Young Skaters Have Chance to Develop in Postseason

Thirty Seconds to Meaghers

Thirty three.

This marks the number of consecutive goals for the Harvard men’s hockey team (9-14-4, 5-11-4 ECAC) scored by freshmen and sophomores. To put this in perspective, the next longest streak in the ECAC belongs to Clarkson, which boasts a whopping total of three.

Now, an even larger number. Fifty three.

This represents the number of days that have elapsed since a junior or senior last lit the lamp for Harvard. However, as remarkably high as these numbers are, do they really surprise anyone? Youth has long been destined to take over this Crimson squad. Just take a look at its last few recruiting classes.

Following a third place finish in 2011-2012, Harvard landed the conference’s top batch of recruits. Led by a pair of upper-round NHL draft picks, sophomores Brian Hart and Jimmy Vesey, the class of 2012 was considered the school’s best in years.

Then, even after a dismal showing the following year, Harvard continued its offseason success, compiling the seventh-best tandem of recruits in the nation, according to Overtheboards.net. Buffalo Sabres’ draft choice Sean Malone and New Jersey Devils’ selection Alexander Kerfoot were expected to become immediate contributors.

Sure enough, Harvard’s two newest classes have delivered. In fact, freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 82 percent of the Crimson’s points this season. Yet, the lack of production from the upperclassmen has made winning hockey games a difficult task, and Harvard currently sits in eleventh place in the ECAC. But alas, don’t fret Crimson hockey fans! Haven’t you heard how good this team is going to be in a year or two? Just wait until these young guys develop…

This sense of optimism surrounding the “team of the future” has plagued the Bright-Landry Hockey Center for the past two seasons. If the youth of this team is really going to create a glamorous future for Harvard hockey, the underclassmen need to make a statement sooner rather than later.

One of the most critical aspects of player development is experience. The Crimson underclassmen have certainly earned their share of ice time, but if they want to live up to their labels as some of Harvard’s greatest recruits, they need “big-game experience.” Over the last two years, Harvard has had three such opportunities, two of which came at TD Garden’s annual Beanpot Tournament. In addition, the Crimson traveled to Madison Square Garden this January to take on Ancient Eight foe Yale in the first ever Rivalry on Ice matchup. There may have been rivalry, but there was not much competition between the two sides as the Bulldogs cruised to a 5-1 victory.

If Harvard wants its future to be as bright as its potential, it needs to find a way to win big games. Luckily for the Crimson, such an opportunity exists with the ECAC playoffs right around the corner. Once the tournament begins, regular season records are tossed aside—just what the doctor ordered. Though it may be unreasonable to think Harvard has what it takes to make a championship run this season, it is also unreasonable to think that the Crimson cannot put up a fight.

A history lesson: earlier this season, the Crimson won three consecutive games for the first time since 2011. That year, Harvard had been 6-19-1 heading into those final three games, but the improbable winning streak propelled Harvard into the postseason, where it won three more games, knocking off Clarkson and narrowly missing the semifinals. The point is that anybody can beat anybody come playoff time. Heck, even last season’s Crimson squad—the same team that won just one game over a three-month span—earned a playoff victory!

This year’s edition of Harvard hockey is certainly capable of matching up with anyone. The team has faced 13 ranked opponents, earning a win or a draw in six of them, while three others were one-goal losses.

So even though the Crimson’s 2013-2014 campaign suggests that the time to win is not now, anything can happen going into the last weekend of the regular season. A playoff series victory might be just what Harvard needs to launch itself toward the better days that lie ahead.

—Staff writer Jake T. Meagher can be reached at jmeagher@college.harvard.edu.

Tags