The Harvard men’s hockey team enters the final weekend of its regular season playing against two teams with both something to prove and something to play for.
The Crimson faces Clarkson (12-18-1, 9-10-1 ECAC) tonight and St. Lawrence (10-18-4, 7-11-2) tomorrow. Currently affixed in seventh and ninth place respectively, both the Knights and the Saints have extra incentive to come out strong against the Crimson.
Revenge is one factor motivating them, as Harvard swept a November road trip against the teams from the North Country, winning 6-1 in Canton and 2-1 in Potsdam. Postseason position is the other reason—both teams are hoping to finish among the top eight in the conference.
“Clarkson and St. Lawrence are both going to come in playing hard because they are playing for home ice next week [in the first round of the ECAC Tournament],” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said.
The Crimson (18-8-1, 16-4-0) has already assured itself of no worse than a second place finish in the ECAC, with the first round bye and second round of home ice which second place entails. But Harvard also has something tangible to play for this weekend—NCAA consideration.
“We have to be aware of how these games will affect our ability to get into the NCAA Tournament,” Mazzoleni said. “It’s going to come right down to the wire with us and the NCAA Tournament unless we win our league, so every win is crucial down the stretch.”
One of the factors considered by the selection committee is the team’s record over its last 16 games. If Harvard is to have a chance to make NCAAs without winning the ECAC Tournament auto-bid, it would need to sweep this weekend, its first playoff series and its semi-final match.
First up for the Crimson before too much thought goes into postseason tournaments, however, are the Knights and the Saints.
“Clarkson and St. Lawrence are two teams that can play with anyone when they have their ‘A’ game,” Crimson captain Dominic Moore said.
“We’re going to see two very tough road teams,” Grumet-Morris said.
In its earlier 2-1 win, the Crimson saw Clarkson’s ‘A’ game. The score was tied for much of the game, but oddly Harvard seemed to be at its best with a man in the box.
The game’s first goal was short-handed, scored by junior forward Tim Pettit when he fired a difficult angled shot that shredded its way between the left post and the shoulder of Clarkson backup goaltender Dustin Traylen en route to the back of the net.
Harvard’s game-winning goal came in a 4-on-4 situation. Moore took an outlet pass from junior defenseman Kenny Smith and skated through center ice before finding junior forward Dennis Packard in the slot. Packard in turn found the red light with 12 ticks left in middle period for the game’s last goal.
The Knights made things interesting for the contest’s final 20 minutes, stopping the Crimson’s offense and quickly transitioning the puck to attack the Harvard zone.
“Clarkson is a tough defensive team with the ability to transition well,” sophomore goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris said.
“Clarkson is a real good defensive hockey club,”Moore said. “I think it’ll be a challenge for us, but we can handle it.”
Unlike the Knights, St. Lawrence did not bring a game of any alphabetical variety when they were easily handled by the Crimson in November.
Harvard blitzed the Saints with three first-period goals and scored all six of its goals in special team situations—three powerplay goals, two 4-on-4 goals and even a short-handed tally. Grumet-Morris stopped 37 of the 38 shots he faced in the Crimson’s win.
In spite the ease of its last victory, Harvard is not taking the games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence for granted.
“They remember that we swept them at their barns earlier in the year,” Grumet-Morris said. “And they are probably not too happy about that.”
—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at email@example.com.