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McCulloch Quiets Coaches, Seniors

Senior defenseman Dave McCulloch scored his first goal of the season in Harvard's 2-1 win over Dartmouth on Friday.
Senior defenseman Dave McCulloch scored his first goal of the season in Harvard's 2-1 win over Dartmouth on Friday.
By Timothy M. Mcdonald and Timothy J. Mcginn, Crimson Staff Writerss

ALBANY, N.Y.—Ted Williams is still acclaimed for batting .406 in a season. It was a magical year where he produced a hit at more than 40 percent of the opportunities at the plate that were given to him. Harvard senior defenseman Dave McCulloch is just as prolific, in a manner of speaking.

“He’s not a pretty player,” Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni laughed. “But he’s a guy that comes to play very, very hard and tenacious every night.”

McCulloch, known for his defense and his hard, physical play, is not known for his offensive touch. Nor is he given many opportunities to be an offensive force—his place is on the penalty kill, not the power play, after all. But McCulloch is batting 1.000 in his own (hockey) way: he has scored five goals in a collegiate career that has spanned 113 games, but has delivered two vital goals in two of Harvard’s key, playoff situations. All have come against Dartmouth, no less; Big Green coach Bob Gaudet might well be the first one to send McCulloch a card congratulating him on graduating.

Last year, for instance, McCulloch racked up his only goal of the season in the Crimson’s 5-3 win over the Big Green in the ECAC semifinals. It came just 4:23 into the game, when McCulloch’s hard shot found its way past Dartmouth netminder Nick Boucher, giving Harvard a 1-0 lead.

“He’s a calm kid under pressure,” assistant captain Tyler Kolarik said. “Very level-headed, but he can get emotional when he needs to.”

Though that tally was later nullified on goals from Kent Gillings and Hugh Jessiman, it set the tone for Harvard’s win and surprised many of those in attendance, who knew McCulloch more for body-checks than for big goals. McCulloch’s next goal doubled as his next big goal, as he again opened the scoring in a playoff semifinal versus Dartmouth. This time, McCulloch created his own offense, intercepting a failed clearing attempt by Dartmouth’s Eric Przepiorka and skating up to the left faceoff circle before firing a hard slapshot past the Big Green’s goaltender Dan Yacey. That goal, like it predecessor from a season before, set the tone for much of the second period in Harvard’s hard-fought 2-1 win.

“The coaches have been giving me a hard time at practice about not scoring,” McCulloch said. “I told [Mazzoleni], I tried to pick the corner but I’m not sure that he believed me.”

Two seasons, two big games, two big goals. Not a bad average, eh?


Part of the reason for the dramatic drop off in shots on net per period for Clarkson, and for Dartmouth’s inability to find the net with any consistency the night before, was the readiness of the Crimson’s defenders to drop down and sacrifice their bodies to stop the puck before it reached Grumet-Morris.

“That was a big key for us,” senior Dennis Packard said, “taking away their space.”

Sealing the alleys along the surface with their fully-extended bodies, Harvard left little room for the Big Green in particular to slip a shot on goal, let alone past Grumet-Morris. In all, Harvard blocked eight of the 26 shots attempted during the third period of Friday night’s game, including five on Dartmouth’s lone third-period power play, allowing just 11 pucks to reach the net.

“I think especially on the penalty kill guys did a good job up top,” McCulloch said. “Guys sacrificing their bodies...that’s the kind of thing that makes the goaltender’s job a lot easier.”

The strategy of pushing the defensive wall high and curtailing the number of pucks that actually made it to Grumet-Morris’ pads worked flawlessly against the Big Green. Though Dartmouth attempted more than 60 shots, only 31 were on net.

Similarly, during the second period against Clarkson, when Harvard was making its comeback charge, the Crimson blocked seven shots—four more than Grumet-Morris saw during the frame.

“We took a few too many offensive reads in the first period,” captain Kenny Smith said. “We were losing battles at net front.”

During the first, when Harvard surrendered two goals, the Crimson five saved just one.


Blanked on special teams against Dartmouth for the first time in the playoffs, Harvard struggled to establish itself inside the Big Green zone with an extra skater.

Lacking the crisp puck movement seen against Brown, when the Crimson netted three goals in eight opportunities, Harvard never really threatened Dartmouth netminder Dan Yacey.

Nor too did it seem as if the Crimson would accomplish much of anything against Dustin Traylen the following night, with Clarkson not only clearing the zone with great efficiency, but taking the momentum inside the Harvard zone and running time off the clock far from its own net.

Only a flash of brilliance from juniors Brendan Bernakevitch and Tom Cavanagh could end that drought, as the pair broke in 2-on-1 off the opening faceoff at the start of the second, with the latter tacking on the Crimson’s first tally. Making matters more difficult for the power-play line was the unwillingness of the officials to blow their whistles in the high-profile game, allowing scrappy play to arguably go beyond the limits of legal contact. When infractions were called against Harvard, however, its penalty kill was as rigid as ever, extending its record over four games to 14-for-15.

“When you win the specialty team battles,” Mazzoleni said, “you have a chance.”


After an uneven performance from his fourth line last weekend against Brown, Mazzoleni had planned on swapping senior Blair Barlow into the lineup for sophomore Dan Murphy alongside Rob Fried and Rob Flynn.

But after skating Barlow throughout the week of practice, Mazzoleni opted instead to stick with the same line as he had throughout the playoffs.

—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at

—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at

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