After a weak offensive performance for much of the 2010-2011 campaign, the front line of the Harvard men’s ice hockey team knew it had to make big changes.
There were certainly improvements in the offseason regimen. For the first time in its history, the team had access to Bright Hockey Center over the summer, allowing skaters to improve over the break. But questions remain, as the team must fill the void left by the loss of some of its top offensive weapons.
If the first period and a half of last Friday’s exhibition game against the University of Western Ontario serves as any indication, the offense will have no trouble getting going.
While the Mustangs didn’t manage a win on its four-game NCAA exhibition tour, none of its opponents matched the Crimson’s seven goals, including five in the first 26 minutes en route to a comfortable 7-4 victory.
Junior forward Conor Morrison, who was born in the opponent’s hometown of London, Ontario, punished his childhood neighbors, leading the team with four points. Assistant captain and forward Alex Killorn also had a big day, tallying an additional two goals and an assist.
Harvard also dominated the power play, scoring four times with a man advantage, including twice in the third period to put the game away.
Though the game was just an exhibition, the Crimson looks more like it did in last year’s second half of the season than in its first, when it consistently struggled on the offensive end.
While Harvard averaged 2.3 goals per game last season, it did almost a full goal better over its last 21 contests, averaging 3.2 per game. Its 32.7 power-play percentage during this span was a drastic improvement on its season average of 19.4 percent.
The team attributed this success to a change in mentality going into the season’s final stretch.
“I think towards the end of the year, we stopped trying to look so much for the pretty play and tried to get players and pucks to the net,” said captain and defenseman Ryan Grimshaw. “We are looking to establish that right now and get it started from the get-go.”
As a result of the Crimson’s late-blooming offensive firepower, Harvard didn’t lose in its final seven regular season games. After an upset in the opening round of the ECAC playoffs, the surprising contenders finally bowed out to Dartmouth in the second series of the tournament. In the best-of-three playoff, the Big Green needed all three games, barely skating by Harvard with a 4-3 victory in the final contest.
But if the Crimson wants to remain competitive this year, it will have to fill some sizeable holes. Harvard graduated four senior forwards last May, including Michael Biega ’11, who scored 11 goals and had 16 assists last season. Both marks were second-best on the team.
Junior forward Alex Fallstrom, who missed much of the beginning of last season due to injury, should provide some of the necessary spark.
“I think for him to be in the lineup is huge because he can protect the puck so well and be such a dominant player,” Killorn said.
According to Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91, a host of players have the potential to step up and fill the seniors’ void.