Just 20 ticks gone. Union 1, Harvard 0.
Less than one week after the Crimson’s dismal showing at the Beanpot and one day after the team’s agonizing 3-2 loss to RPI—and with rumors swirling of the A-Rod trade to the Yankees—Bright Hockey Center seemed a lot chillier than usual for the 1,626 in attendance.
But a strange thing happened. Someone forgot to tell the Harvard players they were doomed.
In what easily could have been a backbreaking start to a must-win game, the Crimson recovered by burning the Dutchmen for three goals in the first period’s remaining 19:40, including the go-ahead by Harvard captain Kenny Smith.
“It’s tough, and it’s obviously something you want to avoid,” said Smith of the Union goal to start the game. “But…we had a lot of energy on the bench and we didn’t let it get to us.”
Harvard’s recovery to beat the Dutchmen was a microcosm of a down-and-up weekend for Smith, whose strong effort came on the heels of a disappointing Friday—a loss to RPI in which he did not play.
Reasons aside, the team captain’s mysterious absence from Friday’s big game underscored what has been somewhat of a down season for the senior defenseman from Stoneham, Mass.
Offensively, Smith’s production is down—he has tallied only 6 points so far this year with five games to go in the regular season. At this point last year, he had already scored 13 points.
The overall scoring effort from the Crimson’s defense is down this year, as well. Harvard’s defensemen combined for 76 points during the 2002-03 season but have contributed only 34 points thus far.
Still, the defenseman’s primary purpose is stopping—not starting—scoring chances, and the Crimson’s 2003-04 defense has held its own. For this reason, Smith feels that his tenuous position on the starting line is a good sign for the team.
“With the defensive core we have, it’s very hard to make the lineup on any given night,” Smith said. “You have to be at your best all the time to be in there.”
Smith helped his case Saturday night with a long-range goal at 8:06 in the first. After Kenny Turano won the face-off in the Union zone, the puck made its way to Smith just inside the blue line, on the right side of the ice.
The captain juggled the puck, watching a Dutchmen defender zoom by, then whipped it diagonally across the ice—netting it just above Union goalie Kris Mayotte’s left shoulder.
“I don’t think it was too hard of a shot,” Smith said, “but I think it caught him off-guard, going against the grain there.”
The lamp lit, and captain Smith was mobbed by his teammates at center ice. The goal gave Harvard a 2-1 lead—and the Dutchmen would not catch up.