After coming away with a shutout in his first career start, sophomore goaltender Merrick Madsen departed Hanover on Halloween donning a piece of his very own costume.
Madsen made 25 saves in the Harvard men’s hockey team’s season opener against Dartmouth—a performance his teammates deemed worthy of the Crimson’s player of the game hat, the centerpiece of a new tradition implemented by the team this season.
Three weeks later, the sophomore logged another performance worthy of headwear, making 60 saves over two games this weekend at the Shillelagh Tournament in South Bend, Ind. Madsen earned the Most Valuable Player award, as Harvard (6-1-1, 4-1-1 ECAC) secured the tournament title with wins over No. 18/- Notre Dame (6-4-4, 3-1-2 Hockey East) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (8-5-2, 4-0-2 ECAC).
But just ask Madsen: hardware does not guarantee you a hat.
“I think verbatim, [co-captain] Kyle Criscuolo, who had the hat from last game, said something about not wanting to hear one of my boring speeches again,” Madsen said.
Instead, sophomore forward Seb Lloyd received the honor from the Crimson co-captain and provided the post-tournament speech. Meanwhile, Madsen let his on-ice performance do the talking.
In the Crimson’s tournament opener against the Fighting Irish, Madsen allowed the game’s first goal midway through the first period but was perfect the rest of the way, making 29 saves en route to a 4-1 Harvard win.
The sophomore then stood on his head for the second day in a row on Saturday, shutting out RPI in the championship game. Madsen held the top team in the ECAC without a goal for the first time since the Engineers’ season opener, bringing their nine-game unbeaten streak to an abrupt halt.
“I thought Merrick was excellent,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “I thought he was in control all weekend. He was calm in the net and made plays look simple. I think you can see his confidence growing.”
Madsen entered the year locked in a battle with freshman Michael Lackey, a left-handed netminder from Washington D.C. The two goaltenders have split time in net thus far this year, but Madsen now has received the nod from Donato in three straight games—all wins.
Prior to the Shillelagh Tournament, Madsen made a career-high 38 saves to shut out Princeton on Nov. 14 at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink. The start was Madsen’s first since the sophomore earned his second straight win over Dartmouth to open the year.
After the home-and-home against Dartmouth, Madsen gave way to Lackey, who manned the crease against the Crimson’s two highest ranked opponents to date—No. 12/9 Yale and No. 4/3 Quinnipiac. Lackey came 36 seconds from picking up a win over the Bulldogs, who delivered an equalizer in the final minute, before earning his first career victory the next day against Brown.
But on the road against the Bobcats the following weekend, Lackey surrendered three second-period goals in what amounted to Harvard’s only loss so far this year. Madsen has started all three games since.
“I’m still competing for a spot,” Madsen said. “You’ve got Michael Lackey—he’s a great goalie, and every week I’m going to have to work really hard in practice. There’s no off-weeks. We’ll just see how it goes.”
For all intents and purposes, the goaltending competition remains ongoing. But with a 0.60 goals against average and a 0.979 save percentage through five games—both NCAA bests, Madsen has emerged as the Crimson’s top option on paper.
Nonetheless, while Madsen has played well enough to earn the top spot on the depth chart, Donato has been known to employ timeshares in net. In four of the last six seasons, two different Crimson goaltenders have received at least 10 starts apiece.
“Both goalies have played really well,” said Criscuolo after the Crimson’s 3-0 Nov. 14 win over Princeton. “We’re confident with whoever’s back there.”
Harvard hits the road again next weekend for a Friday night bout with Union and a Saturday night rematch against RPI. With first place in the ECAC potentially on the line in the latter, Madsen is the early favorite to be between the pipes.
“I haven’t been playing perfect games by any means, and there’s things throughout the weeks and the rest of the year that I’m going to be continuing to work on,” Madsen said. “But obviously getting starts is what I’m looking for.”
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.