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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—After playing musical chairs with his lines for half of the season, Harvard men’s hockey coach Mark Mazzoleni may have found a recipe for success—and all the ingredients begin with T.
The Crimson’s top line of junior Tom Cavanagh, senior Tim Pettit and assistant captain Tyler Kolarik produced all but one of Harvard’s seven goals this weekend against the St. Cloud State Huskies and the Clarkson Golden Knights in the Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Pot.
“I think it’s pretty hard not to do well when you’re playing with two guys like Tom and Tyler,” Pettit said.
Cavanagh scored the Crimson’s only power-play goal of the weekend, 9:42 into the first period against Clarkson. Pettit and Kolarik earned assists on the play—for their passing—but their efforts in crowding the net also merited notice.
“I’m very happy playing with [Cavanagh] and Pettit,” Kolarik said. “Both of them are hot right now, so I’m just along for the ride.”
The trio is comprised of the team’s top scorers in points and seems primed for production as a unit. Cavanagh leads Harvard with 11 goals and Pettit and Kolarik are at the front in the assists category with 12 apiece.
“If we have to stack a line, that's what [we’ll do],” Mazzoleni said on Saturday night. “Maybe we'll play one line and have all the rest of them just trap. I don't know.”
Cavanagh had an outstanding weekend, as the center, who hails from Warwick, R.I., notched three goals and three assists before his home crowd. Cavanagh was not alone in immediately benefiting from the T line; in this single weekend, Pettit doubled his goal output, tacking a pair onto his previous two, while Kolarik registered four assists.
The Crimson’s final goal against the Golden Knights on Sunday exemplified what this line can do for its team, which has been ailing of late on offense and has suffered three shutout losses this season.
Though Clarkson was on the power play just two minutes into the third period, it was Harvard that came through with the power.
“We knew that we could kind of beat them shorthanded,” Kolarik said. “I think they were taking some chances.”
Kolarik began the run by chipping the puck along the boards and out of the Crimson defensive zone, where Cavanagh picked it up and sped along the right side of the ice. He took a hard shot at Clarkson goaltender Dustin Traylen, who made the initial save, but the puck bounced out just in front of goal as Cavanagh circled around the net.
Kolarik hadn’t been twiddling his thumbs; he had rushed up after his linemate and crashed the crease, sending Golden Knight winger Chris Blight reeling into his own goalie. Blight and Traylen fell into a pile in net, and Cavanagh finished his loop just in time to nudge the puck in.
A hard shot, traffic in front of the net and a little elbow grease—the formula for a goal. While Cavanagh cited the game-tying goal as the result of a “lucky bounce,” his coach named a different root of centerman’s success.
“He’s a fierce competitor,” Mazzoleni said. “Some people think, well, it’s a lucky bounce. No, it takes a competitor to stand in the crease and get whacked. That’s why a lot of people don’t score and that’s why he scores: ‘cause he can take the whacks.”
Whether met by St. Cloud’s speed or Clarkson’s physicality, Harvard’s top line did not slacken in the production that the Crimson had so missed this season. While one can argue whether the best strategy is stacking or balancing lines, Mazzoleni’s experiment paid off this weekend, in spite of the losses. Manned by the top Crimson scorers, all of whom are modest enough to defer credit, the top line was good enough to deserve wins.
—Staff writer Jessica T. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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