Albany Key to ECAC Revenge and Reward

Only once this season did the No. 8 Harvard men’s hockey team lose two games to the same squad, and only once did the Crimson fall at home. Plenty to feel good about—except the team that knocked Harvard off twice, including the latter’s only Bright Hockey Center loss, is the same squad the Crimson will face tonight in the semifinals of the ECAC tournament: Colgate.

Backed by a defense that clogs its own zone and a goaltender, Steve Silverthorn, who is allowing only 1.76 goals per game, the Raiders (24-9-3, 14-5-3) did not lose a weekend series all year. Its defensive corps, which allows just 1.86 tallies per contest, is tied for third in the nation.

“They’ll make you work for what you get,” Harvard assistant captain Tom Cavanagh said.

And the struggling Crimson squad that entered its first Raiders matchup on Nov. 6 with just two games under its belt—a 2-2 tie with Brown and a 2-0 loss to Cornell—well, it got nothing.

“We were just trying to figure out where we were at,” said Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91 of the early, 4-1 loss. “We got outplayed pretty bad the night before in Cornell, so it was a little bit of a gut-check for us the first time we played Colgate.”

Harvard was outshot 40-22 that night and went 0-for-5 on its power play, but, said Donato,“I’d like to think we’re a much improved team from then.”

In fact, Harvard was already much improved team when it got a second crack at the Raiders, this time in Cambridge on Jan. 7.

Despite an exhausted and disappointing performance in the Dodge Holiday Classic right before break, Harvard had recently beaten Vermont, Maine, Boston University, and Boston College—all nationally ranked teams at the time.

But after two weeks of Christmas break, Harvard played a rusty and somewhat sloppy game, taking costly penalties and failing to muster a single shot on goal in the final 15 minutes of the initial frame.

Of that 3-1 loss, Donato admitted, “We really got outplayed for the first period of the game.”

And so the Crimson lost its only pair of contests to the same opponent—something that doesn’t sit well with many skaters in the Harvard locker room.

“We’re looking forward to another crack at them,” said assistant captain Ryan Lannon. “We feel like we owe these guys.”

That’s not to say, though, that either loss was undeserved.

“They shut down our offense pretty successfully,” Lannon said. “You can say that it was the beginning of the season or it was after a long break, but they’re a good team, and they work hard.”

The Raiders’ offense, though not showy in the least, boasts a plus-.86 scoring margin.

With a trio of forwards that has combined for 90 points—Tyler Burton, Jon Smyth, and Adam Mitchell—Colgate certainly has its weapons.

“They play their game really well,” said Crimson captain Noah Welch of the Raiders squad that defeated Brown 4-1 and 3-0 last weekend to advance to tonight’s seminfinal. “It’s not too flashy—they can make plays, but they just go to the net and keep it simple.”

It’s a stategy that Harvard as often employed to its benefit. The Crimson, which felled St. Lawrence 2-0 and 3-2 in last weekend’s quarterfinals, boasts 12 skaters with double-digit points, nine with more than 15, and two with more than 20. Many of these goals and assists came on gritty, net-crashing play, and Cavanagh leads the squad with 26, a tie for the lowest total of an ECAC team-leader.

But Colgate has already stymied this balanced attack twice, and despite the list of excuses—layoffs and early-season struggles ranking high—Donato was frank when he said, “I think they have a lot to do with us not scoring.”

Of course, Harvard has a solid defensive corps of its own—with a 1.77 goals-per-game average, it ranks second nationally—and the team hopes it will help replicate the success of recent years. The current senior class has gone 15-1, winning the championship twice and falling only to Cornell in double-overtime.

“It’s better than being 1-15,” admitted goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris, who has been between the pipes for all 16 contests, though he added, “this year is a very, very competitive ECAC final I think that it raises the stakes.”

And when the puck drops tonight, Harvard will be looking to settle some scores.

The contest is single-elimination, but this one victory could do wonders in erasing memories of two regular-season losses.

“They’re the only ones that took us in our building this year,” Lannon said, “and we want to take them out Friday night—not just for the semifinals, but because we haven’t beaten them, and we feel like we owe them one.”

—Staff writer Rebecca A. Seesel can be reached at