprised of players that he was
still getting to know, six time zones away, at the World
Junior Championship you knew that the close bond Union head
coach Nate Leaman had with his staff and players back in
Schenectady wasn't far from his mind. He showed his dedication
to the Dutchmen on Saturday night during the team's home
game against Harvard.
Leaman's flight from Sweden arrived in Chicago
on Saturday afternoon. His connecting flight to the airport
in Albany arrived shortly after 7 p.m. and he went straight
from the airport to the rink, joining the team behind the
bench early in the second period.
Harvard's Jimmy Fraser, who was an assistant
captain on the U.S. team and played in all seven games,
flew directly back to Boston and did not make an mid-game
appearance to cheer on his college teammates.
The U.S. came back with a bronze medal and
impressively defeated Sweden twice on their home ice. The
first win over the Swedes allowed the United States to advance
to the medal round, and the second win over the host nation
came in the bronze-medal game.
"We had a great team, a very talented
team, but one of the things that gets lost is how good the
other teams are," Leaman said. "The margin for
error is very small, because they execute what they do very
well. They're not going to give you a lot."
Union assistant coaches Rick Bennett and Bill
Riga were in charge of the Union team during Leaman's time
with the U.S. national team and oversaw a 4-2 loss to St.
Cloud State in the opening round of the Sheraton/TD Banknorth
Catamount Cup at Vermont, and wins over Rensselaer at that
tournament and Dartmouth in an ECACHL game.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Clarkson (Fri.)
Cornell at Clarkson (Sat.)
Two of the most successful teams in the ECAC Hockey
League over the last two seasons head to northern
New York to try to slow down the team that looks to
be the favorite to win the league this year. Colgate's
Mark Dekanich gave the Golden Knights lots of trouble
last year and Cornell has knocked Clarkson out of
the playoffs for two years in a row.
While You're There: Pre- and
post-game refreshments can be found at a couple of
fun establishments on Market Street, depending on
your mood. Maxfield's is a nicer place, with a large
assortment of drafts and bottles and a full restaurant.
McDuff's is a more casual place with the quaint sign
behind the bar detailing their "Premium Beer"
and "Regular Beer" offerings.
Kirk MacDonald and Union's Olivier Bouchard were announced
as two of the 13 nominees for the Hockey Humanitarian
Award, which will be presented at the Frozen
Four in St. Louis later this year.
related, but I was disappointed to see two Atlanta
Journal-Constitution columnists leave Dale
Murphy off of their Baseball Hall of Fame ballots
earlier this week. In a day and age when the morality
of Hall of Fame candidates is being evaluated more
than ever, one would think that one of the best players
in the 1980s and one of the best people the game has
ever seen would get increased consideration, especially
from the hometown newspaper where Murphy played most
of his career.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE BAG
• Yale junior forward Will Engasser,
a 2004 draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, has made an impact
on the Bulldogs' last two games after returning to the lineup.
Engasser scored one of Yale's four goals in a 4-4 tie against
Nebraska-Omaha on Dec. 30, and then scored twice in Yale's
4-3 win over Brown last week. Engasser was a healthy scratch
in the previous four games.
• That win over Brown turned things
around for Yale, as they blew a 4-0 lead in the tie against
UNO, but rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat Brown and move
ahead of the Bears in the ECACHL standings. Those travel
partners play against Quinnipiac and Princeton this weekend.
• Princeton earned a split with the
suddenly banged-up Bobcats. The Tigers lost 2-0 on home
ice at Baker Rink on Saturday, but earned a 4-2 win over
Quinnipiac at Northford Ice Pavilion on Tuesday night. Four
different Tigers scored.
• Quinnipiac was without the services
of junior forward Dan Travis, who is out for the season
due to a knee injury suffered in Saturday's game at Princeton.
Part-time defenseman Dan Lefort moved up to skate on a wing,
and freshman Josh Duncan played on the blueline.
• St. Lawrence is 1-4-1 in its last
six games, but the victory was an exciting 4-3 win over
Boston University in the first round of Dartmouth's Ledyard
Bank Tournament. Saints' freshman Mike McKenzie scored the
game-winning goal on a penalty shot in overtime. The four
losses in the stretch were to teams that are, or were, nationally-ranked
this season – Clarkson, New Hampshire, Vermont, and
• Union's Leaman compared his dismissal
of sophomore forward Augie DiMarzo earlier this season to
another, more-publicized decision by head coach Don Lucia
of the Minnesota Golden Gophers to part ways with standout
forward Tyler Hirsch. "It's similar to the situation
with Tyler Hirsch at Minnesota. We have standards and expectations
for our players and our program and he wasn't meeting them."
• Raymond Sawada has been one of Cornell's
best forwards in recent games and has nine points in his
last seven games, and has scored five of his seven goals
this season in that stretch.
• After starting the season 4-1-3, Rensselaer
has just one win in its last 12 games and has lost four
in a row. The Engineers have been without senior forward
Oren Eizenman for the last six games due to injury. Eizenman
had 13 points in RPI's first 14 games. Since Eizenman's
injury, the Engineers have averaged just 1.33 goals per
game over their last six outings.
• Colgate's Tyler Burton has played
in 98 career games and could reach 100 games played in his
Raider career this weekend at St. Lawrence and Clarkson.
Burton has 98 career points in 98 games.
• Dartmouth snapped a four-game losing
streak and a six-game winless streak with a 6-2 win at Rensselaer
on Saturday. The Big Green begin an uncommon stretch of
four straight non-league games through the rest of January,
starting with this week's game against in-state rival New
Hampshire at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Joe Gladziszewski can be
reached at email@example.com.