Friday, November 27, 2009

View From the Booth: Harvard sputters at the end

Harvard and Boston University skated an exciting back-and-forth overtime game on Tuesday evening, and we've got our five thoughts from the booth after the jump. Also you'll find some news on Crimson NHL prospects courtesy of the Western College Hockey Blog.

1. If I were to tell you a Harvard freshman were to score four goals in a game against the defending national champions, winger Conor Morrison's name may not be the first response. But it was the freshman from Toronto, Ont. that dominated play Tuesday night - he seemed to have the puck on his stick all night, and buried his chances to the tune of four goals. Based off his first few Morrison is a player who could grow into the role of Mike Taylor '08, who was a speedy goalscorer for the Crimson during his four years. The work of linemates P.O. Michaud and Daniel Moriarty should not go overlooked either - Moriarty directly set up Morrison's third goal by fighting off two BU defensemen and setting a perfect screen on BU goalie Kieran Millan. They were also a good two way line, and though they might be undersized (none of the three forwards crack 5'10'') they were a solid two-way line that could form an effective third unit. Look for the three to see increased ice time, as well.

2. The Crimson got hurt by two poor officiating decisions in the third period. First, the officials waved off a goal that deflected off the skate of Louis Leblanc. The official NCAA Hockey rulebook states that, "A goal shall be allowed if the puck has been directed into the goal by an attacking player with the skate, unless a distinct kicking motion is used." The view from our perspective was that Leblanc, who was just outside the crease, did not have the "distinct kicking motion" that the rulebook asks for, but the official behind the net immediately waved off the goal after the puck entered the net. It was a tough break for the Crimson, but it was made worse by the non-call on BU's tying goal with 19.5 seconds left in the third frame.  Zach Cohen pushed the puck in with his skate while positioned in the crease - two no-no's that Leblanc was deemed guilty of at the beginning of the period. Another couple of tough breaks for the Crimson in a season that has had more than a few so far.

3. The most consistent weakness for Harvard through eight games has been the penalty kill. The Crimson have allowed 13 power play goals on 43 chances, which is good for second-worst in the nation. Last season, Jimmy Fraser was the fulcrum of the penalty kill, and no player has yet been able to fill that role in the faceoff circle. Boston University has a talented power play unit, and but the key for the Terriers' power play seemed to be down low. Harvard's defensemen did not do a good enough job preventing deflections and rebounds in front of the crease, and as a result when teams had found ways to get shots in from the point, they've often scored off second and even third chances.

4. Despite scoring five goals, Harvard skated yet another inconsistent game. At points, they dominated, playing an aggressive forecheck which BU struggled to break. But again, the Crimson were unable to string together three consistent periods and so the boys from Comm Ave climbed back with a strong final few minutes. The six goals Harvard allowed equaled the most they've given up all season, despite Kyle Richter's career-high 43 saves. Until the Crimson find a way to play consistent hockey, they will keep allowing teams back into games despite the individual efforts of players like Conor Morrison.

5. For Harvard, the last couple seasons have been marked by a fast start, a midseason swoon, then a late run into the postseason. This year, things have changed for the worse. Despite a high-scoring offense, they have just one win in eight games. It's rare that a team scores five goals and loses, but the Crimson did that against BU. Before exams, home games against ECAC basement-dwellers Dartmouth (a non-conference game) and Brown, as well as #16 Boston College. Finishing up the first part of their season with a few wins would do wonders for Crimson confidence heading into the exam break.

NHL Central Scouting NCAA Watch List

Four Crimson skaters are featured on Central Scouting's latest look at collegiate prospects - Danny Biega, Marshall Everson, Ryan Grimshaw, and Brendan Rempel. Biega is tabbed as an "A" prospect, which was his rating entering the season. He is one of three "A" prospects, along with one each from the CCHA and WCHA. Everson earns a "B" rating, while Grimshaw is a "C" prospect, and Rempel, who has seen limited action for the Crimson, is listed as "Limited Viewing."

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