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The Harvard men's hockey team hopes to continue its winning ways this weekend when it skates into Princeton (5-9-3, 4-4-2) tonight and Yale (6-8-0, 4-6-0) tomorrow night for two important ECAC games.
The No. 14 Crimson (8-7-1, 7-3-1) swept a pair of conference games a week ago, handing Union a 5-2 loss last Friday before breezing past then No. 12 RPI by the same score.
Should the Crimson squad duplicate its efforts from last year, it will at least maintain its four-point lead atop the ECAC standings. Harvard beat both Princeton and Yale in the teams' last match-ups of the '99-'00 season.
As if a two-game winning streak, a return to the national rankings, and a
favorable history against its opponents were not enough reasons to be confident, the Tigers and Elis are struggling.
Although Princeton's tough times are largely due to the caliber of the teams it has played recently, the Tigers have dropped games to ECAC foes Cornell and RPI, both teams the Crimson have defeated this year. Princeton is 2-7 since December 1, but is still third in the conference standings.
Yale is sixth and has not fared as well as Princeton against conference foes. The Elis were blanked twice by No. 1 Michigan State in their last two games. Unlike the Princeton squad, however, who was able to offset national setbacks with local success, Yale has not been as consistent against middle-of-the-pack ECAC teams.
The Elis have dropped games to RPI, Cornell, Colgate, and Princeton, and have only mustered one win since November 25.
In its most recent pair of losses against the top-ranked Spartans, Yale was denied a tally by stellar Spartan goaltender Ryan Miller. Harvard will look for an intense effort out of its defense, whose play has been ignited by freshman Kenny Smith.
On the offensive side of the puck, the Crimson will again look to the dominant Moore brothers, who each posted four-point performances in last weekend's games. Sophomore Dominic Moore netted a natural hat trick and assisted on another score to down RPI, and senior Steve burned Union for a goal and three assists.
The Moore's will be without the services of freshman forward Tim Pettit, however, the first-year sparkplug is the fourth-leading scorer on the team, but is down with a sprained ankle.
The Crimson will look to returning sophomore forward Brett Nowak to compensate for Pettit's absence. Nowak left the team to play for the United States at the World Junior Championships. His comeback will add some valuable experience and a deft playmaker's touch to the Harvard attack.
As Princeton returns to conference play after four games in the Midwest and one against UHN, it tries to avoid being shutout in back-to-back games for the first time since the '76-77 season.
The Tigers' 5-0 loss to Bowling Green was marked by an inability to
score on the powerplay. Princeton went 0-for-7 with the man advantage.
Harvard's superior special teams unit is among the top in the nation, and should cause the Tigers problems if they find themselves with an extra man.
Bowling Green scored two of its five goals on the power play, rendering the Tigers's shot advantage irrelevant. The Crimson has been extremely successful at finding the net with the extra man, and will look to take advantage of Princeton's undisciplined play.
Harvard has played four more games than its nearest ECAC competitor, Vermont.
Therefore, its four-point lead is not as secure as it might appear to be.
Harvard needs two victories this weekend as it heads into the heart of its ECAC schedule.
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