The Harvard men's hockey team faces its first significant test this weekend as it travels to play traditional rivals Princeton and Yale.
Tonight, the fifth-ranked Crimson (3-0-0, 3-0-0 ECAC), after starting strong against Brown, Union and RPI, travels to Baker Rink to face the Tigers (2-1-0, 1-1-0 ECAC).
Although Harvard crushed Princeton 8-1 last year in Cambridge, Coach Ronn Tomassoni does not relish the task of playing Princeton on foreign ice.
"Princeton is always tough in their own building," Tomassoni said, "and this year they are especially young and quick up the ice."
Some of that quickness is questionable for this weekend, as freshman speedster J.P. O'Connor may sit out the game with an injured foot. Definitely missing from the Tigers is senior bruiser Keith Merkler, their career-leading scorer against the Crimson.
But the Princeton "Money Line"--right wing Matt Zilinskas, center Terry Morris, and left wing Brian Bigelow--is still intact. The Tiger trio has combined for 18 points so far this season.
Also adding a scoring touch to the Tigers are a pair of talented freshmen. Forward Jonathon Kelley scored his first goal of the year last Friday at Cornell, and defenseman Jason Smith has lit the lamp twice already this year.
At the Yale Whale
Tomorrow night, the Crimson head into New Haven to play hockey's version of The Game against the undefeated Elis (2-0-0, 2-0-0 ECAC). Yale is led by Coach Tim Taylor, who will be guiding the United States national team towards gold in Lillehammer in 1994.
Tomassoni thinks that Yale has the potential to give the Crimson some serious headaches.
"Well, first of all, it's Yale. Enough said. And this year they have a legitimately good team," Tomassoni said. "Mark Kaufmann and Jamie Lavish are tough up front, and they are so strong and big on defense. All in all, it makes for one tough weekend."
Kaufmann, a senior center from Vancouver, captured All-ECAC honors last year and is a legitimate candidate for an All-America selection this season. And on his right is the talented Lavish, who scored four goals last weekend in Eli wins at Colgate and Cornell.
Not that Harvard is short of talent itself. Junior Ted Drury, back from the Olympic team this season, leads the Crimson in scoring with four goals and an assist, while the freshman netminding tandem of Aaron Israel and Tripp Tracy has proven worthy so far this season with a combined 1.66 goals-against average.
As for Harvard's elite national status, Tomassoni, though, disclaims any interest--for now, anyways.
"I don't pay any attention to the rankings at all," Tomassoni said. "All that matters is what happens at the end of the year."
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