For the Harvard men's hockey team, it is time to face the music.
This weekend's tune is 'New York, New York,' as the Crimson travels to Colgate and Cornell to play two pivotal ECAC games. Because of its inconsistent play lately, Harvard (10-9 overall, 10-6 ECAC) cannot afford to look past tonight, when it faces the Red Raiders in Hamilton, N.Y. Yet Saturday's matchup against the ECAC-leading Big Red poses the biggest challenge for the Crimson.
First Things First
Colgate, which carried the ECAC torch all the way to the NCAA finals last year, has struggled in its version of the season-after. The loss of netminder Dave Gagnon to the Detroit Red Wings--where in his inaugural start he was victimized by Wayne Gretzky for The Great One's 700th career goal--has figured largely in the Red Raiders' slump.
Although senior Greg Menges, subbing for Gagnon, limited the Crimson to a single goal last year, he and junior Ken Baker--sharing the goaltending duties--have been unable to continue that high level of play. Consequently, Colgate (10-10-3, 4-9-3) has fallen to 10th-place in the league, and will probably face a one-game playoff to reach even the post-season's first round.
The Red Raiders, led on offense by Marc Dupere (7-18--25) and Jamie Cooke (15-9--24), have not been able to win the close ones. Although senior winger Craig Woodcroft tallied three assists last Saturday against eighth-ranked Clarkson, Colgate lost its sixth one-goal game, 4-3.
The Red Raiders' loss to the Golden Knights, coupled with Friday's loss to St. Lawrence, marked the fourth time this season that the Red Raiders have lost two straight. But Colgate has not yet lost three in a row this season, and the fourth-place Crimson play in Starr Rink, where Harvard has not won for three successive years.
The Ivy Champs?
Cornell, on the verge of wrapping up the Ivy League title--not to mention the ECAC--would love to show the Crimson the same sort of 'hospitality' as Harvard showed the Big Red.
On November 30, the Crimson pummeled Cornell, 8-3, in Bright Center. Now Lynah Rink is the arena, and the Big Red (13-5-2, 12-2-2) seems to have justified its number-seven national ranking. Although Co-Captain Doug Derraugh (16-16--32) and sophomore Ryan Hughes (6-17--26) lead a potent offense, Cornell's strength is its defense.
Leading the league in defense, allowing only 3.19 goals per game, the Big Red have allowed only 435 shots, the lowest total in the league.
Corrie D'Alessio, Cornell's senior netminder, backstops this stalwart squad with a 3.08 goals-against-average, which is also tops in the league.
Harvard, with only two wins on the road in nine games, needs four points to keep pace with Rensselaer, which faces Army and Princeton this weekend.
The Crimson defense, which was solid against the Cadets and Tigers and porous versus Boston University, needs to match the efforts of the Red Raiders' and Big Red's blue-liners if Harvard is to drive home with two victories.
The Harvard net will be protected, but--as per usual practice--Harvard Coach Ronn Tomassoni had not announced his starters at press time. Either Mike Francis, Chuckie Hughes or Mike Francis must give a stellar showing between the twines.
The Crimson offense also has suffered in opponent's rinks.
"There's no magic formula, and no magic combo of lines," said senior Peter Ciavaglia, suggesting a simple but forceful recipe for road success. "Our attitude about games just needs to improve."