It's halftime in the NCAA quarterfinal series between Harvard and Michigan St. and the Crimson's one goal lead is one of the few things that doesn't come as a surprise.
Two of the top defensive teams in the country show cased then offenses in last night's series opener, while Harvard freshman Grant Blair outshone. All American counterpart Ron Scott in the nets.
Eleven goals hardly amounts to a defensive struggle, and countless more pucks could easily have found their way into the back of the net. "I think a lot of people were a little surprised at the scoring." Blair said after the game. "There were a lot of good opportunities out there."
Blair stopped most of the Spartans' "good opportunities," including 16 in the first period. The Crimson rookie kept his team in the game with sprawling saves and some fancy footwork.
Blair's opposite number. Scott, appeared a little less at case at the other end of the rink. "He was flat-footed and back in the goal." Michigan St. Coach Ron Mason said after the game. "The first two goals were shaky."
Scott's shakiness came as a boon to Harvard, which struggled through the early part of the game. "The first two periods were probably the worst we've played in five games," forward Greg Britz said. "This is one of the best defensive teams we've seen all year."
Britz credited the Spartan defense for the success of the Spartan offense Michigan St. cleared the puck well for most of the game, avoiding Crimson fore checks and foreign the Harvard defense to play backing up.
"Our defense likes to stand up," Britz said. "When we were fore checking [in the third period] they were able to do that."
The third period could prove pivotal for the icemen, because after two lack-adaisical stanzas they began to assert themselves. They played the wide-open game that is their trademark as they out-scored the Spartans 3-1. The consensus in the Crimson locker room was that to night's series final would be much different from the first two periods of last night's contest.
Greg Chalmers tallied the last of Harvard's three third-period goals to give the Crimson it's one-goal edge going into tonight's game.
"We needed that," Britz said of the game-winning goal he assisted on. "That gives us a little confidence. The third period was our period all the way."
"The worst is out of the way," Chalmers said. "We're going to come in [to-night] a lot more fired."
Blair agreed, explaining that the team just had to get the early part of the game out of its system. "We were due for a let-down," he said. "We'll be ready. We want to get to Grand Forks," N.D. site of this year's final four tourney.