January 11, 2007
Give Harvard A Break

By Joe Gladziszewski

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.

ECAC 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.

National TV Schedule

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 happen.

"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," Maki said.

"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.


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
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Colgate 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.

Stick Salute

Rensselaer's 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.

Bench Minor

Non-hockey 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.


• 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 North Dakota.

• 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 gladdy@insidecollegehockey.com.