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The Harvard men’s hockey team takes the ice at Bright Hockey Center for its first official game of the season Saturday night against Brown. But hockey was back at Harvard for the first time this year on Friday night during an exhibition game against the University of Guelph, of Canada.
Even though it was an exhibition, complete with expanded rosters and experimental line pairings, the Crimson managed to put on quite a show in an 8-0 blowout of the Gryphons.
Despite the offensive outpouring, the Harvard hockey faithful might have been a little surprised with coach Mark Mazzoleni’s line pairings, both with the forwards and back on the blue line.
Part of the reason for surprise was the absence of senior forwards Tim Pettit and Rob Fried, both of whom sat out the game as a precaution after sustaining minor injuries in practice. Mazzoleni indicated that Pettit would likely have played had it been a regular-season game, and said that he wanted to give Fried a full week of rest before deciding whether he would play in the season opener against Brown.
Despite the unusual combinations, Mazzoleni’s strategy paid dividends, as eight different Crimson players notched goals and each line functioned cohesively. After the game, captain and defenseman Kenny Smith was very impressed with how the forwards adapted to having new and different linemates.
“I thought the forwards played very well together,” Smith said. “I thought our execution progressed as we went along.”
That progress came despite the open auditions for three centermen, slots left vacant by the graduations of Dominic Moore, Brett Nowak and Aaron Kim. The consensus number one center on the team is junior Tom Cavanagh and, perhaps because of his positional security, Mazzoleni started him at left wing to get a look some of his other players.
Juniors Andrew Lederman and Brendan Bernakevitch, sophomore Charlie Johnson and freshman Kevin Du all manned center ice for Harvard. And three got their names on the score sheet, with Du and Bernakevitch pocketing an assist each, and Lederman leaving the ice with a goal and an assist.
After the game Mazzoleni continued to stress his team’s depth. At practice this week, the forward lines were switched every second day and defensive pairings every day, according to Mazzoleni.
“We’re going to be able to roll four lines out there,” he said. “We’re going to be able to sustain a strong pace during the game.”
Utilizing the expanded roster that Friday night’s exhibition format allowed, Mazzoleni played a rotation of seven defensemen, true to his word about nothing being decided during preseason. He employed three pairs before sending freshman Dylan Reese—in this case, the odd man out as the seventh defender—out with junior Noah Welch, shifting the rotation by a man and continuing down the line of pairs.
“The combinations don’t mean a whole heck of a lot right now,” Smith said.
And Smith is right, because Mazzoleni won’t have to make a firm decision on who his six dressing defensemen are until Nov. 7 against Vermont, owing to junior Ryan Lannon’s one-game suspension for butt-ending in the NCAA Tournament against BU last spring.
With Mazzoleni’s emphasis on open slots, no one can be certain what the team’s top power-play unit will look like against Brown.
What it looked like on Friday night—minus Pettit, the leading scorer among the returners—was this: Johnson, Cavanagh, senior forwards Tyler Kolarik and Kenny Turano, and Welch as the lone defenseman in the group.
Who will be bumped when Pettit returns isn’t certain, although it likely will come down to a decision between Turano’s hard, quick shot and Johnson’s excellent ability to maneuver in traffic with the puck.
Despite having makeshift power-play and penalty-kill units, Harvard was very efficient in both situations.
With the man advantage, the Crimson converted on two of its four chances, and while down a man, the team was able to limit the Gryphons to one shot on net.
Counting (Goose) Eggs Way Before They Hatch
Memo to those who compile the Ken Dryden Award (best goaltender in the ECAC) watch list: keep your eyes on Crimson goaltenders junior Dov Grumet-Morris and sophomore John Daigneau.
Despite splitting time in net, the pair each stopped every shot sent its way—all seven of them.
Guelph goaltender Ken Ritson, despite conceding eight goals, faced 58 shots on the night. It’s hard to say anyone stood on his head while allowing eight goals, but the Gryphons might easily have lost by two touchdowns and a field goal had Ritson not been in net.
—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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