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When the Harvard men's hockey team takes on Colgate and Cornell this weekend at Bright Hockey Center, it will then be time to start sorting the men from the boys as far as ECAC hockey is concerned.
Both upstate New York teams will offer the Crimson its first stiff competition this year and give good indicators of what the team can expect as it plays out its schedule.
"This weekend will set the pace for our entire season," sophomore Ethan Oberman said.
Harvard's first challenge comes tonight from the Red Raiders at 7:30 p.m. Harvard leads the series 26-9-3; however, last year, the Crimson left Hamilton with a an overtime tie, 2-2, and then lost 1-2 when the teams met again in Cambridge.
The Red Raiders come into tonight's contest with outstanding play on their special teams. In its first four games, Colgate has killed off 84 percent of its opponents power play opportunities.
On the man advantage, Colgate has been even more effective. The Red Raiders have made good on 10 of 18 power play chances this year for a 56 percent success rate.
This past week, the Crimson has concentrated in practice on containing that power play.
"In practice, we kind of honed in on their power play," Oberman said. "We just want to be aware of their strengths and their weaknesses on it."
"We watched films from last year which gives us an idea of what they like to do on their power play," junior Jeremiah McCarthy adds. "They like to walk into the umbrella power play."
In the process of reviewing game tapes, it was obvious that Colgate keys on senior right wing Mike Harder in man-advantage situations. Harder is considered by many to be a Hobey Baker and All-American candidate and has led Colgate in scoring his last three seasons.
"I don't think he's the type of player we're going to key on all game," sophomore Craig Adams said. "We know on their power play he's the guy they focus on. We know that when we're short-handed, he's the guy who will be getting the puck. Five-on-five, you just have to be aware of him. When they're on their power play, you have to be aware of him even more."
Although the Crimson will not turn its focus to Cornell until the Colgate contest is over, there is no question that there is an intense rivalry between the Crimson and the Big Red. It was, after all, Cornell that beat Harvard in the finals of last season's ECAC tournament in Lake Placid, 2-1, ending the Crimson's season and preventing the squad from advancing to the NCAA tournament.
Harvard lost all three games it played against Cornell during the 1995-96 season.
"I think Cornell is really one of the teams I want to get back at," Oberman said. "When you bring up Cornell, revenge is definitely a word that comes to mind. We are definitely aware of the past."
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