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Bernakevitch Might Miss Catamount Tangle

By Timothy J. Mcginn, Crimson Staff Writer

Brendan Bernakevitch’s return might not be imminent after all.

Sidelined since sustaining an inner-thigh contusion during Harvard’s 4-2 loss at St. Lawrence on Nov. 26, the senior forward was expected to return to action on Friday against Union, according to Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91. Bernakevitch had, after all, skated in practice last week and appeared on his way to recovery.

But against both the Dutchmen and Rensselaer, freshman Alex Meintel skated in Bernakevitch’s stead on the first line, and rookie Mike Taylor, among others, filled in on the power play’s first unit.

And, despite Donato’s optimistic appraisal of Bernakevitch’s outlook last Thursday, it is more likely than not that he will miss his fourth straight game tonight against No. 10 Vermont (9-4-3, 4-0-2 ECAC).

“I think it’s up in the air,” Donato said Saturday night. “Hopefully we’ll get him back, but if I was guessing, I would say that he wouldn’t be available.”

Harvard’s offense has not faltered in Bernakevitch’s absence. The Crimson has converted on three of its 12 man-advantage opportunities, and the first line, anchored by assistant captain Tom Cavanagh, has added three tallies.

“He’s a big part of the team and he’s a force offensively,” Cavanagh said. “But injuries are part of the game. So I think it just gives other guys a chance to step up.”

WELCH FOR ALL-AMERICAN

Harvard captain Noah Welch’s contributions to Friday’s 4-1 win over Union don’t exactly leap from the stat box. One shot, a penalty for cross-checking and a front-row view of the Dutchmen’s lone goal. But at least one person in attendance found Welch’s performance to be nothing short of award-winning—Union coach Nate Leaman.

“I will say one thing. Noah Welch is an All-American,” the former Crimson assistant said. “He was on the ice at least 30 minutes. He’s a credit to our league, and he clearly played like an All-American tonight.”

Welch wasn’t the only one who drew praise from Leaman, who cited Harvard’s six NHL-drafted defensemen when explaining his squad’s inability to punch home rebounds in front.

“They did a pretty good job of making it tough to get to their net,” Leaman said. “We didn’t get as many second chance opportunities as we usually do.”

PENALTY KILLERS

Amidst all the hubbub surrounding Harvard’s electric power play, the Crimson’s equally efficient penalty kill has been lost in the shuffle.

Though not ranked among the top teams in the nation—allowing four goals on seven chances to Princeton will do that—Harvard has successfully warded off 25 of its last 27 man-down situations, good for 92.59 percent, over the course of its last six contests.

“[We’re] not giving a whole lot of room,” sophomore Ryan Maki said. “Our PK has always been pretty good. You know we’ve definitely worked on it in practice and gone over it time and time again.”

To be successful tonight against the Catamounts, the Crimson will need to pay special attention to UVM forward Scott Mifsud, who has notched seven goals on the power play this year, fifth-best in the country.

Of course, it’d probably be a good idea to keep an eye on Mifsud at all times, as his 23 points and 12 goals are second- and fourth-most nationwide.

FAMILIAR FACES

Tonight’s matchup between the Crimson and Catamounts marks the first meeting between Donato and UVM coach Kevin Sneddon ’92.

The two should be vaguely familiar with one another. They did, after all, share the same Bright Hockey Center locker room for three seasons and happen to stand right next to one another in Harvard’s official team photo in 1989—the year the Crimson won the NCAA Championship.

Both Donato and Sneddon were instrumental in Harvard’s tournament run, with the former netting two goals in the final against Minnesota, propelling him to Most Valuable Player honors. Receiving the assist on his second goal? Defenseman Kevin Sneddon, whose rebound Donato had scooped up before pushing it past Golden Gophers’ netminder Robb Stauber.

Both also served as captain their senior seasons, Donato in 1991, Sneddon in 1992.

ALONG THE BOARDS

Cavanagh and Welch each saw his personal point-scoring streak brought to a halt this weekend. Welch was held off the scoreboard on both nights, ending his run at six straight games, while Cavanagh netted a pair of goals against Union before behind shut out by RPI on Saturday. He had notched at least one point in seven straight...Three ECAC schools retained spots in the top 15 this week, led by UVM, which moved from No. 11 to No. 10, swapping positions with Maine, Harvard’s Saturday opponent. Cornell and Colgate held steady at Nos. 12 and 13, respectively. The Crimson is on the outside looking in, receiving the most votes of any school not tapped for a formal ranking...With a 2-0 win over Northeastern, UVM extended its nation’s-best unbeaten streak to 11. The Catamounts are 8-0-3 during that stretch.

—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at mcginn@fas.harvard.edu.

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