SCHENECTADY, N.Y.--In an era when computers, insurance companies and weed-eaters can sponsor college football bowl games, two title sponsors should be nominated for last night's Harvard-Union men's hockey game.
The Kansas board of tourism and the inventor of rice cakes. Talk about bland.
Sophomore netminder Aaron Israel made 20 tough saves for his second shutout of the year, and although the Skating Dutchmen (2-3-1 overall, 0-3-1 ECAC) held the ninth-ranked Crimson (5-1-1 overall, 5-1-1 ECAC) to just two goals, Harvard was never seriously threatened in posting its 2-0 triumph.
"Union has some young, quick skaters out there, and we knew they were a much improved team coming into this year," Harvard Coach Ronn Tomassoni said. "But we're a really quick team, too, and one of the things we try to do is pressure people. We did a really great defensive job out there."
"We executed well in our defensive zone, and [Union] never really had a chance to get set up," captain Sean McCann said of the second best scoring defense in the ECAC, giving up 3.20 goals per game coming in. "We got on the puck quickly and moved it well in our zone, things you have to do against a dump and chase team like that."
Offensively, things weren't quite so rosy.
The first period looked like a total wash for the Crimson--junior forward Steve Martins had the only legitimate scoring chance for either team, missing a short-handed breakaway opportunity in the game's second minute--and numerous turnovers stifled a Harvard offense which came into the game averaging almost five and a half goals per contest.
That is, until the Crimson power play kicked in. Senior Brian Farrell's well-directed tip-in of a Chris Baird point shot with 1:14 to play in the first--Harvard's 15th man up goal of the year--gave Harvard a big lift going into the first intermission.
"As long as the power play is kicking, it's a great help to the team," McCann said when questioned if the Crimson relies too heavily on the power play for offense. "We keep working five on five, it's a just a matter of time before the pucks start going in."
"I'd be concerned if we weren't getting the opportunities," Tomassoni echoed. "As long as we've got them, the puck's going to go in the net--as it has all year."
Tomassoni must have made exactly that point in the dressing room, for Harvard came out flying in the second; a mad rush of offense was capped by junior Cory Gustafson's sixth goal of the year (tops on the Crimson) a rebound conversion of a Martins shot which hit the post behind Dutchmen goalie Mike Gallant.
"Six goals and one assist on the year eh? Good question," Gustafson said about his scoring totals. "Shows you what good linemates I have [in Martins and junior Ben Coughlin]."
And then it turned into the Goalie Show as both Israel and Gallant asserted themselves in their halves of the ice (Israel even committed his first penalty of the year, sticking Union's Cory Holbrough at 10:55 of the second).
Gallant stops a great two on one opportunity by sophomore Jason Karmanos? No problem--here's Israel stopping a partial breakaway by the Dutchmen's Jay Prentice.
"I felt really good out there," Israel said. "I've never really felt as if I've handled the puck better than I did tonight, and I was trapping almost every slap shot that came my way. Such control of myself and my game..."