UPDATED: November 17, 2016, at 3:15 a.m.
Headlined by a football game that needs no introduction, the weekend before Thanksgiving is one of the only true sports weekends Cambridge ever gets. And this year, the weekend is set to begin with one heck of an opening act.
Friday night, the men’s hockey teams from Harvard and Boston College will square off for the first time since the Eagles put a quick end to the Crimson’s NCAA tournament run this past March. Therefore, in terms of the place to be on the eve on the Game, it looks like Toad’s has officially passed the baton to the Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
But Toad’s fans, don’t fret. Friday night is sure to revolve around the same sorts of things you’d come to expect on the eve of The Game—in particular, losing valuables and going streaking.
To the first point, both sides will be down a member of last season’s Hobey hat trick, as Jimmy Vesey’s now scoring goals for the New York Rangers, and former BC goaltender Thatcher Demko is off playing for the Vancouver Canucks organization.
And to the latter point, the Eagles (10-2-1, 5-0-1 Hockey East) have certainly been streaking. BC has won 12 of its last 13 meetings with the Crimson, and Harvard (4-1-1, 2-1-1 ECAC) has not beaten the Eagles at home since November 2006—the same month Yale last beat the Crimson on the gridiron.
If that streak were to end Friday night, another one would too. The No. 3 Eagles have not lost a game in over a month, as they’ve gone unbeaten in their last 10 contests since dropping two of their first three. And they’ve done so with one of the youngest lineups in college hockey—one that’s made up of 80 percent underclassmen.
Among Coach Jerry York’s young bucks is Colin White, BC’s top-line center who finished second on the team in points as a rookie and has seven goals thus far this season. Also assuming a huge role has been freshman Joe Woll, who boasts the ninth-best save percentage in the country in his first season in relief of Demko.
Given the youth of the Eagles, Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 had all the more reason this week to rely on the age-old mantra that every season is different, and more specifically, that the teams who will meet Friday are far different from the teams that squared off in March.
“Each game presents its own challenge,” Donato said. “I don’t think our guys are dwelling or focusing on last year. We have a new focus and new goals, and we want to play well on Friday night. But we also know there’s a lot more hockey and a lot more important games to follow.”
Donato’s likely right about the fact no one is ‘focusing’ on last year, per se, but it’d be impossible for the No. 11/10 Crimson not to have recent history at least on the very back of its mind. For instance, while senior forward Sean Malone did echo the same mantra as his coach, he also had a memory to get off his chest.
“Obviously when you think of BC, you think of losing to them last year in a very important game,” Malone said.
When the two sides met at Worcester’s DCU Center in March, the Eagles came away 4-1 victors to punch their ticket to the second round of the NCAA tournament. BC later secured a spot in the Frozen Four for a Division I-best 25th time.
Five upperclassmen remain on the roster, and while the quintet of seniors (BC has no juniors on its roster) is vastly outnumbered by young skaters, they continue to possess a massive role in Chestnut Hill. Defying what their roster breakdown would suggest, the Eagles’ three leading point-getters are all in fact seniors. Austin Cangelosi, Matthew Gaudreau, and Ryan Fitzgerald all have 13 points, while Cangelosi leads the team with eight goals.
As for the hosts, they enter Friday night’s bout ranked 10th in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings—right where they finished last spring in the USCHO poll.
The Crimson has only played one game against a ranked opponent, however, and that game happened just last Saturday. Against defending ECAC champion Quinnipiac, Harvard proved to be the better team in 5-on-5 play, but special teams inefficiencies and shaky goaltending wound up costing the Crimson a chance at a marquee win.
Since putting together an unsurprisingly dominant special teams performance against Division I newcomer Arizona State, Harvard is just 2-for-17 on the man advantage, and its opponents are 6-for-17 against the Crimson kill. Meanwhile, junior goaltender Merrick Madsen surrendered three goals for the second consecutive Saturday.
But by Tuesday, Madsen sounded ready to put the past behind him and focus on the Eagles, whom Donato said an argument could be made for as the most successful program in all of college hockey over the last 15 years.
“When we have a game like Quinnipiac where I feel like I might’ve been able to do something a little more, obviously it stings a little bit,” Madsen said. “But I think that I know I personally learned a lot from it, and I think our team did as well. We’re just looking to move forward.”
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MeagherTHC.
Harvard Drops 3-2 Contest, Extends Winless Streak to 10Although the Crimson’s third-period surge narrowed Boston College’s lead to one, the Harvard men’s hockey team was not able to overcome the No. 10 Eagles last night, giving up a 3-2 loss.
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