While ‘all’ eyes won’t be on the Harvard men’s hockey team until Saturday, the Crimson still has two important points to play for tonight in New Jersey. On the eve of the ECAC championship rematch between Harvard and Quinnipiac, the Crimson is set to take on Princeton at Hobey Baker Memorial Arena tonight at 7 p.m. EST.
“Friday night is an incredibly important game in the Ivy League,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “In the standings, it’s the same two points as any other game in the season—certainly the same two points as Saturday night.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
Harvard (3-0-1, 1-0-1 ECAC) enters tonight’s contest unbeaten through its first four games. After dominating possession in the attacking zone but struggling to find the back of the net in a 1-1 tie with Colgate last Friday, the Crimson bounced back with a 4-3 victory over rival Cornell behind the first career hat trick for sophomore forward Lewis Zerter-Gossage. As a result of the three points at home, Harvard jumped from No. 12 to No. 10 in both the USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.
Meanwhile, Princeton (0-3-0, 0-2-0) will be looking for its first win of the season in its home opener against the Crimson. In its first conference weekend of the year, the Tigers traveled nearly 400 miles to North Country, where they fell 4-0 to St. Lawrence on Friday and 4-2 to Clarkson the following night. Princeton’s slow start to the season on the surface is hardly surprising given that the Tigers were picked to finish last by both the coaches and the media of the ECAC. Yet in Princeton’s most recent matchup against the Golden Knights of Clarkson, the two teams were tied in the third period; additionally, the Tigers outshot both of their weekend opponents.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS
“I think Princeton has got a young team with good speed, good size,” Donato said. “They play very hard and are especially tough at home. I think it’s safe to say that all these Ivy League matchups bring a great amount of emotion and competitiveness to them, and I think that it’ll be a very hard fought, tight game.”
Thus far, Princeton’s exclusively sophomore top line has been responsible for practically all of the Tigers’ offensive production. Left wing Ryan Kuffner, who led the team with 20 points a year ago, has a goal and two assists; right wing Alex Riche scored Princeton’s only two goals in its season opener against Michigan State, then added an assist against Clarkson; and center Max Veronneau has logged three assists. Meanwhile, all the other forwards on the Tiger roster have combined for one point through three games.
Manning the Princeton net has been senior Colton Phinney. Largely because of a struggling blue line, Phinney led the ECAC in saves a season ago with 1058—a number that averages out to more than 35 a game. The last time Harvard played the Tigers at Hobey Baker Arena, Phinney eclipsed that average, stopping 39 of 40 shots against one of the top offenses in college hockey. But the Princeton offense left Phinney hanging. The Tigers were held scoreless, and once Phinney left his goal in favor of an extra skater, the Crimson added two empty-netters in what amounted to a 3-0 win for the visitors.
STATE OF THE CRIMSON
As for those visitors, they too received almost all of their offense from members of their first line last weekend. Co-captain Alexander Kerfoot picked up a goal and an assist over the two games, while sophomores Ryan Donato and Zerter-Gossage combined for seven points against Cornell alone.
Like Princeton, only one other forward got on the scoresheet over the weekend—senior Tyler Moy, who logged an assist in both games. Where the Crimson and Tigers differ, however, is in the fact that Harvard has seen what kind of potential its second line possesses. In the Crimson’s opening two games against Arizona State last month, Moy, Luke Esposito, and Sean Malone logged a total of 15 points. Granted, the level of competition is much higher in the ECAC, but that line likely will not remain quiet for long stretches of time.
Meanwhile on the defensive end, Ted Donato confirmed this week that sophomore D-man Adam Baughman has been a bit banged up. In the first game of the season, Baughman started alongside freshman Adam Fox on the Crimson’s second defensive pairing; but sophomore Jacob Olson has filled that spot in the three games since. Donato said he does not expect the injury, which remained undisclosed, to be long-term.
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MeagherTHC.