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Good thing Jeannine Donato remembered to prepare a little extra stuffing this year. After all, her husband, Harvard men’s hockey coach Ted Donato ’91, planned on bringing home a few more diners than usual this Thanksgiving.
With a seven-hour bus ride to Upstate New York looming and players unable to return home, the Crimson celebrated the holidays as a team last Wednesday at the Donatos’ house in Scituate, Mass.
“It was a real treat,” sophomore defenseman Dylan Reese said. “It was good to spend Thanksgiving with the guys...If you can’t spend it with your family, that’s probably the best place to be.”
The Donato children made their Harvard guests feel right at home, laying down readily accepted challenges in their mini-hockey game. And according to those in attendance, the meal wasn’t half bad either.
“He really rolled out the red carpet for us,” sophomore forward Ryan Maki said. “Everything you could possibly want was pretty much there, so it was good.”
Harvard’s power play unit, which converted three of its 10 chances in North Country this weekend, now ranks third-best in the country behind only Princeton and Mass.-Lowell.
After managing just one goal on 17 tries through its first three games, the Crimson has scored 13 power-play goals in its last 37 opportunies, a six-game conversion rate of 35.1 percent.
“It’s just naturally clicking now,” captain Noah Welch said. “When the P.P.’s not going well, you try to do too much, and when you do that, it doesn’t work out. But now it’s five guys on the ice, we each have one or two plays that we make, and those are our options.”
That simplification of play has translated into higher point totals across the board for the first power-play unit, whose five members now occupy the top five spots on the Crimson scoring charts.
Assistant captain Tom Cavanagh, fresh off his five-point weekend, leads Harvard with 14 points, courtesy of four goals and 10 assists—both team-highs—followed by freshman forward Jon Pelle, senior forwards Andrew Lederman and Brendan Bernakevitch and Welch. But maintaining those numbers has required the Crimson to remain flexible and tweak its strategy on the fly.
“I think before we were using a lot of Pelle and [Cavanagh] coming out front and hitting [Cavanagh] in the slot,” Welch said. “Now, teams are playing us down low, so we’re getting the puck up top, and me and Ledzy shoot a lot, and vice-versa.”
ALL SHOOK UP
Donato, who has employed the same three defensive pairings in eight of nine games so far this season, assigned new partners to all six of his blue-line mainstays in practice this week.
Reese skated with Welch, who was formerly matched with Peter Hafner. Hafner joined with Tom Walsh, whose former partner, Dave MacDonald, worked alongside Ryan Lannon.
“I don’t know whether it’s to generate more offense,” Reese said, “or just to try some new things.”
Donato wouldn’t speculate as to how he’d use the six come Friday night’s ECAC contest with Union, but said that several factors played into the changes at practice this week.
“With injuries and poor play and a boatload of other things, we’re forced into using different combinations at times,” he said. “We want to keep them on their feet, give ’em a few new looks. But I don’t know as of yet if we’re going to make any drastic changes. That’s for sure.”
ALONG THE BOARDS
Bernakevitch skated at practice yesterday after missing Saturday’s game against Clarkson with what Donato called an inner-thigh contusion. The senior, who is second on the Crimson with seven assists, is expected to return to action this weekend...Maki reentered the lineup this weekend following a four-game absence due to damaged rib cage cartilage. He skated with classmates Kevin Du and Steve Mandes...Freshman Mike Taylor—held without a point through his first five games—extended his personal scoring streak to three games with a goal against St. Lawrence and an assist on Cavanagh’s game-winner on Saturday against Clarkson. Taylor’s is Harvard’s fourth-longest active streak behind those of Bernakevitch, Cavanagh and Welch, who have each scored in their last six starts.
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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