The Puck's In Their Rink
Harvard's Scott Fusco spent Tuesday night at Northeastern Arena watching the biggest goal of his college career take on even more importance.
Fusco had scored the game winner in Harvard's 5-4 overtime conquest of Cornell last Friday. That victory, the squad's first within the Ithaca city limits since 1975, pulled the Crimson within a half-game of Yale in the race for first place in the Ivy Division and the corresponding ECAC playoff spot.
Tuesday night at the arena. Fusco rooted along with the partisan crowd as Northeastern disposed of the Elis, 4-1. At the same time, Cornell was losing to powerful Clarkson, and by late Tuesday night Harvard had a piece of first place for the first time since early December.
Now 7-7-2, the Crimson is knotted at the 500 mark with Yale and the Big Red with five games (those two, Princeton, Dartmouth and Northeastern) left to play. All but Saturday night's tussle in New Haven are at home, and the schedule includes a February 27 rematch with Cornell, a game that could decide the title. Despite suffering through a mid-sea on eight-game winless streak, Harvard now controls its own destiny.
And according to Fusco, a freshman experiencing his first ECAC pennant race, that's good news.
"If we can beat Cornell and Yale, we're in real good shape," he said yesterday, "and if we play the way we did Friday night, we shouldn't lose."
Friday night started out like the rest of Harvard's recent visits to cavernous Lynah Rink. With a full house of iron-throated primates leading the cheers, the Big Red bolted to a 4 2. first-period lead and looked off to the races as usual. Another blowout, it seemed with the Crimson as helpless as that poor chicken on the goalpost by the third period.
But this year was Cornell's turn to play poultry. Greg Olson and Michael Watson beat goalie Brian Hayward to tie the score at the end of regulation time, and six minutes into overtime Fusco silenced the house with his 11th tally.
When everybody's rooting against me. I get psyched up," Fusco said. "All you want to do is get the fans to shut up you'll do any thing to get a goal."
Fusco and his mates seem to be over their recent scoring dearth, when they turned every goalie who faced the squad into an All-American Just as one goal often leads to another. Fusco points out, a missed opportunity just increases the frustration "A lot of times when you're not scoring you tend to stand around and not dig in the corners," he said. "But I think we're out of that now."
If so, all signs points to the playoffs. Of the five teams left on their schedule, the Crimson has lost to only one this year. Northeastern. That was in overtime, without its starting goalie and in a game nobody cared about anyway, the Beanpot consolation.
So the talent is there, and so is the schedule. And that's where Northeastern's win last Tuesday night comes in, because now Harvard doesn't need to watch the scoreboard anymore. If the icemen don't make the playoffs now, they have nobody to blame but themselves.
The opportunity is there. Harvard controls its own destiny. You can't ask for more than that.