men's hockey team (8-10-2) skates against Boston College (19-3-3) in the late game of the Beanpot Tournament at the Fleet Center tonight at 8 PM. The early game features Boston University against Northeastern, and the drop of the puck is scheduled for 5 PM.
The Eagles, ranked No. 2 in the country, defeated The Crimson 3-2 in an
earlier meeting at Conte Forum. This time, however, BC will be without captain Ben Eaves, who tallied three assists in the teams’ mid-December meeting and has averaged almost 1.4 goals per game this season.
That does not mean that Harvard can expect a restful evening defensively. Eaves, who Eagles coach Jerry York calls “the best player in college hockey,” is only one part of a formidable BC offense. Eaves’ linemates— brother Patrick and senior Tony Voce—have 45 points between them this year.
And that line doesn’t even include the team’s leading scorer, junior Ryan Shannon, who has 27 points this season and is on pace for a career high. As a team, the Eagles have tied for the best team offense in the Hockey East conference.
“[BC’s] going to have a full bench of guys who can really go,” said captain Kenny Smith. “You can’t give their forwards any space to operate.”
But having room to operate in is something that the Eagles force opponents to give. In the two teams’ last meeting, the BC’s speedy forwards were getting increased separation and were out-muscling the Crimson’s defensemen along the boards as the game went into the third period.
“I thought our kids were fatigued [against the Eagles],” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “We know we’re going to have to go out there and play one hell of a game to come out there on the top end.”
“And we’re capable of doing that,” he added.
Whether Mazzoleni’s team is capable of an upset is not in question. Whether the Crimson does play its best game of the year is another question entirely. But reasons for optimism could be found after Saturday’s loss to Brown. In that game Harvard peppered the country’s best netminder, Yann Danis, with 38 shots.
Against BC, the Crimson will be facing Matti Kaltiainen, who is regarded as an average goaltender, even if his 1.71 GAA and .910 save percentage say otherwise. Those impressive stats are largely attributable to an Eagles defense that allows only 1.67 goals per game, the best average in Hockey East.
For his part, though, York wasn’t discounting Harvard. He mentioned the talent of a number of players—notably junior Dov Grumet-Morris, Noah Welch, Tom Cavanagh and assistant captain Tyler Kolarik—and indicated that he thought the team’s early contest was closer than most observers felt.
“[The Crimson] is going to be a match of any of the Hockey East teams,” York said.
—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at email@example.com.