Crimson Played Too Cautiously

Jessica E. Schumer

Sophomore defensemen RYAN LANNON (20) lives dangerously as he crouches to block a shot from St. Lawrence junior forward RICH PEVERLEY (19). Lannon assisted on Dominic Moore’s game-winning goal.

In a weekend with no immediate repercussions, the Harvard men’s hockey team played as though that was the case against Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

Playing not to get hurt, as some phrased it, the Crimson looked beaten one night and like world-beaters the next.

On Friday, frustration came with a more-than-healthy dose of physical play against the Knights, and on Saturday, quick skating and early scoring produced some memorable moments against the Saints.

Weekend with Bernie

Harvard’s hottest line, responsible for four goals last weekend against Dartmouth and Vermont, was back to its regular alignment after the multi-week absence of sophomore forward Brendan Bernakevitch. And despite the fact that Bernakevitch’s name was nowhere to be found on the weekend’s scoreboards, his impact was still felt.

“I think having Bernakevitch back is a big advantage for us because he works the puck so well down low,” said junior forward Tim Pettit. “He definitely works really hard, and ever since last year our line has worked really well together.”

The Pettit-Cavanagh-Bernakevitch combo has been missing from the Crimson lineup because of Bernakevitch’s hip flexor injury.

In his absence, Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni has rotated in other forwards, most notably junior Rob Fried and sophomore Rob Flynn, both admirable substitutes. But everyone could see the difference in the line’s coordination after it was returned to its normal configuration.  Passes were crisper, set-ups more frequent, and Bernakevitch made his presence most known along the boards, where he worked hard both nights digging the puck out and finding an open teammate for a setup pass.

“Their speed killed us, especially down low,” noted St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh, after Saturday’s game.

And while Marsh was referring to the Crimson forwards at large, his comments could have been confined to the Pettit-Cavanagh-Bernakevitch line. Reunited after a long absence, it didn’t wait long to make its presence felt.

Spare Key Still Shiny

The success of goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris has given the sophomore the keys to the kingdom (of Harvard netminders at least). But freshman backup John Daigneau does not have intentions of being overlooked as Mazzoleni rested Grumet-Morris for the playoff run.

In just his fifth start this season, Daigneau demonstrated his poise and composure, stopping all 28 shots he faced in 53 minutes of work.

“He played very steady in there,” Mazzoleni said. “He had good command of the position and controlled his rebounds well. He played well out of the net.”

In his five starts, Daigneau has posted a 4-1 record, with a 1.45 goals against average and a .943 save percentage.  But numbers aside, he has also made an impression on the his teammates and coaches.

“John Daigneau played very well,” Mazzoleni said.  “He’s gotten better and better and better with each passing game that we put him in. If we ever have to play him in a key situation, we’ll be very confident because he’s played extremely well for us.”

In like Flynn

Subbing for sick junior winger Tyler Kolarik, Flynn made a big impression, delivering numerous strong hits and gritty play along the boards.

Flynn found himself on the starting line against St. Lawrence, paired with senior forward Brett Nowak and junior defenseman Dennis Packard, and given the unenviable task of trying to replace Kolarik’s energy and offensive spark.

After the game, though, Flynn had converted at least one person.

“I thought Robbie did a great job,” Mazzoleni said. “I thought he was big and strong, won a considerable amount of the one-on-one battles, and made some real good plays with the puck.”

Flynn found his way onto the scorer’s sheet nine minutes into the first, exhibiting some of that big and strong play Mazzoleni talked about.

Nowak skated and deked to the right in front of the St. Lawrence net, and flung a shot at Saints’ goaltender Kevin Ackley.

Ackley made the initial save, but all three forwards crashed the net. They overwhelmed the St. Lawrence defense and, more importantly, Ackley, who was soon looking behind himself to find the puck sitting in the net. Flynn had the lucky stick, recording his third goal of the season.

In the second, Flynn made his presence felt again, taking a puck off the boards and forcing separation from his defender to find Nowak out in front for a quick score.

One night on the top line, one goal and one assist equaled one outstanding effort.

“I thought that was as well as he’s played since he’s been here,” Mazzoleni said. “I thought he was outstanding.”

—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at