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M. Hockey Faces Dual Challenge Against St. Lawrence, Clarkson

By Maureen B. Shannon, Contributing Writer

On Jan. 14, the last time Harvard approached a St. Lawrence/Clarkson weekend, it stood atop the ECAC, and was hoping to pad its lead.

However, Harvard crawled away with losses to both St. Lawrence and Clarkson, 4-6 and 2-5 respectively, and that weekend marked a fall from grace for Harvard, who has not returned to the top of the standings since.

The Crimson (6-7-2 ECAC, 8-12-2 overall) enters this weekend facing the same St. Lawrence/Clarkson doubleheader, but it no longer gazes down from such lofty heights.

Harvard is now amongst the knot of ECAC teams hovering around .500. Posting only 14 points in ECAC play, Harvard claims the seventh place in the conference.

"Two wins this weekend would be a big confidence booster for us," said freshman forward Brett Nowak, who is seventh in scoring among ECAC rookies. "It would really start things rolling."

Like last month's doubleheader, opportunity knocks again this weekend for the Crimson. With two wins, Harvard can jump up three places in the standings, coasting past Ivy foes Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth.

Approaching the weekend, the Crimson is coming off a third-place finish in the Beanpot tournament, a win that might help the Crimson to regain the momentum it enjoyed early in the season.

Since Christmas, Harvard has slumped, going 3-7-1. The Crimson had been 6-4-1 prior to the holiday break.

However on Tuesday, Harvard returned to its early success when it faced off against a stronger Northeastern squad and came away with a defensive-minded 3-1 victory.

The win was due in large part to the spectacular play of senior goaltender J.R. Prestifilippo, who turned away 38 shots.

With the success in the FleetCenter still fresh, the Crimson returns to Bright Hockey Center tonight to take on surging St. Lawrence (12-2-1, 17-6-2).

St. Lawrence is currently on a hot streak, having won eight in a row. Last weekend, the Saints swept Cornell and Colgate.

With the two victories, St. Lawrence secured a first round ECAC tournament home game. The Saints now also hold a secure four-point lead atop the ECAC, ahead of second-place Colgate.

Harvard has gone 1-2-1 against Cornell and Colgate this season.

Characterized by physical play, the Knights boast the league's third-most suffocating defense and third-most prolific offense. In the ECAC, a league plagued by parity, St. Lawrence has capitalized on its consistency in both zones.

"They are a hard-nose hockey team," Nowak said.

After facing-off against the first place Knights, Harvard hosts last year's ECAC champion Clarkson tomorrow night.

A study in contrast to last season, it has been a disappointing year for the Golden Knights (4- 8-3, 10-13-3), who are tied for ninth place in the ECAC.

However, Clarkson sat in last place when it last faced Harvard and turned in a dominating 2-5 victory. Although inconsistent this season, the Golden Knights have proven that they are not to be underestimated.

Despite a lackluster start, Clarkson has also posted impressive wins against Princeton and Yale.

Although lacking a solid defense, Clarkson carries a potent offense, claiming two of the top five goal scorers in the ECAC: junior Erik Cole and sophomore Matt Poapst.

Although it was the play of Prestifilippo that proved crucial in the Beanpot victory, offensive production will likely be key to winning this weekend. Harvard has lagged in scoring lately.

St. Lawrence freshman goaltender Derek Gustafson boasts a stingy 2.02 goals against average and an astounding .941 save percentage.

Lighting the lamp will pose a challenge for the Crimson, who managed just 16 shots in its Beanpot win.

Because both St. Lawrence and Clarkson possess high-powered offenses, Harvard will need to recover its offensive might.

"The important thing this weekend is to play with desire," Nowak said. "We need to loosen up and the goals will come."

An added incentive for a victorious weekend will be the return of Ronn Tomassoni, the Crimson Head Coach last year. Tomassoni will be in the stands for the St. Lawrence game.

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