867-5309: Not Bad for a North Country Weekend
POTSDAM, N.Y.--Okay, so maybe a Crimson sweep over St. Lawrence and Clarkson was asking a little too much.
How about a split with the dreaded North Country duo? I don't think we'll hear anyone complaining, especially since Harvard shed another monkey from its back on Saturday with a 3-1 win over the Golden Knights, its first success against the squad since 1996.
"It will be nice to have movies on the bus ride home for once after this trip," sophomore center Dominic Moore said. "Most of the guys on this team, including myself, didn't know what it meant to win up here."
A solid 3-1 victory over the Golden Knights was a sweet conclusion to what began as an utter disappointment.
Coming off of an unfortunate but hard-fought loss to No. 4 Boston College, no one expected the Crimson to succumb so easily to the Saints. Harvard's lackluster performance allowed St. Lawrence's only dominant line to combine for all six goals in its 6-3 win over Harvard Friday night.
"We came out flat, and did not play an inspired game," Harvard Coach Mark Mazzoleni said. "Was that the same team out there?"
No, Coach, it wasn't.
The team that shut down Colgate and Boston University and played its heart out against the Eagles was not the same squad that took the ice against St. Lawrence. The reported 15 NHL scouts in attendance picked an inopportune time to watch the Crimson, as it turned in its most bland performance this year.
The team we saw last week would never have allowed the Saints' Erik Anderson to get loose in the slot all night and easily amass six points, including his first hat trick of the season.
Anderson lit the lamp early for St. Lawrence, notching a wrist shot from low in the slot at 7:53 in the first period. Saints' winger Mike Gellard won a battle on the boards and slid the puck to Anderson to make the shot.
Just 47 seconds into the third period, Anderson netted an exact replica of his first goal to give St. Lawrence a 3-2 lead.
Nor would the Crimson squad we know so well leave senior goaltender Oli Jonas open so often that he'd have to face 50 shots and make 44 saves to tie his career record. While he has been phenomenal between the pipes for Harvard, a visibly fatigued Jonas couldn't sustain his effort, giving up four goals in the final stanza.
"We had more shots and a lot of great opportunities," St. Lawrence Coach Joe Marsh said. "It was nice to see us break it open there in the third period."
And with a squad that has more than enough capable and talented men up front, it was a shock to see the bulk of the Crimson's offensive chances coming when it was on the penalty kill.
One of the few bright spots of the night was the return of freshman winger Rob Fried to the lineup. About halfway through the game, he joined captain Steve Moore and classmate Tyler Kolarik on the top line. Fried took a pass from Kolarik and slipped the puck by Saints' netminder Jeremy Symington to knot the scoreboard at two apiece.
That said, I'd be willing to wager that Friday's lethargic performance was a fluke. Whether St. Lawrence simply had a better night, or whether Harvard suffered from a particularly acute case of bus legs, the Crimson simply had a bad game.
Fortunately for the Crimson, it was able to shake it off and come back against a struggling Clarkson squad the following night.
The win was especially sweet, given that the Crimson hasn't secured a victory in Cheel Arena since 1995
"It was a true test of adversity," Dominic Moore said. "I was disappointed with the way our team played last night, but I was very impressed with the way we responded."
Moore himself responded exceedingly well to his own uncharacteristically subpar performance, notching the first three-point night for any Harvard player this season.
Moore grabbed a secondary assist off of Schwefel's wrist shot to put Harvard up 2-1 at 10:29 in the second. Freshman winger Dennis Packard worked through some traffic and put the puck on Schwefel's stick. Schwefel launched the game-winner into Golden Knights netminder Shawn Grant's glove. Grant couldn't hang onto it, allowing the puck to trickle across the line.
The power play also received another much-needed boost, as the Moore brothers combined for the insurance goal with only 34 seconds to play in the second period.
Steve Moore took a shot from outside the crease that bounced off of Grant's pads. Grant couldn't control the rebound, which allowed younger brother Dominic, planted at the bottom of the right face-off circle, to wrist a shot past Grant.
Even so, Mazzoleni was not willing to take any more chances. Instead of running three blueliners, he suited five and played a defensive two-man forecheck, leaving the center man back to provide some assistance.
"We only dressed five defensemen tonight because we've been having some difficulties back there," Mazzoleni said. "We sent two man in and kept the center back. Having the third man back helped out a lot. Anything is better than last night."
Mazzoleni's strategy appeared to be successful, as Jonas faced a handful fewer shots than he had the previous night, stopping 34 attempts on the night.
The Golden Knights, a team once known for its unique combination of superior skill and brute strength, came up short as the Crimson, with one year of former Clarkson assistant coach Ron Rolston's rigorous conditioning program under its belt, became the aggressor on both fronts.
"We're a bigger team, but more importantly a faster team," Moore said. "I'd bet on speed over strength any day of the week."
You have to wonder how much of the shift in both teams' physical play has to do with Rolston himself
"I'm sure it has something to do with it," Clarkson Coach Mark Morris conceded. "Ron's a fantastic coach and brings a lot to the table. His love of the weight room and knowledge of young athletes is clearly starting to pay off for Harvard."
With two points in its pocket from North Country, the Crimson can put Friday's disaster where it belongs--in the past--and look towards an easy ride over Brown this Thursday. Anything else would be a fluke.