Harvard men's ice hockey hit the road once again this weekend, traveling to Quinnipiac and Princeton for two ECAC tilts. The Crimson struggled Friday night and fell to #20 Quinnipiac 5-1, but came back on Saturday afternoon to earn a hard-fought 3-3 tie with #19 Princeton. Get our five thoughts on the weekend after the jump.
1. The Crimson looked flat all Friday night, while Quinnipiac came out energized from the opening whistle - and they capitalized on the Crimson's uninspired play. After the game, coach Donato emphasized how the Bobcats won the one-on-one battles in the corners and along the board. The Crimson have struggled all season to win some of those physical battles, and they'll have time to work on them back home at the Bright Hockey Center for the rest of 2009. The Crimson simply were outskated and outhustled by Quinnipiac, and the lone goal from Michael Biega came from just a handful of scoring chances for the Crimson in the game. Another part of the offensive issues for the Crimson against Quinnipiac was their ineffective breakout. The defensemen didn't do a great job finding forwards in the neutral zone, and rarely did the forwards come back to help in the Crimson's own end.
2. Penalties became an issue for the first time on Friday night. The Crimson came into the weekend averaging just 9.3 penalty minutes per game, but Harvard played its least-disciplined game of the young season against Quinnipiac, and the Crimson paid for it with eight penalties. Quinnipiac capitalized with a pair of power play markers. There were some unfortunate penalties called on Harvard, and the penalty kill for the Crimson has been awful - with just a 69.2% kill rate, which ranks second-to-last in Division 1 college hockey.
3. In light of Friday night's effort, coach Donato made several line changes for the Crimson. On the blue line, he paired Alex and Danny Biega together, and inserted freshman Brendan Rempel into the lineup. The defensive shifts paid off for the Crimson, as Alex Biega finished with a goal, an assist and a +3 rating. The Crimson still have work to do on the PK, as they allowed two PP tallies on six chances for the Tigers.
4. The Harvard offense became a little more balanced, as Doug Rogers centered Alex Fallstrom and Marshall Everson for an effective first line. Rogers scored a goal and added an assist, but the play of his two freshman wingers was just as notable. Fallstrom in particular had a strong two-way game - on one penalty kill sequence, the Swede undressed Princeton defenseman Taylor Fedun at the Princeton blue line, then sent a slick backhand pass for P.O Michaud in the slot. As the underclassmen progress, Harvard will have more balanced scoring.
5. The season-opening road trip has now come to a close, and while the 1-3-1 mark leaves them in ninth place in ECAC Hockey, they'll have a chance to move up the standings with four home ECAC games to close out the 2009 portion of their schedule. All four are winnable games - St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Brown, and Quinnipiac. Sprinkled in the rest of November and December are non-conference home games against Boston University, Boston College, and Dartmouth. The Crimson played well at home last season, and now have a chance to finish 2009 in strong fashion with the lengthy upcoming homestand.