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With one weekend to play in the regular season, the Harvard men's hockey team is looking to end the ECAC campaign with a late charge. The ECAC playoff picture is still unclear, but all will be in focus after tomorrow night.
For Harvard (13-12-1 overall, 11-8-1 ECAC), the playoff possibilities are endless. The Crimson could finish anywhere from second place to eighth.
Can anyone say parity?
By virtue of a 5-3 victory over RPI last weekend, Harvard (23 points) is clinging tenuously to the third place spot in league, trailing only Clarkson (27 pts.) and Brown (26 pts.) However, the Crimson needs not look very far over its shoulder to see six teams that are between one and three points behind.
Tonight, Harvard has a chance to distance itself from one of those rapidly approaching teams--St. Lawrence (15-14-1, 10-10-0, 20 pts.).
The Saints, who struggled much of the season, have cranked it up a notch at the finish and hope to march into the playoffs on a high note. St. Lawrence took a pair of much-needed 5-4 wins from Dartmouth and Vermont last weekend and are on a five-game winning streak.
Leading the charge for the Saints will be the dynamic duo of Burke Murphy (14 goals, 14 assists, 28 points) and Paul DiFrancesco (5-21-26). Murphy was last week's ECAC player of the Week, and stopping him will be a difficult task for a Crimson defensive corps that surrendered five goals to lowly Union last Saturday.
To clinch home ice and a first-round ECAC playoff bye, the Crimson needs to come away from this weekend with three points or have its closest competitors falter. And earning those points will be hard to come by tomorrow night, when Clarkson comes to Bright Hockey Center.
The Golden Knights boast the most explosive offense in the ECAC, netting 101 goals while giving up just 64. The top guns for Clarkson are Claude Morin (10-22-32) and Marko Tuomainen (13-18-31), who are fourth and fifth in ECAC scoring, respectively.
To compete with Clarkson, Harvard will need another big performance from senior forward Steve Martins. Last weekend, Martins continued his late-season emergence with a five-point weekend--two goals and two assists against RPI, and another goal at Union--earning him a spot on the ECAC Honor Roll.
The Harvard player who will bear the brunt of Clarkson's offensive force is junior goaltender Tripp Tracy, who is sure to see a lot of rubber flying his way all night. Tracy, currently third in the ECAC with a 2.94 goals against average, must continue to be sharp for the Crimson to have any chance of knocking off the Golden Knights.
Heading into the season's final weekend with an 11-8-1 league record would be cause for excitement and certainly satisfaction for many schools. But this has been a difficult, disappointing year for the Crimson by any account. A pre-season pick to finish in the top five in the country, Harvard has struggled from the outset, succumbing to several league doormats.
This weekend the Crimson has a chance to grab some redemption heading into the postseason. Should the Crimson garner two wins, the chances of an ECAC Tournament title increase dramatically, as momentum is a strong force in the playoffs.
An ECAC Tournament championship is the Crimson's only hope of making the NCAA Tournament and salvaging this season. The next two games will be a strong indication of the team's ability to live up to expectations.
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