Welcome to the WHRB Sports Blog, Harvard hockey fans. I hope to regularly update this space with commentary and observations about the team, post coach and player interviews, and keep you updated about upcoming hockey broadcasts on WHRB 95.3 FM.
That said, a few notes about this past weekend's games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence:
If I had said that Jack Christian would be Harvard's leading goal scorer after 2 games, most would have been seriously alarmed about the potency of the Crimson offense. Yet the Crimson delivered a third period offensive explosion against St. Lawrence, netting 4 goals en route to a 6-1 victory. Half of the Crimson's goals were scored by players who had never scored before--Jack Christian (2) and Dave McDonald, the top defensive defensemen on the team.
All things considered, I thought Harvard showed a lot of promise this weekend against two of the better teams in the conference. Clarkson is without question a superb team, while SLU appears to have some early-season kinks to resolve after being swept at home and falling to 0-3 in ECAC play. It was not surprising to see them fall out of the USCHO Top 20, while Clarkson moved up to #8 after picking up 4 points on home ice.
Harvard responded well after early nerves against Clarkson resulted in a goal at 1:00 of the first period, but simply couldn't penetrate the Clarkson zone for the last 10:00 of the third period. Possibly a conditioning issue (first game of the year) but credit Clarkson for stepping up and shutting down the Crimson attack.
SLU was a different story. Plenty of scoring chances in a fast-paced first period, with Christian lighting the lamp on a centering feed from Paul Dufault. Harvard gave SLU lots of chances to get back into the game with a string of penalties to begin the 2nd but the Harvard PK was stifling as it was the entire weekend. Fraser blocked a ton of shots on the PK. Obviously Harvard poured it on in the 3rd, with Christian scoring a ENG and McDonald scoring in the waning moments. SLU goaltender Petizian was shaky all night. Alex Biega fired a shot from the red line that hit the crossbar. Petizian clearly didn't have his best game and, in fairness, should have stopped some of the goals he surrendered.
Story of the weekend was Richter's play in net. Many observers had questions about Harvard's goaltending situation, after a senior goaltender graduated for the third consecutive year. Personally I thought this was somewhat overdone, as it was Richter who played a large role in resurrecting Harvard's 2006-2007 season after its 3-9 start. Sure, his numbers weren't staggering (7-8, 2.84 GAA, .903 sv pct) but remember that his difficult starts against Yale and Brown (5-1 loss and 6-6, respectively) contributed significantly to his stats. Also, Richter has a knack for making big stops that can spark the team. He had some problems controlling his rebounds but made some first-rate saves to keep Harvard in the game against Clarkson and preserve its lead against SLU. I expect Richter to be strong in net this year.
Defense was strong, especially compared to last year's early season defensive effort. Losing Reese obviously hurts on the offensive side but he was in my estimation Harvard's top shut-down defenseman last year. I expected the D to need some time to establish a groove but they looked solid to me. I expect Alex Biega and Morin to be better in their own zones this year. Biega, as an aside, also appeared more comfortable quarterbacking the PP, and he has a vicious shot from the point.
More to come later on this weekend's home games vs. #16 RPI and Union...