Since the Beanpot in early February, the Harvard men’s ice hockey team has been rolling. The squad has gone undefeated in its past six contests and looks like a team ready to make some serious noise in the ECAC playoffs.
A major reason for the Crimson’s success is the play of junior Doug Rogers. The 6’1, 195-pound center has recorded a point in each of the last five games and leads Harvard with four goals in that stretch.
“He’s our go-to-guy,” co-captain Jimmy Fraser said. “When he’s playing well, the team’s playing well.”
Rogers has had quite the career for the Crimson. Among active Harvard skaters, Rogers ranks first with 28 goals and 77 points. This year, the junior leads the team with eight scores and 21 points.
However, the value that Rogers brings to his team is understated by his season totals. The center is important to the Crimson because changes in the strength of his play seem to mirror the success of the team.
When the center is hot, the team wins. When Rogers struggles, so does Harvard.
At the beginning of this year, Rogers had a hard time finding the net and he did not record his first goal until late January, when he scorched Dartmouth with a hat trick. Before the Big Green contest, the Crimson was 4-11-3. Since Harvard faced Dartmouth, Rogers has scored eight goals, and the Crimson is 5-3-3.
In the last month, Rogers has made more of an effort to get pucks on goal. He leads the team with 99 shots.
“I just kind of stuck with it and kept shooting, trying to get my body to the net, my stick on the ice,” Rogers said. “Sometimes it’s just better to shoot than to pass.”
Last year, Rogers had another noteworthy effort at the end of the season. Not surprisingly, Harvard played well during that stretch. In five ECAC playoff contests, the junior recorded seven points, and the Crimson advanced all the way to the ECAC Championship Game.
“[Rogers is] a huge asset for us,” Fraser said. “In terms of leadership, a lot of guys look up to him.”
Before coming to Harvard, Rogers was drafted by the New York Islanders in the fourth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The prospect is a well-rounded player known for his shooting ability and passing vision.
“The kid can shoot the puck,” Fraser said. “He’s a playmaker, too. He always knows where his linemates are. In the offensive zone...he’ll find you.”
Rogers is also praised for his intelligent play.
“Having good hockey sense, playing more so with my head than anything else...that’s probably the best part of my game,” Rogers said.
The Crimson’s hot streak over the past month is shockingly reminiscent of the 2008 team’s late-season comeback. Last year, Harvard went 5-0-1 to finish the regular season after a one-goal loss to BC in the Beanpot. In the playoffs, the squad made the finals but fell to Princeton 4-1.
The Crimson is hoping its momentum can take it deep into the playoffs in 2009 and once again the Beanpot tournament may be the source of the team’s run. Although Harvard lost both Beanpot games last month, the Crimson almost took down national powerhouses, Boston College and Boston University, which were ranked No. 15 and No. 1 at the time, respectively..
“I’d say the Beanpot was definitely the turn around,” Fraser said. “[It] was a huge motivation booster and instilled confidence in a lot of our younger players.”
The Crimson has also shown it can compete with the ECAC’s top teams. Harvard took down second-place Cornell three weeks ago and beat third-place Princeton, ranked No. 6 nationally, this past weekend.
In the Big Red game Rogers notched two assists, and against the Tigers he tied up the game with a first period goal. Rogers also had a two-score performance against St. Lawrence, which sits in fourth-place in the ECAC.
This weekend, the fifth-seeded Crimson will face last-place Brown in a best-of-three series in the opening round of the ECAC playoffs. In two games against the Bears this season, Rogers did not score and Harvard tied both contests. If Rogers nets one this time around, the final result will probably be different.
—Staff writer Jake I. Fisher can be reached at email@example.com.