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Enough with Hockey East. It's time to bring back the ECAC.
Harvard men's hockey (4-3-1, 3-1-1 ECAC) returns to league competition tonight as it hosts Ivy and ECAC rival Brown (2-4-1, 1-3-1 ECAC) at 7 p.m. at Bright Hockey Center. Harvard hopes to rebound from two tough overtime losses in its last three games and get back on the winning track.
The game will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. The Crimson won the first meeting in decisive fashion, administering a 7-2 spanking of the Bears in the season opener.
But Brown has improved since the first meeting. It has won two of its last three games by wide margins, beating Yale 5-1 and Providence 8-5.
A large part of the Bears' recent scoring explosion has been the work of senior forward Brian Jardine, whose seven goals and five assists leads his team in offensive production this season. He scored both goals against the Crimson in the season opener.
Also adding to Brown's firepower are junior forward Mike Flynn (four goals, four assists), and senior forward Ryan Mitchell (three, five).
However, the Bears have been somewhat shakier at stopping their opponents' shots, allowing almost four goals per game. Brown features a trio of netminders, each of whom has started at least one game. Senior Mike Parsons (88 save percentage, 3.53 goals against average) has started four games, sophomore Jeff Holowaty (89 percent, 3.86) three and junior Brian Audette (83 percent, 5.00) one.
The three goalies will have to face a high-powered Crimson offense. The starting line of seniors Brad Konik, Tommy Holmes and Kirk Nielsen has accounted for 13 goals and 19 assists so far this season. Freshman Mike Bent (five goals, one assist) and sophomore Henry Higdon (one, four) have also racked up points for Harvard.
The Crimson should be hungry to score some goals against Brown; the team scored only once in 59 attempts in its 2-1 overtime loss to Boston College on Tuesday.
The offense had its chances but just couldn't get the puck in the net. B.C. goaltender Greg Taylor was fantastic; he made 36 saves and single-handedly stopped a number of excellent Crimson scoring opportunities.
"I thought we shot the puck more than usual," senior wing Kirk Nielsen said. "The power play was working, which gave us more chances."
The team may have gotten its chances, but it wasn't able to score on any of its five power play opportunities on Tuesday. In fact, despite moving the puck extremely well at times, the Crimson power play hasn't been effective this season, scoring on only seven of its 48 opportunities (14.6 percent).
The Crimson has been excellent defensively. Senior Tripp Tracy (89.1 save percentage, 2.95 GAA) and freshman Peter Zakowich (91.3 percent, 1.50) have both performed up to high preseason expectations in goal. Harvard's penalty-killing unit, one of its team's strengths in recent years, continues to excel (87.2 kill percentage).
Last time the two teams met, Harvard was checking hard and scrambling for loose pucks. Its defensive pressure was the key to victory. According to Nielsen, the Crimson will need a similar effort to be as successful in the second go-around.
"We have to play our own game and not worry about them too much." Nielsen said. "All aspects of our game have improved. The games where we've been successful are the games where we've worked the hardest."
The Crimson is currently tied with Cornell for place in the ECAC, trailing Vermont by two points. A win on today and a Vermont loss to Ottawa on Sunday would leave the two teams in a tie for first place.
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