Those unwilling to journey to New Haven to watch the Harvard football team battle for Ivy League bragging rights against Yale need only cross the river to Bright Hockey Center to see the other big league rivalry this weekend.
The Harvard women's hockey team opens its Ivy League and ECAC seasons this weekend with a double dose of league competition. Today, the Crimson (2-1-0, 0-0-0 Ivy) faces off at home against last year's Ivy League champion, Princeton (1-2-0, 0-0-0), and tomorrow it completes the H-Y-P weekend against perennial archrival, Yale (0-0-0, 0-0-0).
After finishing second to New Hampshire at the All-American Tournament in Minnesota, self-billed as "The Nation's Largest Women's Hockey Tournament," the Crimson is revved up to open its ECAC season.
"We have been doing a lot of practicing the last few weeks, and we're really excited to get the season underway," senior Stacey Kellogg said.
Opening up its campaign at Minnesota gave the Crimson key advantages over the Tigers and Elis. Harvard saw Princeton (who finished fourth) in action at the tournament. The tourney also gave the Crimson a chance to play together in a game situation before beginning ECAC action.
"We played two good games together against Dartmouth and UNH last weekend," Kellogg said. "We now know the level of competition for this coming year."
Harvard's sneak peek at Princeton gave it many insights into Princeton's key weaknesses. The Tigers' goalie has only been on the ice for a week due to the field hockey season. The Crimson plans on firing more shots to work her lack of ice time to its advantage.
Princeton's other big problem lies in its lack of skaters. In Minnesota, the Tigers ran only two lines compared to five for the Crimson.
"We plan on running Princeton down with a lot of lines," junior A.J. Mleczko said.
Still, the Crimson is worried about the speed in those two lines and fears getting burned if it does not backtrack quickly enough.
"Princeton has two or three quick forwards who can explode with speed and score," Mleczko said.
While Princeton's deadly weapon is speed, Yale's is in the goal. Bulldog sophomore Laurie Belliveau was named both Ivy League Rookie of the Year and first-team All-Ivy as a freshman.
"Laurie is just phenomenal in the goal," Mleczko said. "We going to have to set up plays and finish them off to beat her."
Yale and Princeton are not the only ones with heavy artillery--the Crimson has it as well in the from of Mleczko and sophomore goalie Jen Bowdoin. Mieczko scored a Harvard record 52 points last year, while Bowdoin stopped nearly 90-percent of shots on goal. If both are on, the two can be unstoppable.
Despite a challenging weekend ahead, the Crimson seems ready to attack.
"We had a good week of practice," Mleczko said. "Now, we just need to go in with confidence."
If it capitalizes on this confidence, the Crimson can guarantee at least one set of bragging rights for those who choose not to brave the dangers of Connecticut.