When the Vermont hockey team rolled into town in early January, Harvard defenseman Kevan Melrose became an unlikely hero.
Melrose--who is best known for his physical style and high penalty-minute total--was, for the night, a goal scorer. A game-winning goal scorer. The blueliner broke a 2-2 deadlock with a third-period tally that rocked Bright Center. Harvard won the game, 3-2.
Tonight Harvard (20-2 overall, 16-2 ECAC) takes the ice at soldout Gutterson Field House in Burlington, Vt., for the second meeting of the Crimson and the Catamounts this season. But this time, Vermont need not fear Melrose. The junior will be on the sidelines serving a one-game misconduct for a butt-ending penalty in Monday's Beanpot championship game.
Melrose will not be the only Crimson defenseman sitting out of the contest. Junior Scott McCormack remains sidelined with a month-old collarbone injury and junior Brian Popiel received a shoulder injury against Colgate last Saturday that should keep him out of the line-up for the next few weeks. In addition, seniors Josh Caplan and Nick Carone both have shoulder injuries, but are probable for this weekend.
"We're wounded warriors right now," Harvard Coach Bill Cleary said. "We're all pretty well set up front, it's just the defensive corps that's the problem."
The fast-skating Catamounts (15-11, 10-8), led by the East's number-two goal scorer, Kyle McDonough (24 goals, 23 assists, 47 points), are battling with Clarkson and Cornell for the final home-ice site for the ECAC playoffs. Harvard is already assured of home ice.
"Vermont is a really good skating team," Caplan said. "The rink they have is conducive to that kind of game, so we should be able to play our style."
Melrose's return for tomorrow's game in Troy, N.Y., should alleviate some of Harvard's defensive woes. The Crimson face on-the-skids RPI (12-11-3, 8-8-2) in Houston Field House at 7:30 p.m., and the presence of the Crimson's most physical player should give the Crimson a boost against the league's most physical team.
"RPI really likes to take the body," Caplan said. "It's important that we get ahead and don't have to try and come back like we did [in Harvard's 6-5 overtime loss at Colgate last Saturday.]"
The Engineers have gone 1-5-1 in their last seven games.