February 7, 2008
Harvard Understands Its Identity

By Joe Gladziszewski

Traditionally, when the Beanpot hockey tournament begins slightly after 5 p.m. on the first Monday in February, the arena in which it is played is sparsely populated. Some of the die-hard fans, students, parents, and pep band members populate the TD Banknorth Garden, but many of the other attendees are still making their way to the arena or enjoying dinner or other pre-game refreshments.

ECAC Hockey Notebook

Jon Pelle assisted on Harvard's first goal in a rambunctious start for the Crimson in Monday's Beanpot win over Northeastern.

National TV Schedule

The prompt attendees saw a display on Monday the likes of which Harvard hasn't shown yet this season. The others, hopefully, caught it on television. Harvard ferociously forechecked Northeastern and scored three goals in the first 7:02 of Monday evening's Beanpot semifinal, seemingly faster than the automated announcer on the T can say, "Next stop North Station, connection to Orange Line."

Not only was the three-goal splurge significant, as it was the first time they've scored that many in a period since early November, but it was telling, as the Crimson is undefeated (5-0-2) when scoring at least three times in a game this year.

The manner in which the goals were scored was even more noteworthy as each was scored from within a stick blade's length of the blue paint. Crashing the net with wraparound attempts and jamming at loose pucks gave the Crimson a 3-0 lead.

"The goals have not been coming easy for us this year, and in order to get them we've got to get the messy ones, or the dirty ones as coach likes to call them," Harvard senior forward Jon Pelle said. "The pretty plays will come and we can score goals like that, but it starts with the messy ones."

Pelle started the play on Harvard's first goal, which was finished by senior classmate Paul Dufault. It got the Crimson off to a good start and they frustrated Northeastern for the rest of the night, making it a pretty easy night for goalie Kyle Richter in the 3-1 win.

Early goals based on effort, for one of the 10 lowest scoring teams in the country, set a strong tone and hammered home some of the lessons that Harvard's been learning in an up-and-down season.

After a great start, Harvard went winless for a stretch of nearly two months. After returning from exam break with a win over Dartmouth, a 4-2 defeat at last-place Brown (just Brown's second win of the season) could've damaged the Crimson's confidence. Instead, they refocused for a meaningful rivalry game in Boston's biggest college hockey event and came away with the victory.

"It was extremely frustrating because we played some games that we could've won and there were some that we didn't do the things we needed to do to win," Pelle said. "We tried to stay positive, but also realized that sometimes we didn't deserve to."

Dufault said it was a matter of earning some respect. Once Harvard fell out of the national rankings in the early part of the year, they were forgotten about. Even through an extended slump, the Crimson still have an opportunity to make this a memorable season.

"We've hit some adversity this year but guys were really feeling upbeat for the most part. When we went into the Beanpot people were talking about BC, BU, and Northeastern and we were not getting much respect, so we wanted to make more of a statement," Dufault said. "Outside of the Christmas tournament, all of the goals we set at the beginning of the season are still at hand. Despite our up and down season, we're not out of it yet and we're making strides for the rest of the year."

Throughout the year, Harvard learned what kind of a team it has to be, and that it is defined by its forecheck. If they can pressure the opposing team into making mistakes and generating chances in the offensive zone, and keep things simple in the defensive zone and neutral zone, the Crimson has its best chance at being successful.

Oh yeah, there's the thing about scoring goals too, which Dufault discussed with Harvard assistant coach Sean McCann.

"I was talking to Coach McCann and told him that I was watching highlights on NHL.com of all the goals that are scored. Of course you see Ovechkin toe-dragging a guy or Kovalchuk exploding and scoring, but of the goals I was watching, 80 percent of them are scored below the hash marks," Dufault said. "In general, that's where the goals are scored. You have to pay the price and we needed to do the same thing."

Before Monday's Beanpot title tilt against Boston College, Harvard faces an important ECAC Hockey contest against Union in Schenectady on Friday. The Crimson knows what it needs to do to be successful against both teams. Applying those lessons could give Harvard a boost on a team that sits just three points ahead of it in the ECAC Hockey standings and a Beanpot championship for the first time since 1993.


Don't Go Changin': In compiling these notebooks since the start of the new year, the topic of home-ice advantage has come up in several conversations. Of course the comforts of a home locker room, familiar lodging, no travel, and a supportive crowd are all of great value in the playoffs. On the ice, the primary benefit is that the home team gets the last change and has the option to match lines against its opposition.

For some coaches, it's a huge advantage, especially if they can line up a pair of stalwart defensemen or a strong checking line against the other team's top forwards. For some coaches, it's a non-issue, as they don't want to disrupt the flow of the game and distract the players from actually going out on the ice and performing well.

Pay attention to line matching when you're at the rink over the next several weeks, and keep some of these things in mind when observing the coaching chess match:

  • Is a team too worried about matchups, and not worrying enough about getting its best players on the ice for a regular shift? The visiting team may give more playing time to its shutdown guys to limit the ice time of the top players for the home team. By altering rhythm, they're actually winning the matchup game.
  • Line matching isn't solely based on defensive advantages. A team can find offensive mismatches that it wants to exploit, and get a group of players out against an opposing team with the intention to get scoring chances and opportunities.
  • Changing the game plan on the fly. A team can go into a game planning to match one group against an opponent. After realizing it's not working, they may try a different strategy.
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Cornell at Clarkson, Fri.
Colgate at Clarkson, Sat.

These are the questions that will be answered this weekend at Cheel. Will Clarkson rebound from a tough trip out west? How good is Cornell – top-four good? Or just middle-of-the-pack good? Can Colgate get some momentum early in February for the stretch run?

Stick Salute

Harvard knows that it's gotta stay out of the penalty box against Boston College on Monday, but that doesn’t mean the Crimson will play soft. "I texted my buddy Pat Gannon over at BC last night and told him that he better keep his head up," Paul Dufault said.

Bench Minor

Long streaks of success coming to an end are never an easy thing to embrace. Rensselaer had been unbeaten in 17 straight Big Red Freakout! games, with a 12-0-5 record prior to Princeton's 4-0 win at Houston Field House on Saturday night.


• Congratulations to Brown on getting a pair of weekend wins over Harvard and Dartmouth. The victories were Brown's second and third of the season and were highlighted by the Bears offense coming to life with four goals in each game. Aaron Volpatti, Sean Hurley, and David Robertson each had three points for Brown on the weekend, and Brown is now 3-0-1 when scoring four or more goals this season. The Bears travel to Princeton on Friday night and play a Sunday matinee game at Quinnipiac this weekend.

• Quinnipiac got big nights from individual players in a three-point weekend in the Capital District. Eric Lampe scored all three goals in a 3-2 win at Rensselaer and Jamie Bates had three points in a 3-3 tie at Union the following night.

• Calendar 2008 has been great to Union and Cornell. Since the start of the New Year, Union is 8-1-1 and Cornell is 7-2-1. Keys to both of those streaks can be found on home ice, as the Dutchmen have gone 5-0-1 at Messa Rink since Jan. 1 and the Big Red is 5-1-1 at Lynah in that time.

• Colgate coach Don Vaughan is a graduate of St. Lawrence, and will coach the Raiders at Appleton Arena on Friday night seeking his 250th career victory as a head coach.

• Brock McBride's power-play goal in a 4-4 tie at Niagara last weekend was his 10th goal of the season and also snapped an 0-for-29 drought on the power play for the Saints.

• Princeton's 4-0 win at Rensselaer in the Big Red Freakout! was Zane Kalemba's second shutout of the season, and he earned this one with 41 saves on the night.

• Yale got a 6-3 win over Dartmouth and Matt Thomey continued his recent scoring spree with two more points in the win over the Big Green.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Joe Gladziszewski can be reached at gladdy@insidecollegehockey.com.