This just could be The Year for the Harvard hockey team. The squad has accomplished a lot of things this season that other teams past and present have not been able to do. Perhaps Cleary's kids can add an ECAC championship to that impressive list.
Now before you go dismissing me as one of those lunatics that predicts stuff like, "The world will end tomorrow," check out this list of Crimson accomplishments. You'll probably be impressed:
First off, the Crimson traveled into the wilderness of upstate New York on December 7, two days after Dartmouth handed Harvard a 4-5 loss in friendly Watson Rink, and won back-to-back games against St. Lawrence (6-4) and Clarkson (5-3). Harvard became only the fourth team in ECAC history to sweep a doubleheader in those two snakepits.
Second, this year's version of Harvard hockey proved that the Crimson indeed "can" win coming off exams. In fact, the squad proved it even more dramatically than expected, as it won literally "during" exams. Twelve players had exams the afternoon of the opening round of the Beanpot tournament against Boston College, and several more had them the following day, but Harvard excelled, 11-6.
The brings us to the third item on the list, the Beanpot finals. Harvard won its first Beanpot championship since 1969 by defeating Boston University (5-4) in what has to rank as one of the most memorable college hockey games in quite some time. Harvard not only broke B.U.'s four-year hold on the pot of beans, but also snapped a Terrier eight-game winning streak.
The fourth accomplishment for the Crimson came at Cornell's Lynah Rink. Harvard won in Ithaca for the first time in ten years and was the first Ivy League team to win there in nearly 50 games. The win was no fluke; it was a convincing 7-4 come-from-behind victory. The Cornell conquest also came just a night after Harvard won an exhausting 8-6 contest at Colgate. So Harvard had swept its second road trip in very unfriendly surroundings.
The victory in Ithaca set Harvard well on its way toward its fifth major accomplishment of the season, the Ivy League title. The Crimson icemen all but won that before a hostile crowd in Dartmouth's Davis Rink last Wednesday by beating the Big Green, 6-2. All that was left after that was for Harvard to trounce Yale, 10-3, Saturday, to ensure sole possession of the coveted crown.
This is the first time since 1963 that Harvard has won the title, and it breaks a seven-year hold in the Ivies by Cornell.
All of these accomplishments, except for the first, have come since exams. The squad rebounded from five heartbreaking one-goal losses in the division before semester break to take all but one of its last nine. Cleary's "Comeback Kids" have the momentum going into the playoffs.
I hesitate to make predictions about the ECACs not only because this has been an extremely hard season to predict, but also because I'm a lousy predicter. However, I'll go out on a limb for the opening round.
HARVARD-PROVIDENCE: The Crimson offense should prove too much even for the highly touted Friar defense. Harvard by two.
NEW HAMPSHIRE-RENSSELAER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE: This one could hinge on the goalies. If Cap Raeder is still injured, the UNH Wildcats will have problems. And if RPI's Don Cutts is hot, even Gordie Clark will have trouble beating him. This one could be an upset. RPI, in overtime.
BOSTON UNIVERSITY-DARTMOUTH: Terrier coach Jack Parker listed the Green as one of the two teams he was hoping B.U. would not have to face in the opening round. He's apprehensive. B.U. has tailed off the last portion of the season, but so has Dartmouth. This one will be close. Boston University by one.
CORNELL-ST. LAWRENCE: Cornell is still smarting from losing the Ivy crown for the first time in nine years, by dropping a pair in Lynah Rink to Harvard and Dartmouth. The Big Red squad will be up for the ECACs. Cornell by two.