Mo-vember, the month-long mustaches-against-prostate-cancer charity event is sadly over for the Harvard men’s hockey team (3-3-2, 2-3-2 ECAC), which means that the team will take to the ice for Friday night’s game against the University of Massachusetts (4-7-3) mustache-less for the first time since October.
“When you walked in the locker room there were just a lot of smiles with handlebar mustaches,” junior forward David Valek said. “It definitely raised the energy in the locker room. Maybe that helped on the ice.”
But even with the shave, Valek said that “the atmosphere definitely hasn’t dropped.”
All ‘mo’nsense aside, the team is focusing in on the game ahead, and the Minutemen are definitely not going to be push-overs.
“They have a very fast team,” Valek said. “They have three or four guys that can really fly, so we have to try and keep them ahead of us at all times.”
In addition to their speed, UMass has also built up a strong home-ice advantage. The Minutemen have yet to lose at home this season, despite welcoming several high ranking opponents to the Mullins Center.
On Nov. 5, they defeated Boston College, 4-2, which was ranked No. 1 at the time. The following week they routed Holy Cross and Northeastern in front of their home crowd.
“We’re going to focus on not getting overexcited,” freshman defenseman Patrick McNally said. “We know [UMass] has a strong home crowd so we’ll just have to keep our composure.”
Valek echoed his teammate’s concerns.
“We have to play smart early on to get the crowd out of the game,” Valek said. “Hopefully we can draw a penalty early to give us the edge on a power play.”
But perhaps the Mullins Center itself may have something to do with their flawless home record.
Beyond the boisterous UMass crowds, the Crimson will also have to worry about the rink itself.
While most rinks in North America are about 200 ft by 85 ft in dimension, the ice at the Mullins center stretches 200 ft by 95 ft. This is because the Mullins Center was designed closer to Olympic standards (200X98) than those of the National Hockey League (200X85). Harvard’s Bright Center is slightly off the mark as well, sitting at 204 ft by 87 ft. But the difference will still be noticeable.
In light of this, the team has set aside some practice time this week to look at how rink size may affect the way the game is played. And how to adapt.
“It’s a little bigger so we’ve been watching a lot of game film,” senior forward Eric Kroshus explained. “We have to figure out how it’s going to affect our game.”