The No. 14 Harvard men’s hockey team (9-6-3, 8-6-2 ECAC) travels to No. 10 Cornell (13-5-1, 9-2-1 ECAC) tonight at 7 p.m. and then heads to Colgate (7-13-1, 5-6-1 ECAC) for an afternoon matchup tomorrow.
The Cornell game looms large, as the Big Red currently leads the Crimson by a point in the ECAC standings, 19-18.
“It’s a huge game for us,” Harvard captain Pete Capouch said. “We’ve got to win.”
Cornell brings considerable size, along with a terrific goalie in senior Matt Underhill. Sophomore Ryan Vesce and junior Stephen Baby lead the Big Red offensive attack with 20 points a piece.
Harvard won the teams’ first meeting, 4-3 in overtime, in November at the Bright Hockey Center.
In that contest, freshman defenseman Noah Welch tied the game at 3-3 with under a minute to play. Junior forward Brett Nowak netted the winner in overtime.
The Cornell players have publicly stated their eagerness for revenge. The Crimson-Big Red hockey matchup at Lynah is their version of the Harvard-Yale football game. Cornell leads the overall series 54-49-7.
Big Red fans also turn playing in Lynah into a surreal experience, and are famous for throwing fish onto the ice.
“As a freshman, I have yet to experience the rivalry,” said goalie Dov Grumet-Morris, slated to start against the Big Red. “[Lynah Rink] is one of the most difficult arenas to play in.”
The Crimson is coming off a 5-2 victory in an exhibtion over the U.S. Junior National team and has won five of its last six games.
Welch, injured for part of the season, is expected to be a big contributor. Nowak and sophomore Tyler Kolarik, who lead the Crimson with 20 and 19 points respectively, will need to continue providing offensive firepower if Harvard wants to pull off a road upset.
With fish and pads flying in all directions, the game ought to at least be entertaining.
“It’ll be a great college game, with a great college atmosphere,” Grumet-Morris said.
It always is, and with tonight’s game also representing a battle for first place, the game will take on more meaning.