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If one word could describe the feeling inside the Harvard men's hockey locker room after its 4-3 win, it would have been relief.
Plain and simple.
With only two wins on the season and averaging barely more than two goals per game, the young Crimson squad was definitely feeling a mounting sense of pressure. And no doubt, the developing 0-for-54 string on the power play didn't help matters either.
So what did the Northeastern win provide?
For one, it uncovered the offensive potency of an unlikely scoring source: the line of freshman Trevor Allman, junior Doug Sproule and freshman Mark Moore figured into three of the four goals and tallied a combined seven points.
Another bright spot for the Crimson was the season debut of sophomore goaltender Peter Zakowich, who collected 26 saves and his first win of the season.
Most important, however, the win brought smiles to a youthful team.
"That win just changes your spirits like night and day," freshman Jamin Kerner said. "It just gives the team that extra confidence it needs."
That boost is especially timely considering who is coming into Bright Hockey Center this weekend--the powers of the Frozen North, St. Lawrence and Clarkson.
In a way, tonight may be the biggest ECAC challenge Harvard faces this year.
The Saints will be out for Crimson blood. Harvard disposed of St. Lawrence on its own ice in the three-game ECAC quarterfinal series, much to the surprise of many league insiders.
"We pretty much ruined their playoffs," junior Henry Higdon said. "They're going to have that in the back of their mind. For them it will be a definite revenge factor--they're going to be up for us."
The Saints figured to rebound from last season's disappointing conclusion, but at the moment they find themselves tied for eighth place in the league standings. That might have more to do with how little separates the best and the worst in the ECAC and college hockey in general, rather than a reflection of the Saints' talent level--after all, they knocked off Boston University only a week ago.
"St. Lawrence is coming off a big win last weekend," Higdon said. "Obviously we'll have to focus on being consistent and taking one game at a time, period by period, shift by shift and playing aggressive for 60 minutes."
"There's a lot of parity in the league this year, and nobody's a sure thing," captain Ashlin Halfnight said. "Even the first place team is fair game on any given weekend. We'll have our hands full."
The Crimson's offensive doldrums continue to keep Coach Ronn Tomassoni guessing, searching for answers to the season-long goal drought. Lines come and go; the successful Allman-Sproule-Moore trio will stay intact, but Tomassoni promises more experimentation among tonight's lines.
"At this point, since the team hasn't been scoring as much as everybody likes, coach is just looking for answers," Kerner said. "Whatever change is made, it'll probably benefit us at this point."
"I really am confident that once we get that one little break it will start a snowball effect," sophomore Rob Millar said. "All it will take for is to get a taste of what it is like to win."
Maybe Northeastern was that tiny ball of snow. Will an avalanche follow, or will the forces of the Frozen North melt the Crimson's hopes?
--Shira A. Springer contributed to the reporting of this story.
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