Power Play Unit Ups Production for M. Hockey

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PUCK
Timothy M. Mcdonald

Senior defenseman David McCulloch and junior goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris watch a Clarkson shot midair during Harvard's 3-2 win Friday night.

CANTON, N.Y.—It should come as a surprise to no one that the Harvard men’s hockey team did not begin its 2003-2004 season intent on relying on freshman. But in fact, the Crimson has gotten steadily consistent, and occasionally brilliant, play out of its trio of freshman forwards.

Earlier in the season, the grouping of Kevin Du, Ryan Maki and Steve Mandes were arranged together on a Class of 2007 line. Since that time, roster shuffling due to injuries and a lack of lineup production have led Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni to split up many of his team’s former set lines. And it is in that separation that the three forwards have flourished best.

Maki draws the enviable task of lacing up alongside senior Tim Pettit and junior Tom Cavanagh, two dynamic forwards who have been playing together for more than two seasons. Du and Mandes, on the other hand, have remained together and have been paired with assistant captain Tyler Kolarik on the Crimson’s third line.

Kolarik, for one, says he can plainly see the strides the two young forwards have made in the initial campaign.

“I like playing with [Du and Mandes], because I know what I’m going to get out of [them] every night. They don’t ask questions, and they play hard,” Kolarik said.

The three forwards, despite their small stature, have combined to form a fast-skating line that does its best work away from the boards, taking advantage of its speed and puckhandling in the open ice. And although both Du and Mandes have only seven points this season, their progress is not best measured in goals and assists, according to Kolarik.

“I’m very proud of where they are right now,” Kolarik said. “I think they’ve really contributed offensively and defensively. They’re doing a great job, playing far beyond their year.”

Maki, while over-shadowed a bit by his offensively gifted linemates, has likewise made an impact in his initial season. His role generally includes adding a physical presence around the net and trying to gather any rebounds off of a Cavangh or Pettit shot. And while not glamorous, Maki is playing his part to a “T,” just like Du and Mandes.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of questions coming in as a freshman,” Maki said. “You know you have to contribute as much as possible—we’re all kind of fitting into our roles—and it’s all coming together pretty well.”

POWER PLAY

Long painted as a primary cause for the Crimson’s struggles this season, Harvard’s much-maligned power-play unit converted on two very important occasions this weekend. In Friday night’s 2-1 win over Clarkson, the Crimson managed to convert on a man-advantage early on in the second period. And in Saturday’s tie against St. Lawrence, Kolarik scored a power play goal midway through the first to give Harvard a temporary 2-1 lead.

For the weekend, the Crimson’s power play recorded a respectable 2-for-7 showing and helped Harvard’s offense even when the result of the man-advantage wasn’t a direct score.

“A power play is one of those things where sometimes it clicks, and sometimes it doesn’t,” assistant coach Sean McCann said. “Lately, it seems to be working pretty well. Guys are reading penalty kill units better than in the past, and they are making adjustments quicker.”

No play fits that description of reading a defense and adjusting to it better than the game-winning, power play goal scored by junior center Brendan Bernakevitch.

Cavanagh made a move along the boards, protecting the puck long enough to find Pettit further back towards the blue line. Pettit made as though to pass to junior defenseman Noah Welch but decided to take the shot himself.

Clarkson netminder Dustin Traylen made the initial stop but had no answer for Bernakevitch’s quick stick-work in front that gave Harvard a lead it would never relinquish.

“We have five very skilled players on the power play,” Pettit said. “We move the puck around, opens up lanes…open up seams. [If we] keep doing that, we’ll keep getting power play goals.”

PENALTY KILL

Somewhat overshadowed in favor of the power play’s re-emergence was the strong play of Harvard’s penalty killers. Over the whole weekend, the Crimson allowed only one conversion in 10 chances, and managed to win the game against Clarkson with a strong defensive effort.

The most important penalty kill of the night, and perhaps of the season, came with 2:37 left in the contest when senior defenseman Dave McCulloch took an ill-advised slashing penalty. Faced with a one-goal deficit and playing a man-up, the Golden Knights pushed up and pressured Harvard.

With 1:22 left and a draw coming just inside the blue line of the Harvard zone, Clarkson pulled Traylen in favor of a sixth skater. That left the Crimson down 6-to-4.

Clarkson managed to win that important face off and held the puck in the zone, but it couldn’t find an opening in the Harvard defense before the 82 seconds had expired.

“It was a huge penalty kill on our part in the third period,” junior goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris said.

His coach agreed.

“Our penalty kill was exceptional, and power play good,” Mazzoleni said.

—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at tmcdonal@fas.harvard.edu.

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