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Although a two week exam break lies just ahead, before the Harvard men's hockey team can stop to savor the joys of studying, it must again venture into the Frozen North.
This weekend's games against Vermont tonight and Dartmouth on Saturday will close out the Crimson's up-and-down first half of the season, and the team views the two games as an opportunity to gain a bounce going into the critical second half of the season.
"This weekend is important for our league standings," captain Ben Coughlin said. "The motivation is there."
With an impressive overtime win against Clarkson last weekend in hand, motivation should abound. The game was arguably the Crimson's finest of the season.
"It was the first game where we played 60 minutes of consistent, hard-nosed hockey," Coughlin said.
"It gave us a lot of confidence," senior defenseman Bryan Lonsinger said. "We learned a lot about ourselves that night."
The Crimson hopes to take that confidence with them to Vermont, one of the loudest, most exciting venues in the ECAC.
"It's a fun place to play," Coughlin said.
The team hopes to take advantage of Vermont's young, inexperienced defense and its Olympic-sized rink, which has wide open spaces ideal for the speedy Crimson.
With sophomores Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin leading the charge, Vermont boasts one of the most efficient power plays in the league, so it behooves the Crimson to stay out of the penalty box.
"It's important not to take stupid penalties and give them easy goals," Lonsinger said.
Coughlin is especially looking forward to meeting Vermont on the ice.
"In the beginning of the season, Vermont was written up as the new team in the ECAC," he said. "We have to go in there and prove the hype wrong."
On Saturday, the Crimson faces Dartmouth. Despite being one of the historically weaker teams in the Ivy League, Harvard hockey faithful will remember that the Big Green took the Crimson to overtime last season (before the Crimson won, 5-4) and beat them two years ago.
Both games were played in Hanover, N.H.
"We know we can't take anything for granted," junior Brad Konik said. "We'll be firing on all cylinders."
Even with recent history not on its side, the Crimson is going into the game with confidence and even a touch of bravado.
"If we concentrate and focus, Dartmouth is a team that we should blow out," Coughlin said.
While the Harvard players are preparing for finals, the rest of the ECAC will be playing--and gaining ground in the standings on the Crimson. That makes the weekend especially important.
"It's a very important weekend," Lonsinger said. "We don't want to go into break with two bad losses."
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