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After a winter break marred by losses to non-league opponents Minnesota and New Hampshire in the Mariucci Classic, the Crimson hopes to rebound this weekend against the University of Vermont and Dartmouth.
Harvard's 8-3 loss to New Hampshire marked the most goals it has given up in a single game since an 8-2 loss to Boston University on February 4, 1991, when the two teams played that year's Beanpot.
Tonight's contest against No. 8 Vermont (10-3-1, 4-0-1 ECAC) and tomorrow's game against Dartmouth (1-10-1, 0-5-0) are crucial in setting the tone for the remainder of the ECAC season.
Last year, the Crimson (6-7-1, 5-3-1) was swept at home by both teams during its collapse at the end of the season.
"What Coach [Ronn Tomassoni] has said is that we have four games before exams and he'd like to go undefeated," senior defenseman Peter McLaughlin said.
"There are times during the year that you pick out games that are important," freshman forward Craig Adams said. "This is definitely an important weekend not only for morale, but also in terms of league standing."
The Crimson faces the Catamounts and the league's most potent first line in forwards Martin St. Louis, Eric Perin and J.C. Ruid in this weekend's first matchup. Together, this line accounts for 81 of Vermont's 159 points this season. Hence, strong play in the neutral zone is key to victory.
On the other end of the ice, Harvard's attackers will face Vermont's All-American goalie Tim Thomas, who leads the league with a 2.38 goals-against average.
"This week we've spent a lot of time playing team defense," Adams said. "What we're hoping is that by playing really tight team defense, we're going to turn the puck over for ourselves and get more offensive opportunities."
Although Dartmouth always seems to lay claim to the ECAC cellar and Harvard has won 26 of its last 28 games against the Big Green, a win is a win. But Harvard will still have to work for the two points.
"These are teams that we lost to last year, and that is motivation enough," senior goalie Tripp Tracy said. "In the league, every win is worth two points."
Two victories this weekend would improve Harvard's ECAC standing and erase the bad memories of Christmas past.
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