Currently on an eight game winless streak, Harvard (1-6-2, 1-5-2 ECAC) will need more than optimism to win tonight against Brown (1-7-1, 1-4-1 ECAC). The Crimson fell to a new low in its most recent match-up on Sunday when Harvard was outshot and outmatched by at Dartmouth team that was winless in the conference.
Looking to turn its luck around, the Crimson will have extra motivation to defeat the Bears. Although Harvard and Brown tied both their regular season matches last year, the Bears have had a recent history of comebacks against the Crimson. Last March, Brown went into ECAC playoffs with a 13-game losing streak, but managed to shut out fifth-seeded Harvard, 1-0 and 2-0.
“We don’t want to compare things to last year, obviously,” junior goaltender Kyle Richter said. “Right now we’re focusing on what we do as a team, working together.”
The Crimson lost a scrimmage to Brown in the preseason, and the Bears will come into tonight’s game with the momentum of having just won its first game under new head coach Brendan Whittet against Connecticut on Saturday.
“We saw them in a scrimmage, and it’s very early on to call, but they do play a fast and physical game, and we have to combat that,” senior forward Doug Rogers said. “Our five-man effort in the D zone has to be better, and we have to make better decisions with the puck. We should be successful against Brown.”
Between the pipes, Richter looks to anchor Harvard’s defensive efforts. The former ECAC goaltender of the year, who boasted a .935 save percentage in league games his sophomore season, posted a career-high 43 saves in the team’s recent game against BU. Even so, the netminder sees a need for the Crimson to improve its defense.
“We just have to stick to our systems, in our defensive zone and our neutral zone,” he said. “We have to stay focused on that.”
On the offensive side of things, Harvard will look to some of its freshman to put the puck past Brown goaltender Dan Rosen.
Freshman forward Louis Leblanc, tied with sophomore forward Alex Killorn for the team’s scoring lead with nine points, will need to shoulder some of the scoring load. Leblanc is the top scoring freshman in the ECAC this year and tied for fourth among all NCAA freshmen with 1.12 points per game.
“All the freshmen have stepped up and done a good job,” Rogers said. “We have a lot of freshmen, that means they’re a big part of our team. They’re eager to learn and eager to play.”
Another rookie who figures to be a dangerous offensive threat to the Bears will be freshman forward Conor Morrison. In last week’s close loss to defending national champion Boston University, Morrison scored four goals for the Crimson. He was the first to score four goals in a game since Chris Bala ’01 in 1998.
“I think we have lot of new guys who are playing really well, putting up some numbers so far this year,” Richter said. “Morrison obviously had a huge game against BU with four goals.”
Although the Crimson hoped to harness the momentum of its close game last week against BU, it lost Sunday’s match-up against Dartmouth. Having defeated the Big Green, 6-2, earlier in the season, Harvard was suprised on Sunday night by Dartmouth, which outshot the Crimson, 41-29, en route to winning the contest, 6-2. Despite the team’s eight-game drought, the objective remains the same, both for tonight against Brown and for the rest of the season.
“Our goal is to win a national championship,” Leblanc said. “We have the power and the team to do that. It’s just a matter of getting everyone on the same page and working towards the same thing.”