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PRINCETON, N.J.—The Harvard men’s hockey team won’t practice until Christmas and doesn’t play again until Dec. 27. After its latest loss—a 2-1 clunker at Princeton’s Hobey Baker Rink on Tuesday night—that sounds like a good idea.
“Don’t think about hockey for a couple days,” said junior Noah Welch, when asked how the team would respond to the break. “That’s exactly what we’re going to do. This team needs a break right now. This is the best thing for us.
“I’m sure after a couple days, guys are going to reflect about what they need to bring back to the team. But for right now, this is the best thing for us.”
The loss was another installment in what has been a puzzling—and disappointing—start for the Crimson. Harvard (6-6-1) has earned two non-conference wins over ranked opponents, but is 4-5-1 in the ECAC after entering the year as the overwhelming favorite.
Saturday night, the Crimson outshot then-No. 8 Massachusetts, 36-23, and won, 5-3. Last night, Harvard outshot the Tigers (5-9-0, 5-6-0 ECAC) by a 32-20 margin but lost the special teams battle and, consequently, the game.
Princeton also leapfrogged the Crimson with the victory, moving into a three-way tie for second. Harvard is now tied for fifth.
“The roller coaster continues,” said Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni. “This has been a very difficult team to figure out what happens next.
“I don’t know what’s coming next. I do my best to control that, but it’s in that locker room. They’ve got to find it.”
Harvard last played here almost exactly one year ago, Dec. 6, 2002. That night, the Crimson skated off with a 6-3 win, part of a fast start that included 10 wins before Jan. 1—the team’s most since the 1989 national championship season.
Yesterday, however, locked up the Tigers’ second sweep of Harvard in three seasons and saw the Crimson revert to bad habits—shooting the puck into the goalie’s chest, missing the net and blowing defensive assignments.
“We made some very, very inappropriate decisions,” Mazzoleni said.
One of them was on the game-winner, which came 56 seconds into the third from Princeton senior Chris Owen, who had once verbally committed to attend Harvard. The goal was set up by a turnover behind the Crimson goal, on an exchange in which the Tigers sent in only one forechecker against two Harvard defenders.
But more than one specific misplay, the Crimson was doomed by its poor performance on special teams. Harvard, which entered with the ninth-best power play in the ECAC, was 0-for-3 on the man-advantage against Princeton with only three shots on goal. The Crimson put zero shots on goal during a five-on-three early in the second period.
“We’ve got to become much better on the power play,” Mazzoleni said. “We’re not going to be a team that’s going to score a lot of goals. We’re going to have to win a lot of 3-2 and 2-1 games.”
The last time Harvard had a five-on-three was against Clarkson on Nov. 29. The Crimson did not convert on that opportunity, either, and surrendered a goal later in the period in an eventual loss.
The same thing happened last night, when Harvard couldn’t convert its two-man advantage early in the second and Los Angeles native Grant Goeckner-Zoeller scored on the doorstep midway through the period.
Senior winger Tim Pettit, the guy with a dozen (or two) relatives with Princeton degrees, answered for the Crimson. With the Tigers caught in a line change, Pettit picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and barreled down the left side, releasing at the bottom of the circle.
The puck caught the far post before ricocheting into the cage behind goaltender Eric Leroux with 6:56 to go in the second period.
It was the 49th goal of Pettit’s career—and second of the season.
But, as was the case for the rest of the team, Pettit’s last trip to Hobey Baker proved more memorable. In last season’s meeting here, he became the first player since Scott Fusco ’86 to record five points in a game.
Last night, he combined with the other Harvard icemen to put only 32 of their 69 shots on net, sending them into an 11-day layoff with a mediocre start to think about—or not think about, depending on how they approach it.
—Staff writer Jon Paul Morosi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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