Men's Hockey To Face Big Green in First Round of ECAC Tournament
2012-13 marked yet another disappointing regular season for the Harvard men’s hockey program, which finished dead last in the ECAC for the first time in team history.
But thanks to a provision that grants a conference tournament birth to every squad in the league, that fact does not really matter much at all.
The Crimson (9-17-3, 6-14-2 ECAC) is in the postseason, where it has the chance to return to its first NCAA Tournament since 2006 if it can get hot at the right time.
That journey begins this weekend, when Harvard travels to Thompson Arena to take on fifth-seeded Dartmouth (13-11-5, 9-9-4) in the first round of the ECAC playoffs.
“We’re obviously really excited,” senior forward Alex Fallstrom said. “I think it should be a good matchup.”
The Crimson’s Ivy League rival, ranked No. 18 in the final regular season USCHO poll, enters the contest with just three wins in its previous 12 games. But it went undefeated in the season series against Harvard, registering a 3-2 victory in Hanover on Jan. 12 and tying the Crimson, 1-1, at the Bright Hockey Center on Feb. 10.
Fallstrom, though, said that Harvard—which knocked off No. 1 Quinnipiac last Friday night—is not currently the same team the Big Green had previously faced.
“When we lost against them at their place I felt like it was at that point in the season where we really weren’t playing our best,” Fallstrom said. “Then we played them at home, and I felt like we were still at a point where we were [just] gaining our momentum. They haven’t seen us the way we are now. They haven’t seen us full throttle, so to say.”
The Big Green ranked in the middle of the conference in most offensive categories this season, though defensively its penalty-kill rate of 89.2 percent was second-best in the ECAC and fourth-best in the country. That could spell trouble for Harvard, whose 11.7 percent conversion rate on power plays was second-worst nationally.
Dartmouth also does not make many mistakes, as it registered the ninth-fewest penalty minutes per game in the country this year.
Forwards Tyler Sikura and Eric Robinson tied for the team lead with 10 goals, while Sikura’s 28 points paced the squad.
“Dartmouth is a team that looks a lot like us player-wise,” junior goaltender Raphael Girard said. “It’s more of a skilled team that looks to make plays around the net, rather than going to hit a lot of people and put a lot of traffic on net. It’s [a] good [matchup] for us.”
Junior Cab Morris (8-6-3) and freshman Charles Grant (5-5-2) have split time in goal, with the pair posing nearly equivalent save percentages. Morris made 22 and 21 saves in the teams’ first two meetings, respectively, but Grant has seen most of the action of late.
At the other end will be Girard, who struggled for most of the season, allowing 2.98 goals per game. But the team hopes he can replicate his breakout playoff performance from a year ago, when a dominant run sparked the team to the ECAC Championship Game.
“[Last season’s playoffs] gave me good confidence,” Girard said. “I know I can be a big difference maker in this series—as much as I was last year, or even better.”