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After a three-week layoff, the No. 4/4 Harvard men’s ice hockey team picked up right where it left off.
The Crimson (9-1-2, 5-1-2 ECAC) returned from the holiday break Sunday night for an exhibition match at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Playing in front of a home crowd for the first time in over a month, the team won its seventh straight game, shutting out the Russian Red Stars, 4-0.
The Red Stars, currently in the middle of their fifth annual American tour, are an all-star team made up of 17-to-21-year-old players from the MHL—a junior hockey league consisting of 39 teams, 32 of which come from Russia.
"There was a bit of a language barrier," sophomore forward Tyler Moy said. "If you're trying to talk to them, you can't do so with full expectation that they'll know what you're saying. [But] I think culturally it was a cool experience playing against players that you don't [typically] play against."
One night after falling to Yale, 2-1, in its tour opener, the Russian squad failed to score against the goaltending tandem of junior Steve Michalek and freshman Merrick Madsen. Michalek, who ranks third in the nation in save percentage (.944) and fifth in goals against average (1.72), made ten saves over the first two periods.
Then Madsen, a sixth round draft pick by the Philadelphia Flyers, made his Harvard debut in the third period, stopping all nine shots that came his way.
In total, the Red Stars mustered 19 shots on goal—the same number recorded by the Crimson, but only Harvard could capitalize on its opportunities. With Sunday’s performance, the Crimson has now scored at least four goals in four consecutive games.
Although the exhibition does not count toward Harvard’s record or statistics, junior forward Jimmy Vesey kept a streak of his own alive as well. Entering the contest with at least a point in each of the team’s opening 12 games, Vesey got on the score sheet at the 13:31 mark of the first period.
Leading 1-0, the Crimson earned its first power play of the night following a cross-checking penalty against the Red Stars’ Kirill Ablaev. Harvard won the ensuing faceoff, leading to a slap shot just inside the blue line from sophomore forward Tyler Moy.
Creating traffic in front of Russian goaltender Nikita Bogdanov, Vesey—who was also the one to get the puck to Moy—made sure to finish the job. The junior lifted his stick in the air and redirected Moy’s shot into the back of the net to provide the Crimson with some insurance.
Harvard got on the board in similar fashion earlier in the frame. Just seconds after killing off the first of five opportunities with an extra man for the Red Stars, the Crimson launched a counter-attack.
After Harvard missed an initial chance in transition, the puck squirted out to freshman defenseman Wiley Sherman, who wound up for a slap shot from close to the same spot as Moy. Stationed near the front of the net, fellow rookie Seb Lloyd deflected Sherman’s shot past Bogdanov to put the Crimson ahead.
Although the score will not officially count in the stat books, the goal is the first of Lloyd’s collegiate career. The freshman also picked up an assist in the game, feeding junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo on a two-on-one with 2:25 remaining in the second period.
Also getting on the scoreboard for the first time was freshman defenseman Thomas Aiken. Making his first appearance of the season, the walk-on took a pass from senior forward Tommy O’Regan and blasted it past Bogdanov from the blue line to cap the scoring.
With this game in the books, Harvard now shifts its attention to the second half of its schedule, as it looks to maintain its position atop the ECAC standings in 2015. In the meantime, Moy says that the scrimmage was a great experience for his team.
"Usually in college hockey you know most of the players on the other team," Moy said. "In this case, obviously it was very different. It was very cool playing against international players."
The exhibition also saw sophomore defenseman Kevin Guiltinan, who has been battling a back injury throughout the year, return to the ice for the first time in six weeks.
Two skaters who did not suit up for the Crimson were sophomore forwards Alexander Kerfoot and Sean Malone, who combined for two goals and four assists in Harvard’s 9-3 victory over the Red Stars last season.
While Kerfoot’s status remains unclear, Malone is expected back in the lineup when the Crimson resumes conference play against RPI on Tuesday.
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at email@example.com.
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