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Last Saturday, the Harvard men’s hockey team fell to the ECAC’s resident giant of Cornell. This weekend, facing two teams it handled easily in early November, the Crimson has to make sure it doesn’t stumble again. Harvard is to face Dartmouth tonight and Vermont on Saturday.
Although the Big Green (14-10-1, 10-8-0 ECAC) dropped a 5-2 decision to the Crimson at the start of the season, it has put together a formidable pair of wins over teams that have given Harvard trouble.
Dartmouth has been a giant killer at home this season, downing No. 2 Cornell 5-2 and upsetting then No. 1 Boston College 5-4 in overtime. The Big Green are 2-0 versus college hockey’s elite. Meanwhile the Crimson stands at 0-2-1 against the same level of competition.
“Dartmouth is a good team,” said captain Dominic Moore. “They’ve beaten a lot of good teams. They have the ability to play with the top caliber teams on any given night.”
“We’ve got to be ready for their best effort,” added Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. “We’re going to have to play a very smart and tenacious road game.”
In the past, the Crimson’s road effort has not been sufficient to get a win in Hanover. Harvard stands 0-2-1 in its last three trips to Dartmouth’s home base.
The Big Green has a pair of high-scoring forwards that the Crimson will have to contend with this year, a pairing that was not fully established at the season’s beginning.
Dartmouth freshman Hugh Jessiman, the leading contender for ECAC rookie of the year, has scored 17 goals and added 18 assists this season. Sophomore Lee Stempniak has contributed 17 assists to go along with 14 goals. Together, the two represent one of the best forward pairs Harvard has faced all season, and will pose a real test for the Crimson’s defensemen.
While Dartmouth’s offense might give Harvard problems, the Crimson’s forwards seem sure to trouble Big Green goaltender Nick Boucher. Boucher is an enigma—sometimes shutting down high-powered offenses and other times yielding seven goals to teams like Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
While Boucher is inconsistent, his potential to turn out spectacular performances coupled with Dartmouth’s talented forwards make the Big Green a dangerous foe.
“We do feel we’re the better team, but we have a lot of respect for them,” Moore said.
The next stop on Harvard’s road trip is Burlington, Vermont for a game at Gutterson Field House against the Catamounts. Although Vermont (11-14-3, 8-10-0) currently sits in eighth place in the ECAC, it has proven to be an explosive team that, like Dartmouth, could surprise the Crimson.
In a mini two-game road trip to Boston earlier in the season, Vermont proved how dangerous it can be. The Catamounts forced a 1-1 overtime tie on Boston University and then managed to put six goals on the Eagles stingy defense in a loss to BC.
Although Harvard has recent history on its side against Vermont, posting 4-2 and 6-0 victories, the Crimson will need to have a strong defensive effort to slow down the Catamounts explosive offense—led by 16-goal scorer Jeff Miles.
“They are a high energy team,” Mazzoleni said. “You’ve got to be able to move the puck against them because they’re very unpredictable.”
The Crimson’s ability to move the puck was not in question in the two teams’ last meeting. Vermont’s defense and goaltending struggled against Harvard’s quick-moving forwards. In the Crimson’s 4-2 victory in November, Vermont backup goaltender Travis Russell was in the midst of a shooting gallery, facing 56 shots.
Despite Harvard’s recent success against Dartmouth and Vermont, the team is trying not to look past this weekend road trip.
“It’s important for us to get on a roll into the playoffs, especially coming off a disappointing loss on Saturday to Cornell,” Moore said.
He went on to dismiss scoreboard watching and fans’ speculation about if Harvard can still land an NCAA tournament bid.
“If you’re thinking of rankings, at large bids, or winning the ECAC tournament, you’re not focused on the task at hand and you’re not going to be very successful,” Moore said.
—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at email@example.com
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