Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Know Your Enemy: Harvard

For the last few campaigns, Harvard has arguably been one of the biggest enigmas in the ECAC. They've continued to bring in notable talent while struggling on the ice, and they've had to deal with the effects of the 2012 cheating scandal which rocked the school. Fortunately for them, those effects are beginning to dissipate with the return of some of the players forced to take a year off, and the core of the Crimson's talent are starting to become veterans.


Nickname: Crimson
Location: Cambridge, MA
Founded: 1636
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 1 (1989)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2006
Last Frozen Four: 1994
Coach: Ted Donato (11th season)
2013-14 Record: 10-17-4 (6-12-4 ECAC, 10th place)
Series: Harvard leads, 48-36-6
First Game: December 27, 1951 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: February 1, 2013 (Troy, NY)
Last HU win: November 1, 2013 (Boston, MA)

2014-15 games: November 7, 2014 (Troy, NY); December 30, 2014 (Boston, MA)

Key players: D Max Everson, sr.; D Patrick McNally, sr.; G Steve Michalek, sr.; D Desmond Bergin, jr.; F Colin Blackwell, jr.; F Kyle Criscuolo, jr.; F Greg Gozzo, jr.; F Brian Hart, jr.; F Petr Placek, jr.; F Jimmy Vesey, jr.; F Luke Esposito, so.; D Kevin Guiltinan, so.; F Alexander Kerfoot, so.; F Sean Malone, so.; D Victor Newell, so.; F Devin Tringale, so.; F Eddie Ellis, fr.; F Seb Lloyd, fr.; D Wiley Sherman, fr.

Key losses: G Raphael Girard, D Dan Ford

Previous KYE installments:
Playing your opponent twice in just a few days for your only matchups of the season is a hit or miss proposition, it turns out. If you are catching them at the wrong time, it can make what might have been winnable points at a different point of the season more difficult to attain. RPI certainly got Harvard at the wrong time last season, and the difference may have cost the Engineers a shot at a higher seed. Girard managed to pitch shutouts in his first two games of the season, against Bentley and then at home against RPI, looking very good in the process. Coupled with the collapse of the Engineers' 3-0 lead three nights prior in Troy, RPI took just one point from Harvard in a season where the Crimson managed to snag only 16 all year.

Harvard's top eight scorers last year were freshmen or sophomores, which underscores just how young the team was overall last season. They're still a fairly young team, but the core is starting to mature and it's still loaded with talent. 11 NHL draftees will grace the Crimson roster this season, led by Michalek (and incoming freshman Merrick Madsen) in net, McNally and Everson on the blue line, and Vesey, Malone, Hart, and Kerfoot up front.

But as much talent as Harvard has among its forwards, they aren't going anywhere unless that talent translates into goals. Again, the Crimson were very young last year, but it's going to be absolutely imperative that the team improve on its 2.23 goals per game showing, which was just 52nd out of 59 nationally. The power play hit at just 15.4% last season, pointing to a need for offensive boosting all around.

It seems almost assured that one of Harvard's top forwards will be primed for a breakout season. Vesey has already led the team in goals twice. It may be time for Hart, who has long been touted as a blue-chip resource for the Crimson, to bust loose. He has scored just 11 goals in 61 games over his first two seasons.

Michalek and Madsen should provide an outstanding defensive front in net for Harvard, who should be OK defensively this season as they weren't that bad in that metric last year. The Crimson has been down for the last couple of seasons, but as long as they can get an offensive bounce - and they should - they'll likely be back in the thick of things this year.

Once again, the Engineers get to host Harvard practically right out of the gate, but fortunately this year the second game - which will be Beanpot-adjusted as it was last year - will be in the odd no-man's land time period of the week between Christmas and New Year's, which is usually devoid of ECAC play. The first game being in Troy is important, but it also means RPI's untested offense will be providing one of the initial tests of Harvard's defense. If that game becomes a track meet, it'll favor the home team.

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