It has been five years since the Harvard hockey team last had a gamens important as tonight's at Yale. It's the most important game I've over played in, "says explain Micheal Watson, a four-year starter. "The meet important since we're been here," agrees senior goalie Wade law "oh, sure, says coach Billy Cleary. "The most important in a long time,"
The reason? The playoffs. Harvard and Yale are tied along with Cornell, for first place in the ECAC's Ivy Division, and tonight's winner will have gone a long way toward eliminating the loser from the playoff chose. For Harvard a loss means there wins in four final games will be needed just to have a chance. For Yale, it means another loss and they're out.
Playoff fever this late in the season is a novelty for the Crimson. "I told them that yesterday in practice," says Cleary. "Wouldn't it be nice for the seniors to go out in a blaze of glory and make the playoffs?"
It's also a novelty for Yale a squad that hasn't finished in the top eight in the ECAC since 1978-9. Two weeks ago, the Elis looked like a shoo-in to win he division and get home ice for the first round, but losses to Maine, Brown and Northeastern and last week's 1-1 tie in Cambridge have shoved than back in the Ivy peck.
The winless streak has been frustrating for Yale--two of the losers were by one goal, and the third was a 2-1 game until Northeastern pumped home two empty-matters in the final seconds. Now the squad faces mathematical elimination as early at his next outing after tonight's clash with New Hampshire on Feb. 27.
All of this puts added pressure on sophomore Eli goalie Paul Tortorella, who was the clear difference between a tie and a loss when his team was here on Feb. 6. Tortorella has compiled a 3.50 goals against average and has saved 90 percent of the oncoming shots. He has held three teams--Harvard, St Lawrence and Boston University--to one goal. "Their goaltender has kept them in it all year." says Cleary. "He's won games for them That's been the difference."
Oddly enough, neither Harvard not Yale has beaten the other in New Haven since 1979, and four of the last five games have been ties. Last year at Ingalls Rink (nicknamed the Yale Whale, of American Buildings and Their Architects," Jordy, p. 200) Harvard blew a 4-2 lead fell behind, 5-4, and rallied to tie on a Mark Fusco slapshot late in the game. The year before, the teams played a rollicking 6-6 contest at the New Haven Coliseum which featured hat tricks by Harvard's Greg Olson and Yale's Paul Castraberti.
A tie this time will help the Crimson. First of all, the game is in New Haven and the visiting team can always claim a victory of sorts with a tie.
More important, a the will merely that the emphasis to the rest of the schedule, and Harvard's (four games all at home including patsies Dartmouth and Princeton) is easier than Yale's (three games, two of which are UNH and Cornell). That will make the Crimson's next game--Tuesday night against Northeastern--even more important than this one.
Men's Varsity Basketball at Columbia, 8 p.m.
Men's Varsity Fencing v. Columbia and Pennsylvania, 2 p.m.
Men's Varsity Ice Hockey at Yale, 7:30 p.m.
Men's Varsity Squash v. Pennsylvania, 2 p.m.
Men's Swimming v. Pennsylvania, 2 p.m.
Men's Varsity Wrestling v. Yale, Brown, at 3 p.m.
Women's Varsity Basketball v. Cornell 7:30 p.m.