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Bernakevitch Gets Job Done in Win For M. Hockey

Junior forward Brendan Bernakevitch is interviewed after being named the ECAC tournament's top player. Bernakevitch finished the tournament with 10 points.
Junior forward Brendan Bernakevitch is interviewed after being named the ECAC tournament's top player. Bernakevitch finished the tournament with 10 points.
By Timothy J. Mcginn, Crimson Staff Writer

ALBANY, N.Y.—Faceoffs weren’t exactly going Brendan Bernakevitch’s way heading into his final draw. Harvard’s first-line center had lost five of seven, placing him dead last among Crimson skaters in the category on Saturday night.

But with 39.4 seconds remaining in the ECAC finals and the score knotted at two, Bernakevitch quietly did what he has all season: Get the job done.

Cleanly beating Clarkson’s Jay Latulippe to gain possession, Bernakevitch sent a flat, silky smooth pass back and to his left, right onto captain Kenny Smith’s tape.

“Bernie put the puck right on my stick,” Smith said. “And I didn’t want to pass up a shot from that spot.”

Game over.

There was no flash, no glitz or glamour. Just Bernakevitch—later named the tournament’s most outstanding player for his performance—making the best of a broken play seem as if it was supposed to be that way all along.

“We have certain players on our team that get a lot of the headlines,” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “[But] Brendan has the ability to be our best player.”

Bernakevitch’s pass wasn’t supposed to go to Smith at all. Instead, the play drawn up by Mazzoleni should have ended in a shot from junior defenseman Noah Welch, positioned along the blue line to Bernakevitch’s right, not Smith.

Latulippe thwarted that design before the puck ever left the right circle, though, his stick blocking the path to Welch. But Bernakevitch made sure that the Crimson’s chances of closing out its NCAA tournament berth before overtime wouldn’t end there with his adroit revision of the original plan.

“I just knew that I could outmuscle Latulippe on he draw, so I swung at it as hard as I could,” Bernakevitch said. “I’m not sure how it got to Smitty instead of Noah.”

Moreover, Harvard’s fourth-leading scorer was just as solid when things went according to plan, notching a crucial assist just 10 seconds into the second frame to recapture the momentum from the Golden Knights, who had tallied a pair of goals with less than 3:30 remaining in the first.

With the Crimson on the power play for 35 seconds to start the period, Bernakevitch immediately knocked Clarkson back on its heels, taking the opening draw from senior Tim Pettit and dashing through the center of the ice towards Dustin Traylen’s net.

Shaking a pair of defenders, Bernakevitch and junior Tom Cavanagh raced across the blue line with just one defender left to beat. Bernakevitch carried the puck straight on net until that lone man committed to stopping his forward progress, leaving Cavanagh wide open.

“That,” Cavanagh said, “was just good execution.”

Bernakevitch slipped the puck through the narrowing alley as his lane was cut off, hitting Cavanagh in stride right outside Traylen’s net. Cavanagh finished, and Harvard was alive once more.

But it was Bernakevitch’s sudden heroics the night before, coming less than a minute into the third period of the semifinal against Dartmouth, that thrust him—ever-languishing in relative obscurity below most radars—into the spotlight.

Dartmouth had tied the score at 1-1 on a goal from Lee Stempniak with just 41 seconds remaining in the second period, capping a momentum-building push that appeared to zap the Crimson of its energy.

But as it would the next night against Clarkson, Harvard pounced on the opening faceoff, immediately applying heavy pressure in its offensive zone. Not wanting to let the Big Green establish itself defensively, the Crimson immediately went to the net.

Sophomore defenseman Peter Hafner received a pass from junior Ryan Lannon along the blue line and circled towards the right boards before firing a shot at netminder Dan Yacey.

Yacey made the initial save, but Bernakevitch, who has hit paydirt all season long on “lunch pail” goals, was there for yet another, smacking the puck in for the game-winner.

“It was,” Bernakevitch said, “almost too easy.”

Just as he has all season. No flash, no glitz or glamour.

It’s just going to be a lot harder for him to do it below most radars any more.

—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at

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