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It's been a long but interesting road. It's been a trek which has brought fans to points of ecstasy only to fall deep into pits of despair. It has made the future look clear and limitless, but then without warning, a heavy fog always seemed to enter, blanketing any potential.
With only four regular season games left in the season, the Harvard men's hockey team is definitely at a crossroads.
Starting tonight, the Crimson will have to make a conscious decision. Will it continue down the same inconsistent, up-and-down path on which it has traveled throughout the entire season? Or will it rebound during the next couple of weekends, play to its potential and challenge for the league title in Lake Placid?
When all is said and done in Lake Placid, records are trivial. In each of the last two years, the sixth-place team has made it to the ECAC tournament final.
In a season where parity has become not only a watchword for league play, but a gross understatement. When only eight points separate the top eight teams, the win-loss column becomes one's only compass.
At the moment, Harvard sits tied with Colgate for the eighth spot boasting only an 8-8-2 ECAC record.
In order to avoid a Tuesday preliminary round match-up in a week and a half, the Crimson will have to bounce up to sixth place. Not only must the team surpass Colgate and Union, but it must also fend off St. Lawrence and Dartmouth which hang dangerously below Harvard in the standings.
Even with this coveted sixth spot, Harvard would still be on the road for its quarterfinal game most likely venturing out to Clarkson, Vermont, Cornell or even RPI.
At this point in the season, however, avoidance of a midweek contest would be a feat in itself.
The challenge all begins tonight for Harvard.
When the puck drops tonight against St. Lawrence (9-17-4, 4-10-4 ECAC) in Appleton Arena, the question will be clear. Which Harvard team will fight for its possession?
Last weekend, the Crimson finally broke out from its shell. From the first face-off to the final buzzer, Harvard played with attitude, intensity and a certain amount of healthy cockiness which has been absent throughout most of its 21 games.
Whether it was Henry Higdon barely breaking stride after leveling a Cornell defenseman at the blue-line, or whether it was Geordie Hyland collapsing onto the ice entangled with both a referee and another player during one of the game's many full-fledged fights--Harvard made its pretense felt.
Again the next night at Colgate, Harvard stunned the Red Raiders with a 5-2 blowout. At the end of the game, a minor scuffle ensued, but the final image of that game told the whole story. Staring down his opponent, captain Ashlin Halfnight broke into a menacing grin.
Although it was meant for only one individual, it sent shivers down the spine of anyone watching his face.
Harvard finally had an attitude.
This aggressive attitude will have to emerge this weekend against Clarkson, the league's top team, and St. Lawrence.
Adding to the mix will be the haunting memories of Harvard's three-game-series win over St. Lawrence in last year's quarterfinal round of the ECAC playoffs.
Redemption will no doubt be on the minds of the Saint's returning players.
In the only meeting this season, Harvard and St. Lawrence skated to a 3-3 stalemate at Bright Hockey Center, while Clarkson limped away from Cambridge with a 5-4 defeat.
For this Harvard team, it's not about the opponent, it's about its own players and its own attitude.
The wins will only better the Crimson's record if the players make a decision to go down the unbeaten path. The team must continue the inspired physical hockey which it began last weekend against Cornell and Colgate.
If it chooses this road, then its dismal record and inconsistent play will slowly disappear and there will be fewer bumps in the road to Lake Placid.
The Harvard players have indeed reached a crossroads and the direction they choose to travel is in the own hands.
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