Last season, the Harvard men’s hockey team played its way into the ECAC Championship game by topping traditional rival Cornell, 6-1, in the semi-finals in Atlantic City. Though this weekend’s matchup between the two will not carry the same weight, emotions will be running high in the much-anticipated rivalry game between the class of the Ancient Eight.
In its first road contest of the year, the No. 17 Crimson (3-2-0, 2-2-0 ECAC) will face the No. 10 Big Red (3-2-1, 1-2-1) Friday night at Lynah Rink. Harvard takes on Colgate (4-6-1, 0-3-1) the following evening for its second game of the weekend.
The Crimson enters its first road stint of the year coming off a five game homestand, which culminated in a decisive 4-0 victory over Rensselaer last Saturday. Harvard’s win over the Engineers followed a 6-2 loss to defending champion Union the night before.
“The win was good to get after a loss,” senior forward Luke Greiner said. “We’re searching for a little consistency, and that’s probably what we’re going to look to bring this weekend.”
The Crimson started the season with back-to-back wins against Bentley and Brown before suffering a pair of tough losses to Yale and the No. 7 Dutchmen.
“I think we are off to a pretty good start [even though we’ve looked] a little shaky,” senior forward Alex Fallstrom said. “We’re just trying to establish our team identity. We’ve seen glimpses of it, especially in the first Bentley game and the RPI game. But it’s still early, [there are] still a lot of games to be played.”
The Crimson kicks off the weekend with one of the most anticipated games of the season. The hockey equivalent of Harvard-Yale, the rivalry between the Crimson and Big Red, dates back to well over a century ago. The two teams have historically been the top threats in the ECAC.
The Big Red holds a 71-60-8 record all-time against the Crimson. The Crimson leads the ECAC with 13 regular-season championships, but Cornell tops the league with 12 league tournament titles.
“We are all excited, trying to give the freshmen a little preview of what it’s going to be like,” Greiner said. “The atmosphere is pretty incredible.”
The Crimson hopes to walk away from the year’s first contest with a similar result to the last year’s final showdown between the two schools. In the third match-up of the season between the archrivals, Harvard skated to a decisive 6-1 victory over the Big Red, to split the season series.
Cornell got the best of the Crimson the first time the two teams faced off on the ice last year, with a 4-2 win over Harvard at Bright Hockey Center. The teams tied their next contest, 1-1.
This season’s high-profile opening matchup at Cornell will be the first televised game of the season for the Crimson. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
“It’s huge,” Fallstrom said. “It’s going to be a packed barn, loud, probably not a single Harvard fan in the stands. It’s going to be fun though.”
The Big Red enters Friday’s contest coming off back-to-back losses last weekend, the first major stumbling blocks for Cornell in an otherwise solid season. In the first game of its weekend road stint, Cornell dropped a 5-3 decision at Princeton despite scoring three goals in the final period. Saturday night’s game at Quinnipiac proved no better with a 4-1 loss to the Bobcats.
Goaltender Andy Iles has anchored the Cornell defense. The junior boasts a .927 save percentage on the season.