The Harvard men’s hockey team (5-15-1, 3-12-0 ECAC) will look to break an eight-game losing streak on national television against No. 17 Dartmouth on Saturday night at the Bright Hockey Center, which is still on schedule despite the incoming snow storm.
The Crimson’s last victory came in early January against Boston University, whom Harvard will play in the upcoming consolation game of the Beanpot tournament on Monday evening.
Coming off a 4-1 loss at the hands of No. 5 Boston College in the opening round of the Beanpot, Harvard will briefly resume league play against the Big Green (11-8-3, 7-6-2 ECAC), which started Harvard’s lengthy losing streak with a 3-2 defeat of the Crimson at the Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H several weeks ago.
"I think we're at a spot with the group that we want to get rewarded with some victories,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “It's been a tough stretch, but the attitude of the group has been positive. The work ethic is good. We are making some improvements, [and] there are certainly some things we can do better. We're working on those.”
Dartmouth’s strong season so far has come as bit of a surprise, with the Big Green slotted at seventh and tenth in the pre-season ECAC Coaches’ and Media poll, respectively. With wins over Yale, Union, Vermont, and New Hampshire, Dartmouth reached the top ten in national rankings earlier this year.
Led by sophomore Tyler Sikura and junior Matt Linblad, who lead the team with 26 and 23 points respectively, the Big Green will look to sweep the season series and move up in the ECAC standings, where it currently sits in third place ahead of the last-place Crimson.
Harvard has not finished in last place in recent memory, and at least up through the last 50 years of its league play.
"It's definitely been difficult, we've faced a lot of adversity,” captain Danny Biega said. “It takes its toll as losses add up. We're all sticking with it and showing up to the rink with a good attitude. No one is feeling bad for us, we just got to dig ourselves out of this hole we're in right now. I really think we're making good steps and strides towards doing that."
Leading the Crimson as it counters Dartmouth, which has only one road win on the season, will be freshman Jimmy Vesey. The Harvard forward is first on the team with 10 goals and 14 assists, was recently named the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week for the third time, and is second in the nation among first-years with a 0.56 goals-per-game average.
The freshman was also recently selected as a semifinalist for the Walter Brown award. The oldest nationally recognized college hockey honor, this award is presented to the best American-born college hockey player in New England.
Despite the difficulties the Crimson has faced so far this season, junior goalie Raphael Girard has been able to rack up saves and is now just six shy of 600. He had a 42-save performance against the Eagles last Monday, two shy of his season high.
In the last couple of years, the Beanpot has been somewhat of a jumping off point for Harvard into the final stretch of the regular season and playoffs. The team will look to replicate this trend this season as well.
In the 2010-2011 campaign, the Crimson, after a poor start to the season, scored two late goals to overcome the then-No. 15 Terriers. Harvard went on to win seven of its next eight games before falling to Dartmouth in ECAC quarterfinals. Last year, the Crimson defeated Northeastern, 3-2, in the consolation game and then continued its momentum into the ECAC finals.
This year's consolation match will again be against current-No. 13 BU, which lost to the Huskies, 3-2, in the semifinals of the Beanpot and has struggled since its collapse to Harvard at home, where it gave up a three-goal third period lead to eventually lose in overtime. Since the loss at the hands of the Crimson, the Terriers have gone 2-4-1.
BU’s leading goal scorer is senior Wade Megan, who has 12, while sophomore Cason Hohmann and freshman Danny O’Regan—brother of Crimson sophomore Tommy—lead the team in total scoring with 23 and 22 points, respectively.
“The Beanpot consolation game, it's never a fun game to play in, but it can be a little bit of a springboard for the stretch run,” Donato said. “We're going to be playing a very good BU team, so that can give us some confidence moving forward."
--Staff writer David A. Mazza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org