The Crimson varsity hockey team, surprising no one, glided smoothly through the semifinal round of the ECAC Division I playoffs last night, trouncing Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 7-2, before a sedate crowd in Boston Garden.
The victory advances Harvard to the ECAC finals tonight, when the skaters will seek their third ECAC championship in Crimson history. The win almost assures Harvard a trip to the prestigious NCAA hockey championship tournament, which will be held next week in Boston.
The Crimson experienced little trouble disposing of the eighth-seeded Engineer squad, which upset top seeded UNH, 7-6, last Tuesday. RPI managed to stay Harvard's attack during the first period, but a four-goal Crimson outburst in the second stanza put the game clearly out of the Engineers' reach.
Harvard took 39 shots on RPI senior goalie Don Cutts, who ended his impressive college career with an uninspired performance. Cutts, who was All-East as a sophomore and junior, must have entered last night's contest wearily, having made 1000 saves already during the season.
Crimson netminder Jim Murray continued to play well, blocking 22 shots before being replaced by sophomore John Aiken with eight minutes remaining in the game. The line of Jim McMahon, Steve Dagdigian and Kevin Carr collected three goals and three assists to lead Harvard's attack.
McMahon opened the scoring during a power play at 8:29 of the first period, tipping the puck past Cutts from the right corner of the crease while RPI defenseman Rick Marsh was serving a holding penalty.
The Engineers came back to knot the score at 13:08, converting after officials Giles Threadgold and Bill Quinn had penalized Harvard for too many men on the ice. Senior winger Greg Bull, standing in front of the net, deflected a pass by Murray.
The Crimson pressed in the closing minutes of the first stanza, and with only 42 seconds remaining, Harvard's efforts were finally rewarded; Dagdigian scored a short-slide goal after defenseman Levy Byrd's shot from the point had been blocked.
Harvard broke away in the second period, delivering 16 shots on net and scoring four times to establish a convincing 6-1 lead. Co-captain Bob Goodenow earned his fourteenth goal of the season only 25 seconds into the middle stanza, when he converted on a rebound.
Ted Thorndike put the Crimson ahead, 4-1, at 5:49 while both teams were a man down, and then McMahon slipped a soft shot along the ice between Cutts's legs at 7:42 to collect his second tally of the night. Jim Thomas, while sliding by the RPI net, tipped home a perfect pass from Leigh Hogan at 14:33 to make the score 6-1.
Engineer forward Ken McCutcheon collected a token goal off a face-off two minutes into the third period, but Harvard's Dan Bolduc answered back at 4:37. The Crimson failed to score during a four-minute power play in the last half of the period, and the contest ended unspectacularly with the final score 7-2.