MINNEAPOLIS—Apparently not enough of the 33 shots No. 10 Harvard managed in yesterday's 0-0 tie against Northern Michigan were flu shots.
Ravaged en masse by what Crimson coach Ted Donato '91 labeled "a nasal infection," Harvard's skaters were noticeably a step slower than usual, struggling to crash the net and generate traffic just beyond Wildcats netminder Tuomas Tarkki's crease. Soft rebounds left on Tarkki's doorstep that would otherwise have been pounced upon and poked home were regularly corralled by Northern Michigan's blueliners and cleared from harm's way with minimal challenge from Harvard's forwards.
"Some of our top guys that are usually going at top speed," Donato said, "were a little below that."
The Crimson's collective health began to deteriorate last week in the wake of its victory over then-No. 10 Maine. Prohibitively shorthanded by the rash of illnesses, Donato ended practice early on Dec. 15, and estimated yesterday that 80 percent of his active roster was still hindered by antibiotics.
"From an energy standpoint, I don't think we were in top form," Donato said. "We've had a tough week of practice with having 14, 15 guys out all week sick, and it looked it."
Harvard netminder Dov Grumet-Morris must have been confident that he would eventually notch his first shutout of the season. Then again, he must have thought he'd get a win in the process.
"Obviously, when your team hurls a shutout, you expect to win," said Grumet-Morris, who recorded 37 saves last night, two short of his season high against Maine. "But this is an unusual circumstance. It's what happens when you play in a tournament. It's what happens when you play against great opponents."
Of course, Grumet-Morris has had his share of success against "great opponents." Four of the six teams he has held to one goal were ranked in the top-15 at the time, and Northern Michigan is unofficially No. 16 in the country.
Though on the short end of yesterday's shootout, Grumet-Morris, now second in the country with a .942 save percentage and fifth-best with a 1.82 goals-against average, was as spectacular during that "fifth period" as at any point during the season.
With the Wildcats leading 1-0 entering the third of five rounds, winger Jamie Milam appeared to have Grumet-Morris beaten just inside the right post. But Grumet-Morris fully extended his left leg to block the puck at the last moment, preserving Harvard's hopes.
AROUND THE BOARDS
Despite sending the Crimson to the consolation round, yesterday's result officially enters the record books as a tie and the second scoreless draw in Harvard history. The Crimson last skated to a 0-0 finish on Jan. 3, 1929 against the University of Toronto...The Crimson power play, 0-for-2 against Northern Michigan, now rates fourth highest in the nation with a 24.3 percent conversion rate...No. 1 Minnesota easily dispatched Merrimack in the evening semifinal yesterday, 6-2. Harvard and Merrimack will face off in the consolation round at 5 p.m. this evening.
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at email@example.com.